Beyond Glasses and Games: The Collaborative Metaverse

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Recently, Figma, a collaborative web application for designing interfaces, was purchased by Adobe for $20 billion. It’s worth thinking about why Figma was so successful and why Adobe was willing to pay so much for it.

From the beginning, Figma has been synonymous with collaboration. Yes, it was a great design tool. Yes, it was running entirely in the browser; no download or installation required. But more than anything else, Figma was a collaboration tool. It was a goal from the start. The collaboration was not an afterthought; he was cooked.

My thesis on the metaverse is that it’s all about enabling collaboration. VR glasses and AR glasses? Ok, but the metaverse will fail if it only works for those who want to wear a helmet. Crypto? I strongly oppose the idea that everything has to be owned – and that every transaction has to pay a fee to anonymous middlemen (whether they’re called miners or stakers). Finally, I think Facebook/Meta, Microsoft, and others who say the metaverse is about “better meetings” are just going in the wrong direction. I can tell you — anyone in this industry can tell you — we don’t need better meetings; we need fewer meetings.

But we still need people working together, especially as more and more of us are working remotely. So the real question for us is, how do we minimize meetings while still allowing people to work together? Meetings are, after all, a tool for coordinating people, for transferring information in groups, for circulating ideas outside of one-on-one conversations. They are a collaboration tool.


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That’s precisely what tools like Figma are for: allowing designers to work together on a project in a convenient way, without clashing with each other. This is to demonstrate the designs to managers and other stakeholders. It’s about brainstorming new ideas (i.e. with Figjam) with your team members. And they aim to do all of this without requiring people to meet in a conference room, through Zoom, or any of the other conferencing services. The problem with these tools isn’t really the flat screen, the “Brady Bunch” design, or the lack of avatars; the problem is that you always have to interrupt people and bring them to the same (virtual) place at the same time, breaking the flow they were in.

We don’t need better meetings; we need better collaboration tools so we don’t need as many meetings. That’s what the metaverse means for businesses. Tools like GitHub and Google Colab are really about collaboration, as are Google Docs and Microsoft Office 365. The metaverse is heavily associated with gaming, and if you look at games like Overwatch and Fortnite, you’ll see they’re really on collaboration between online players. That’s what makes these games fun. I have nothing against VR glasses, but what makes the experience special is the interaction with other players in real time. You don’t need glasses for that.

The collaboration made Figma worth $20 billion. It is one of the first “enterprise metaverse” applications. It will certainly not be the last.

Mike Loukides is Vice President of Emerging Technology Content at O’Reilly Media.


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