How far are we from socializing in the Metaverse after the Jelly App is briefly out of the circle?

What do you expect from Metaverse socializing?

2021 is called the “Year of the Metaverse”. This term was proposed in the science fiction novel “Avalanche” in 1992. It was pushed to the air when Facebook changed its company name to Meta last year, and then quickly went out of the circle. , not only the focus of attention of people in the field of science and technology, but also successfully entered the public eye.

On January 19, 2022, a virtual social app featuring the concept of the Metaverse, “Jelly”, was born, and on February 10, it topped the App Store’s free list in China. What is quite dramatic is that three days after reaching the top of the free list, on the evening of February 13, Jelly announced that the APP will be taken off the shelves and new users will be suspended. The announcement said, “It will focus on improving the existing user experience.”

However, the popularity of the Jelly App has once again stimulated people’s discussion and imagination about the social application of the Metaverse. What is the current Metaverse created by virtual social apps? How far is it from the social Metaverse that people imagine? This issue of All Media Group (ID: quanmeipai) will start from the basic concepts of virtual social and Metaverse, and analyze the characteristics and limitations of the current main social apps in the Metaverse.

When virtual social apps meet the Metaverse

Before we start discussing virtual social apps that focus on the concept of the Metaverse, let us briefly review the definitions of the Metaverse and virtual social. 

When it comes to the Metaverse, the first description of the concept in the 1992 novel “Snow Crash” by the famous American science fiction master Neal Stephenson is usually mentioned: “That is the Metaverse. Cosmos) Broadway, the Champs-Élysées in Chaoyuan. It is a main road with bright lights, reflected in Ahong’s eyepiece, can be seen by the eye, can be reduced, and can be reversed. It does not really exist , but at this time there are millions of people walking through the streets.” 

David Baszucki, CEO of Roblox, a massively multiplayer game creation platform known as the “first share of the Metaverse”, summed up the eight basic characteristics of the Metaverse: identity, friends ), Immersive, Low Friction, Variety, Anywhere, Economy, and Civility. 

Look at the definition of virtual social. The term virtual social is not new. With the popularity of WeChat, Weibo and other software, basically everyone is a “virtual social person”. Virtual social networking mainly refers to the use of information technology through Internet software to complete interpersonal communication and communication. Virtual social networking enables people to interact online without time and space constraints. 

Create your true self in a virtual world

In fact, before the gel app became popular, there were already many virtual social apps with high-concept shells, the more representative ones being ZEPETO and ZAO. 

ZEPETO mainly focuses on 3D face pinching. Users can upload selfies and ZEPETO will convert them into avatars. They can also adjust the avatars according to their own aesthetics. 

ZAO is characterized by “changing faces”. Users can create emoticons after uploading their personal avatars, and they can also appear in movies and TV show clips by changing their faces. On these two platforms, users can also complete social functions such as “taking photos” with friends through their own images. 

How far are we from socializing in the Metaverse after the Jelly App is briefly out of the circle?

“Anything is possible here” is ZEPETO’s introduction to the app store. Image source: Google Play 

The focus of the above two virtual social apps is to shape the image of “self” in the virtual world. In the process of virtual social interaction, people will complete the self-decoding of the characters in the communication, and then pursue the self, develop the community, and establish connections, thereby constructing a sense of self-existence. [1]

In fact, people’s awareness of reshaping themselves in the virtual world has been reflected as early as the QQ show era. In many role-playing games, the selection of characters such as clothing, hairstyle, skin color and other elements also stems from the appeal of this awareness. Having a different life experience in the virtual world is in line with the nature of human “curiosity”.

But ZEPETO and ZAO have a big improvement compared to the previous ones: the creation of virtual characters is related to reality, and the virtual image comes from the real self in the real world.

The “Metaverse” of acquaintances’ social interaction

Compared with the previous virtual social apps, Jelly’s exploration of the Metaverse has gone a little further. In addition to AI face pinching and DIY imagery, it also obviously touches on two other features of the Metaverse: “immersion” and “low latency”.

How far are we from socializing in the Metaverse after the Jelly App is briefly out of the circle?

Creating an avatar is almost the basic setting of apps such as gel. Image source: Xiaohongshu @HIHINOMO 

In the Jelly App, users can share their geographic locations, and the platform uses the “Location-Based Service” (LBS) function to allow virtual dolls to share their location with the owner, and to link friends in the virtual and real worlds.

In addition, Jelly launched the concept of “a new space to live with good friends” and “a friendly apartment only for yourself and your best friends”. In the space, users can search for IDs to add friends, and the maximum number of friends is 50. After adding friends, you can not only chat with friends in the message list, but also see the real-time updates posted by friends in the space.

Community is an important part of building virtual social networks. Amy Jo Kim (Amy Jo Kim) analyzed the goals and needs of user participation and interaction in “Online Community Construction”, saying: “The motivation for people to participate lies in a certain group of people. A sense of belonging lies in building self-esteem and recognition by contributing, in learning new skills and finding new opportunities for self-image and self-realization.”[2]

Jelly’s attempt is to make the traditional social acquaintances more “Metaverse”. By expanding social interaction from instant messaging platforms using language, text, pictures, and videos as media to real-time positioning with a more immersive and “parallel world” sense, sharing of real-life clips, etc., we hope to achieve harmony in the universe of Jelly Real world blending.

However, the problems with Jelly are also obvious. For example, some users complain that Jelly’s creation of immersion is more like a real-time monitoring system, but in fact, this is the conflicting point of acquaintance social interaction and virtual social interaction.

Humans, as social animals, naturally have social needs, but with the development of modern society and economy, social needs have also changed. The interaction of the acquaintance society is burdened with multiple factors such as rules, exchanges, and capital, and the virtual society has well compensated for the side effects caused by the real society because of the “sense of boundaries” and “weak connections”. [3]

At the same time, the establishment of interpersonal trust, empathy, sense of gain, negotiated boundaries, emotional regulation, and self-worth that real interpersonal interaction can provide becomes difficult to achieve in virtual social interaction.

In the process of trying to create a virtual social network in the Metaverse, solving this contradiction is a problem that has to be faced. Perhaps this is also the guarantee that a virtual social product can continue to grow in the Metaverse.

How far are we from Metaverse socialization?

According to Bloomberg, in 2024, the global revenue scale of the immersive virtual world “Metaverse” is expected to reach about 800 billion US dollars, and the share of game manufacturers is expected to reach about 400 billion US dollars, and the rest of the income is scattered in live broadcasts and other social media. [4]

But at present, it seems that it is not easy for the Metaverse virtual social to get a share of the Metaverse. Jelly App fell into trouble soon after it came out of the circle. On the evening of February 13, Jelly took the initiative to remove it, saying that it would focus on improving the existing user experience. [5]

Looking back at several tests of virtual social apps in the Metaverse, it can be found that the realization of the “economic system” and “civilization” in Baszucci’s mouth may be the key for apps to enhance the Metaverse social experience for users.

In real social life, people use currency as a medium to realize commodity exchange. The continuous commodity exchange has produced various industrial chains and rich and colorful social and economic life along with supply and demand, such as everyone’s daily shopping, investment and financial management and other economic behaviors. A Metaverse society should also have its own economic system.

In economics, the scarcity of resources is the starting point of the study of this discipline, and the effective allocation of scarce resources is the core issue of economics research. [6]

Corresponding to the real world, we can simply draw a picture of the economic life of the Metaverse world: virtual people participate in solving the problem of resource allocation, realizing the circulation of virtual items, and conducting transactions through virtual currency.

The cryptocurrency represented by Bitcoin has made people see the prospect of this possibility. The development of blockchain technology is also trying to find a direction for the structure of the “economic system” in the Metaverse era. Decentralization to achieve the free flow of assets.

The exploration of economic elements in the virtual world is more common in the field of games. The Sandbox, a sandbox game that has received a lot of attention recently, has once again expanded the economic model of virtual reality with blockchain virtual real estate. The Sandbox virtual world provides land ownership in the Metaverse. After purchasing the land, you can create 3D pixelated assets on it, earn income through auctions or operations (such as new product launches), and exchange them with US dollars.

Economic activity has a profound impact on human interactions and the formation of relationships. In the real world, social and economic activities generate identities, class divisions, and codes of conduct among groups, which in turn react to human social behavior. In parallel worlds created by the Metaverse, the influence of economic systems on social behavior will also continue to exist.

Regardless of whether the economic operation model in the game can be fully applied to the virtual social field of the Metaverse, it is not easy to shape the “civilization” element in virtual social interaction.

Civilization, in a broad sense, refers to the collection of all social and natural behaviors that make humans free from barbarism. These collections include at least family, tools, language, writing, religion, cities, villages and countries and other elements. Sociologist Lewis Morgan divides social evolution into three stages: savagery, barbarism and civilization, with technological inventions as the demarcation of each stage.

Technology is undoubtedly the key to distinguishing the Metaverse from any phase in humanity’s long history. Following the concept of “medium is information” put forward by communication scientist McLuhan, if the future Metaverse really becomes an environment, an “elemental medium” like water and air, its significance will be another communication Changes in the media.

Looking back on the three eras of oral communication, written communication, and electronic communication experienced by human society, from “word of mouth” to “flying pigeons to pass books” to one-click transmission of electronic information, the changes in communication media are accompanied by the progress of human civilization. Evolution, what is now called the “new era of digital civilization” and “community with a shared future in cyberspace” also heralds the direction of civilization in the Metaverse era.

It is worth noting that the civilization of the Metaverse is not a re-creation. The 2021-2022 Metaverse Annual Report believes that the Metaverse is not a replacement for the real world, but an extension of the real world, which will profoundly affect our understanding of time, space, reality, body, relationship, ethics, etc. [7]

In other words, the Metaverse is not a wild place, but is built on the basis of existing civilizations in the real world, but it has its own particularities and is not another copy of the real society.

When socializing in the Metaverse world, what norms and behaviors will the subjects in the virtual space conform to, what ethical models of interpersonal relationships will be followed, and what process will they evolve through to eventually form a stable culture and civilization. These questions are all for the future Metaverse Social apps answer.

【Interaction today】

Have you ever used a product like Gel App that focuses on the social concept of the Metaverse? How was the experience?What is your imagined Metaverse society like? Welcome to share with us in the comment section~ 

Reference link: 

[1] Decoding of Cultural Communication of Teenagers in the Virtual Social Context. Zhang Yi. New Media Research. 2019-24

[2]Community Building on the Web : Secret Strategies for Successful Online Communities(1st Edition). Amy Jo Kim

[3] From “acquaintance society” to “everyday focus on the sense of boundaries”. Changes and characteristics of contemporary youth social needs. Guan Jian. People’s Forum. September 2021

[4]Metaverse may be $800 billion market, next tech platform 

[5] From the explosion to the removal of the “newborn” gel, how to break into the social arena. Global Network

[6] The conversion of scarce resources and the expansion of economic boundaries. Li Xiaolong. China’s Population, Resources and Environment, Vol. 15, No. 3, 2005.

[7] “2021-2022 Metaverse Annual Report”. Tencent News and the Department of Communication, School of Journalism, Fudan University

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