I try to stay optimistic about crypto, and for the most part, I genuinely am—I have no doubt Bitcoin is here to stay as a global currency, and it feels like stablecoins, NFTs, and DeFi are only going to grow in popularity. But when it comes to the metaverse, including crypto-based projects Decentraland and the Sandbox, I see only failure.
A Fortune colleague checked in on Decentraland this week and found fewer than 500 people there—you can see for yourself from the company’s own dashboard. It’s hard to say this is a surprise. There are thousands of other, more interesting things to do online, not to mention real-world activities like going to a restaurant or for a walk outside. Walking around a buggy digital world populated mostly by token flippers is at the very bottom of my list.
There are plenty of other metaverse options that aren’t based around crypto, but things don’t seem to be going any better there either. Even at Meta, where Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg blew billions to drag people into virtual reality, the project is a bust. A recent report claims that even Meta’s own employees don’t want to use the technology—including many of those in the VR unit.
This brings us to Apple. I’ve been reading recent reviews of the company’s new Vision Pro headset and operating system—I recommend those by Mark Gurman and Om Malik—and came away slightly less skeptical. Their reports make clear that Apple’s talk on the metaverse, including its ski-goggle-style headset, is a major leap forward for the technology.
Apple has a decades-long track record of getting people to adopt truly revolutionary technology such as the iPhone, personal computers, and tablets. The company is in a class of its own when it comes to design, and so there is no chance Meta—which has updated its own headset in a bid to compete—will be able to win over consumers before Apple. Meta has always been bad at hardware, and VR will prove no different.
Apple is also a master of ecosystems and attracting developers who build compelling applications. People rightly chafe at how the company wields an iron fist over its App Store and gouges its partners for 30% of sales, but few would deny its store offers a safer and better experience than its rivals. It’s a safe bet this will prove the same for those stepping into VR and the metaverse for the first time.
Still, as Gurman makes clear in his review, this is a product still years away from primetime. And it doesn’t help, of course, that Apple’s fancy ski-goggle device will sell for $3,500. Based on this, the metaverse—one with or without crypto—feels as far away as ever.
Finally, I remain unconvinced that most people want to be in a metaverse in the first place—even a spiffed-up Apple version of it. Personally, I have a long list of things I’m excited to do in the coming years, including travel, hiking, restaurants, seeing friends, and more. Nowhere on my list is sitting by myself inside with a device strapped around my face. I suspect many of you feel the same.
This story was originally featured on Fortune.com
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