Newsletter #81: Budweiser is the latest big brand to venture into the Web3 metaverse. With Zed Run. Plus; eighteen months ago, a tech upstart called Clubhouse hit the headlines as the next big thing. That didn't last long! Elon's at it again. And Crypto confidence or carnage?
w/Issue #81 - 10th June 2022
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This week I'm covering the demise of Clubhouse, Budweiser partnering with Zed Run, the blockchain game in the Metaverse, some crypto POV from Michael Saylor, and Elon (again) as he tries to get out of buying Twitter.
What Has Happened To Clubhouse?
Short-Lived: Eighteen months ago, Clubhouse was the Next Big Thing, kicking off a rush to own the social audio space.
Tech celebs like Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg were hanging out on Clubhouse. Invites to join the app in the Beta-phase were going for $400 on eBay. Anna Wiener wrote an article for The New Yorker titled “Clubhouse Feels Like a Party.”
I wrote about it in the first-ever issue of Wiser! I even used it for a couple of weeks (before getting bored).
In the beginning: Clubhouse reported 19 million installs in the first 6 months. By many standards, a relatively small number, but it was seen as significant growth of a brand new thing and it sparked a flurry of copycat products.
🐦 Twitter launched Twitter Spaces.
🥽 Meta launched Live Audio Rooms.
🎶 Spotify acquired Locker Room which evolved into Spotify Live.
But that was then and this is now. Clubhouse has tried new things, like in-room games, but the fact is... Clubhouse is losing both users and key execs. Leaving critics to argue that social audio was merely, as Protocol reported it, “a pandemic fad”.
The End of Social Audio?
In the first half of this year, Clubhouse installs are down 80% (to less than 4 million). Twitter is shifting resources away from Spaces, and Facebook folded Live Audio Rooms into its live video product.
So, is that it? Has social audio had it's day and gone out in a whimper?
Here's the Thing: In early 2021, the majority of folks were stuck at home. With time and opportunity to sit and listen to Clubhouse. And let's face it, it was a novel idea that was different enough to listening to talk show radio or to a podcast to have its 15 minutes of fame.
Now the world has moved on. And in many cases, working from home is no longer an option. And it seems that the future of social audio is heading toward being more niche than mainstream content.
🐦 Twitter recently started Super Follows Spaces as an exclusive place for a creator’s paid subscribers.
🤖 Discord, a go-to platform for niche communities has its own social audio feature called Stage Channels.
Which means that social audio isn’t dead in the water just yet, although you wouldn’t say that about Clubhouse. And the fact is that although Clubhouse was first to seize the opportunity mid-lockdown, they had no moat to protect them against the competition.
The speed with which Twitter, Facebook, Spotify et al were able to roll out the same utility to their already established user base has left Clubhouse in that dead space of niche platform. The best they can hope for is to be acquired for their IP. To be frank, they were never going to win the war of scale (or lack of it).
Budweiser’s Moving In The Metaverse
Back Story: This story caught my eye this week. It was that Budweiser, the global beer brand has partnered with a blockchain game called Zed Run.
Ok, so what? Well, it’s worthy of mention because:
- Major brands, especially Budweiser have been venturing further into the Web3/NFT/Metaverse space over the past 12 months. We can learn a lot watching Bud dip all their toes into this new space…and see what happens.
- Zed Run is a vision of the future potential for decentralised, blockchain-based, crypto-fuelled, NFT-owning Web3 video games that appeal to a generation that want more than simply entertainment. (Did I get all the jargon into that last sentence ok?…nope, I forgot status and community.)
Here's the thing: Zed Run is a digital horse-racing and gambling game. Gamers own, breed, race, trade their digital assets via NFT.
It’s a Play-to-Earn game, which means that gamers can actually earn and keep their winnings, unlike the current model for games where the game developers and distributors earn the money (remember, Apple and Google keep 30% of all in-app spending).
It’s the closest thing to the real world of owning, training and racing horses that you’re going to get…outside of the real world. And the Metaverse point is that it’s inclusive, regardless of a gamer's financial status or geographical location.
To find out more, I wrote a longer essay here.
- Roblox: defining 3D gaming in the Metaverse
- Harvard Business Review: How brands can enter the Metaverse
Crypto Carnage? Or Just A Spring Clean?
Disclaimer: I’m a bull when it comes to Bitcoin, so I’m always looking for the upside stories.
Which is why I watch out for MicroStrategy CEO, Michael Saylor on social media. He is always good at reminding us of the case for Bitcoin. Watch this…
Big Tech Little Tech
In this episode, Shaun and I talk about the addictive nature of TikTok, including China’s approach to curbing BigTech and platforms like TikTok, the news of Sheryl Sandberg’s departure from Facebook, and home help robots as Dyson announces intention to build the UK’s largest robotics research centre.
And more….all the details are Link
Will he, won’t he? Elon keeps us guessing on Twitter
Said nobody ever! "Didn't see this coming."
Earlier this week, Elon Musk threatened to end his $44 billion agreement to buy Twitter. Musk is accusing the company of refusing to give him information about spam bot accounts.
Musk claims that Twitter is in breach of the contract that binds him to buy Twitter, or pay a $1 billion penalty.
Musk’s lawyers sent a letter to Twitter, filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on June 6, saying: “Based on Twitter’s behavior to date, and the company’s latest correspondence in particular, Mr. Musk believes the company is actively resisting and thwarting his information rights (and the company’s corresponding obligations) under the merger agreement.”
As I put this issue to bed, the Washington Post has reported that the Twitter board plans to offer Musk access to its full so-called “firehose,” which represents data comprising more than 500 million tweets posted each day, according to a source.
Fake news: Twitter official numbers put the scale of bot accounts at around 5%. This is the number Elon claims to have based his binding offer on...which was a bit dumb given that a simple Google search will get you independent estimates of 5-15%.
Audience research tool SparkToro found that in Musk’s case, the level of spam accounts amongst his 92 million followers is as much as 70% (inc fake, spam or inactive users). For reference, this research put the number of spam bot and fake accounts at 10.9% across the whole platform.
In other words: Musk (and Tesla) have benefitted hugely from the spam bots on Twitter, driving “activity” amongst themselves whilst giving the impression its all free speech and real.
Remember, Musk spends no money on marketing Tesla whereas General Motors spend over $2 billion a year.
Here's the thing: You wouldn't buy a house without a survey, and then act surprised when you found the place was riddled with damp and the foundations were wobbly.
IMHO, this is not so much about bot accounts and more about Musk trying to get out of the deal he signed up to...and the $1 billion he's contracted to pay Twitter if he pulls out. #JustSayin'
w/Snippets of Insight and Information
11.2 million VR headsets were shipped globally in 2021. That is up 92% YoY, according to IDC, who forecast global shipments to be 50 million by 2025.
758 incidents of “phantom braking” in Tesla cars. That is the number of incidents of unexplained braking that has prompted The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to ask Tesla to explain.
40% is the YoY growth in orders for workplace robots in the US in the first quarter of 2022 as companies are leveraging automation to combat ongoing labour shortages and cut costs as inflation continues to hover near a 40-year-high.
AI used to recreate Val Kilmer’s voice in Top Gun: Maverick
Actor Val Kilmer suffered irreparable damage to his voice after being diagnosed with throat cancer and undergoing a tracheotomy in 2014. Now, for the new Top Gun movie, scientists helped Kilmer reprise his role as Iceman by using AI to craft a computer-generated replica of the actor’s voice that could read his lines.
Dutch police have created a deepfake video of a murdered 13 year-old boy
In hope of generating new leads on this 20 year old case, Dutch police have used deepfake technology to virtually bring to life a teenager almost two decades after his murder. Sedar Soares was shot dead in 2003 while throwing snowballs with friends in the parking lot of a Rotterdam metro station in this unsolved murder.
Chick-fil-A testing autonomous food delivery in Austin
Two Chick-fil-A restaurants in Texas are to test self-driving vehicles for making food deliveries. The tech comes from a firm called RefractionAI. They have a robot-as-a-service platform that includes self-driving technology, tele-operations and a delivery robot that uses the bicycle lane for delivery. Rumours are that the robot delivery will also spoon feed you.*
MetaFacebook scale back AR glasses
Meta Platforms has scaled back its plans to release a series of augmented reality glasses over the next several years as part of an effort to trim heavy investments it is making in its Reality Labs hardware and AR/VR division, employees were notified Wednesday.
Apple's Annual Developer Conference 2022
Apple just held its annual developer's conference. Last week I speculated that Apple would be announcing Apple Glasses, its AR/MR/VR headset thing. But they didn't. (I feel such a fool!) In the end, it was pretty routine stuff, with little of note, except that Apple is launching its own Buy Now Pay Later service in Apple Pay. There are more questions than answers and no doubt the regulators are going to be looking hard at Apple's monopoly position. The promise of free money with BNPL is fraught with issues and I'll say more in the coming weeks.
How Harmful Is Social Media?
Regular readers of Wiser! know I subscribe to the view that (net/net) it’s bad for society. It's just an opinion because studies offer surprisingly few easy answers. This article in the New Yorker tries to get to the bottom of it. Worth a read.
(* I made that last bit up 🤣🤣🤣)
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