‘Meta didn’t crack the whole metaverse; want to help others create compelling use cases”
Meta, which renewed its identity from Facebook last October, will continue to work on building access to the project metaverse across devices that enable a more immersive version of the internetAjit Mohan, Vice President and Managing Director, India, Meta said The Indian Express in an interview. He also spoke about the future of internet advertising in the Metaverse and the company’s plans for the upcoming Indian Premier League broadcast rights auction. Edited excerpts:
Given that political ads represent a small proportion of your revenue and the heat they bring through claims of platform bias, how does the cost-benefit ratio work out?
I don’t really have an opinion on that. This is, overall, one of the calls we took some time ago. In the context of the role we can play – just as businesses connect with consumers, we have discovered that our platforms are used to advance causes. We saw that one of the roles we played in the pandemic was to bring attention to the public health agenda. The code of the platform is that you can build communities and get a message across, and so I can imagine the usefulness from a campaign perspective as well. When you look at political ads as a percentage of total (revenue) both in India and globally, it becomes quite obvious that the driver for us is not revenue.
Companies around the world have stepped up their investments in the metaverse. How is the future of internet advertising changing in Web 3.0 and the metaverse?
In a very short time, from the time we articulated the metaverse idea and change of identity to Meta, there was tremendous excitement from business and industry leaders across the spectrum, and I have also seen this enthusiasm in India. Leaders instinctively get the power of a more immersive internet and what it means to go from 2D to 3D (two-dimensional to three-dimensional), not just from a consumer perspective – with use cases such as fitness and games – but also from a business perspective, if they can engage with those users in a more immersive way. We’ve been pretty open in saying that we don’t know all the answers right now. Since acquiring Oculus in 2014, the company has been investing in AR (augmented reality) and VR (virtual reality) for some time now. We have no illusions that we are building the metaverse. We know that we will contribute to what will become the metaverse and that different companies will create different spaces. It should be interoperable, much more than mobile internet was. At the same time, we have no illusions that we’ve got it all right, whether it’s in terms of technology or how interoperability will work, or even what the different revenue streams will be. What we do know is that there will be a lot of work on the access side on devices that enable a more immersive version of the internet.
Governments and regulators around the world are debating policy formulation for non-fungible cryptocurrencies and tokens, and the metaverse? How important is it that these policies be defined as early as possible?
In the latest version of the Internet, many of these laws and policies had to be made after the fact. We have seen this explosive growth and innovation that has had a huge impact on the global economy as well as people’s ability to connect seamlessly. But we also discovered that there were a lot of bad actors who could do a lot of harm. Even in some of our own work – we’ve had a lot of foundational product work and policy changes over the last few years on the back of recognizing that. We have the opportunity to learn from this as we consider how to design the various building blocks that will form the Metaverse over the next 5-10 years. For example, we’ve built privacy as a core design principle into every feature of the product and that will translate quite well. We need to work proactively with stakeholders, including regulators around the world, to ensure that we build these frameworks in a way that enables innovation but absorbs the lessons of the past 20 years.
Is Facebook involved in these conversations with regards to policy making in India on these aspects?
Given the nature of the business, we are. When you look at how deeply we look at building Web 3.0 and the Metaverse, a fundamentally different technology, we obviously engage with anyone who wants to hear our perspective. We have found that stakeholders, including governments, are open to discussions in private where they are open to objective discussions about different viewpoints. This will continue to be the case in Web 3.0 as well.
As a big media company, so to speak, would Meta be interested in buying the broadcast rights to IPL?
First, I don’t think we’re a media company. I think we partner with other media companies, and I hope they’ve seen the value in leveraging our platforms. We ourselves do not consider ourselves a media company. I don’t think we’ll be building any particular use cases. We think more in the sense that we can create frameworks and help with fundamental tools on both the software and hardware side that will allow other developers to create compelling use cases for the metaverse. Meta’s role is fundamentally around building the toolkits, enabling other partners and developers, and so in this context we do not intend to bid for the IPL rights which will open in the next weeks. It’s the context of the role we see ourselves in, of building the metaverse, and not because we think the IPL isn’t a fantasy property. I saw the power of IPL in building Hotstar.
As for Apple’s privacy changes, globally there’s a $10 billion impact that Meta said it will see as a result of the new policy. For India, could you provide qualitative or quantitative information on the impact observed by Meta?
There are no numbers to share. What we’ve announced publicly over the past few weeks and what’s to come, we’ve clearly been working to ensure that some of the web conversion understatements that have arisen from Apple’s changes are resolved. It will continue. The only other thing to point out is that Apple or iOS is only a very small share of the total number of devices in India.
When it comes to the metaverse, are there any products that you think are changing the shape of Web 3.0? Have you invested in any of them?
It really is an open canvas. I believe the timing of this is quite important. When the latest version of the Internet appeared, we were at a very different stage as a country. Few people had logged on and the developer ecosystem was very early. This confidence that has now imposed itself thanks to the enormous entrepreneurial energy that has been unleashed in recent years, aided by international capital.
As a country, we now have the opportunity to shape the global metaverse. I don’t think it’s now about picking just a few categories. As a country, the opportunity is so great that we couldn’t be better placed to create value for ourselves and for the world.
Some companies have started creating use cases. Are they pioneers in this unknown area of the metaverse or do they jump before they look?
I don’t have a view on a particular company or a particular use case. We try to articulate our vision of what we’re trying to build, the enabling program on the hardware or software side, and emphasize the desirability of building it patiently and intentionally over the long term.