In recent months, more and more social networks have taken an interest in NFTs and are looking for ways to integrate them. On the front line: Meta (Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp) and Twitter. Is it relevant? And what is the feeling of the first interested parties?
For Meta, this would take the form of a marketplace to buy and sell NFTs and virtual items for use in its metaverse. For Twitter, since January it has been possible to connect your crypto wallet to put an NFT in your profile picture, giving it a hexagonal shape that allows the user to stand out from others.
The reception of these proposals by the crypto community has been quite mixed, especially depending on the platform we are talking about. Twitter’s announcement was very well received: “It’s the #1 social network in the metaverse and NFT community because it’s historically been the network for computer scientistsexplains John Karp, host of the podcast NFT morning and organizer of the Non Fungible Conference. Additionally, Twitter’s approach to embracing this movement is by verifying people’s NFTs and recognizing the integrity of NFTs regardless of their source, thus acknowledging their decentralized approach. † What in fact appears to be just a simple profile picture is therefore seen by the crypto community as a clear and public endorsement that respects its values.
However, NFTs are now dividing social networks to the point that anti-NFTs will boycott artists and brands or even create a plugin that will automatically block any Twitter user who has an NFT as a profile picture. Appearing as pro-NFT can therefore be a risky decision for social networks, but John Karp is not worried: “It’s part of a new movement, Web 3, and it will eventually be a reality. It’s like in the early days of the internet, people didn’t care and thought it was useless. Ultimately, the internet is everywhere and we no longer ask questions. The same will happen. † So there is no direct risk to social networks: they are preoccupied with it years in advance for fear of missing an opportunity and falling behind their competitors.
Meta has therefore also embarked on the NFT adventure, except that it is poorly perceived by the crypto community, for which remaining anonymous and having control over its data are crucial elements. According to John Karp, “This desire to position itself in the world of NFTs and crypto is a bit scary, because the metaverse being sold by Facebook is not the metaverse that the utopians who made this move are aiming for”† Indeed, the crypto community values a certain value that is at odds with what Meta wants to do: decentralization.
Social networks against decentralized movement, clash or cohabitation?
One of the key elements of decentralization is interoperability, that is, creating gateways to easily exchange between different systems, such as blockchains or metaverses. “Today, the Sandbox and Decentraland metaverses are two competing elements that simultaneously do everything they can to ensure interoperability between their two systems, says John Karp. It is a very open approach, which is in line with that of NFTs. †
If Meta’s values are not compatible with those of the crypto community, why is he getting into NFTs? Indeed, only 3.5% of French people currently have NFTs. “The projection is in five or ten years, and by then, with the metaverse, it won’t be a niche at all. It will be for mass use. † Indeed, Meta is betting on the metaverse with $10 billion already invested in this type of platform. “The logic of Meta is that the interaction we have today on Facebook or Instagram tomorrow will be in more evolved environments, in the metaverse.”
Faced with behemoths like Meta, the crypto community does not yet know its future: will cohabitation be possible? “It is very difficult to predict how it will develop, believes John Karp. We can hope that the new generations, who better understand the challenges of the web, are sensitive to the arguments of decentralization. Indeed, there is a war of some kind. Facebook could also choose to change its business model, but that seems unlikely to me, it would question everything they are. †
The decentralist movement could remain a minority current against the Gafam, but John Karp thinks their values could resonate with those of the new generations by redefining the relationship between users and brands on the internet: instead of seeing their data become collected to be resold to advertisers would allow users to monetize the time they invest on a platform or brand. “If we talk about this search for meaning and new ways of working for new generations, then that is part of this movement. †