Skift Take

Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg believes the metaverse will one day supplant the mobile internet, and create the sense that you are actually together with someone else in a distant place. Whatever it ever ends up meaning to the travel industry, you can be sure it would develop into an advertising opportunity for the social network.

Calling it “one of the most exciting projects that we’re going to get to work on in our lifetimes,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg described how the social network will invest billions of dollars to help develop the “metaverse.”

Could the metaverse, if it ever gains traction, deter people from traveling or at least eat further into business travel?

Augmented reality and virtual reality have been around for years, but the metaverse could potentially take those experiences to a new level.

Arguing that the metaverse will one day replace the mobile internet, Zuckerberg described the metaverse as “a virtual environment where you can be present with people in digital spaces.”

Speaking during Facebook’s second quarter earnings call with analysts in late July, the Facebook CEO said: “The defining quality of the metaverse is presence, which is this feeling that you’re really there with another person or in another place. Creation, avatars and digital objects are going to be central to how we express ourselves, and this is going to lead to entirely new experiences and economic opportunities.”

However, the travel industry doesn’t need to fold up shop just yet.

In early July, Shanny Djovani wrote an Up Worlds story, Travel the world through metaverse. Djovani acknowledge that virtual reality tourism hasn’t gone mainstream, but added that Google’s YouTube and other platforms are building stockpiles of 360- degree videos.

Virtual reality, Djovani acknowledged, is limited because it’s mostly pre-recorded content.

If history is a barometer, new technologies can take many years to catch on — and some never make it. Pundits were saying the mobile age had arrived for years until it actually did.

QR codes in the West didn’t really hit their stride until the pandemic when touchless menus and other applications made them particularly useful.

Virtual tours found some success during the pandemic from the likes of Amazon and Airbnb when people were homebound and couldn’t travel.

Elements of the metaverse are already here.

Gamers are familiar with it in such games as Fortnite, Roblox and Animal Crossing which blend “virtually enhanced physical reality, augmented reality and the internet,” according to Coindesk.

Facebook — if it still exists if and when the metaverse gets popular — will undoubtably embrace the metaverse as an advertising opportunity.

Within the social network, the metaverse project is part of Facebook Reality Labs.

Facebook CFO David Wehner said during the earnings call that Facebook intends to invest billions of dollars in the labs, not just on the metaverse specifically but on related projects.

Video Reels and Hotel ads

In other news, Zuckerberg said video is becoming more important for the company, and Reels, which are short-form videos run in a loop, “is growing especially quickly.”

Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Kara Sandberg said the company is getting better on choosing ads for particular audiences.

“And we’re using context to make smarter recommendations about which ads to show,” Sandberg said. “So if you’re watching a travel video, we could show ads for hotels and flights.”

Sandberg said Facebook saw strong performance among advertisers that did well throughout the pandemic, including e-commerce, retail and consumer packaged goods.

She added: “And we’re also seeing continued recovery in others like travel that were hit hard by Covid.”

For the second quarter, Facebook’s net income rose 101 percent to $10.4 billion. It notched $28.58 billion in advertising revenue, a 56 percent jump.

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Tags: advertising, augmented reality, business travel, earnings, facebook, fortnite, gamers, metaverse, tech, video, virtual reality

Photo Credit: The view from an outdoor patio in Facebook's New York office. The company plans to invest heavily in the metaverse. Facebook