Mark Zuckerberg: NFTs are coming to Instagram before the metaverse is a thing

We might all be working from VR headsets in a few years if Meta has anything to say about it. But first: NFTs.

Mark Zuckerberg

According to Mark Zuckerberg, the metaverse is coming fast.

Photo: George Frey/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The metaverse might seem like a far-off concept, but according to Mark Zuckerberg, living life in a headset is only a few years away.

Unfortunately, it sounds like NFTs taking over Instagram will happen much sooner, though Zuckerberg didn't give an exact timeline.


Zuckerberg appeared at South by Southwest Interactive in Austin Tuesday to talk with Shark Tank investor Daymond John about what the metaverse will look like, what people will use it for, when exactly this whole thing will happen and, of course, how Meta fits into it all.

Overall, he believes the metaverse is an endless well of opportunities that's coming faster than you'd think. Here are a few quotes from his SXSW talk that indicate the metaverse roadmap ahead:

"I think on some level the future sort of belongs to the people who believe in it more than others...I just think we care more, you know, I think we're the company that cares about helping people connect."

Meta has taken a lot of heat in the last decade for a whole slew of things — the proliferation of misinformation and its harmful effects on American democracy and the use of its platform to wage violence in other countries is really just the tip of the iceberg. But Meta is plunging ahead, and Zuckerberg's quote about the future might not reassure anyone already concerned about the company's role in creating what may be the next big computing platform.

“I believe that the metaverse is the next chapter of the internet. Just like we had the mobile internet, I think this is going to be the successor to that.”

The metaverse does not currently exist, and it will take years for it to become fully realized, if it ever does. But the Meta CEO fully believes it's happening, and said it won't be a thing that one company can build on its own. Though Meta is working to develop metaverse technologies, he said it’s not actually building the metaverse itself, but rather the “foundational tech” that will enable the metaverse. If the metaverse becomes realized, it will need more companies than just Meta behind it. Zuckerberg mentioned gaming companies like Roblox and chip-makers like Nvidia as key players.

For users, joining the metaverse will be “driven by different things. For some people it'll be games, for some people it'll be productivity. One really interesting one that I've seen recently is fitness.”

Though the early days of virtual reality — or what may turn into the metaverse — have been focused on gaming platforms, such as Roblox and Minecraft, Zuckerberg thinks those use cases will expand. People might join the platform to have a work meeting, with the ability to sit at a virtual table with the ability to whisper something in a colleague's ear — a capability that’s lost in a Zoom call, Zuckerberg said. Some might ditch their Pelotons in favor of a VR boxing class. We've already seen the popularity of VR fitness games like Supernatural (which Meta now owns), so this makes sense.

“You care about the clothing that you wear when you're on video conference. And I think similarly, you're going to care about how you express yourself, in both the avatar and the clothing that you're wearing with that avatar.”

People are going to pay real money to dress their Metaverse avatars in a way that reflects their personalities, Zuckerberg said, much like how you do to buy digital goods in games. This isn't exactly surprising — people have been spending real money (in some cases, a lot of real money) on virtual clothing and other items ever since games became a thing. A virtual world would be no different in that respect.

The metaverse has the potential to “support many, many millions of jobs, with people doing the kind of creative work that they want to, instead of the kinds of jobs that they feel they have to today.”

Meta expects high demand for metaverse experiences, digital objects and yes, swag for your avatar, and Zuckerberg said an entire new economy will be born. Creatives will be able to make money selling their metaverse wares, like virtual clothing and digital art, or by providing services like designing virtual homes. Of course, the blockchain is involved — Zuckerberg said metaverse users will have the ability to mint their virtual assets as NFTs.

In the near term, Zuckerberg also said that NFTs are coming to Instagram in the “next several months,” but didn’t divulge many details.

“My guess is we're probably a few years away from the first thing that really does what you would call augmented reality, and looks like what you would call glasses.”

Virtual reality is finally gaining mainstream popularity, with Meta seeing sales of its Quest 2 headset on the rise. But no one wants to wear a VR headset for work and play all day every day. To that end, Zuckerberg said wearable augmented reality devices like glasses that you can comfortably wear out in public may only be a few years away. The photorealistic avatars designed to represent us all in the metaverse will likely get “better over time," he said.

But "wilder further out stuff” such as remote rendering will require more than just inventing the technology. It will require telecoms across the world to basically deploy all this technology,” an endeavor that could cost hundreds of billions of dollars, he said.

“I don't know, maybe by the end of the decade on that one,” he said.

That's certainly ambitious.

Policy

How 'Zuck Bucks' saved the 2020 election — and fueled the Big Lie

The true story of how Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan’s $419 million donation became the 2020 election’s most enduring conspiracy theory.

Mark Zuckerberg is smack in the center of one of the 2020 election’s multitudinous conspiracies.

Illustration: Mike McQuade; Photos: Getty Images

If Mark Zuckerberg could have imagined the worst possible outcome of his decision to insert himself into the 2020 election, it might have looked something like the scene that unfolded inside Mar-a-Lago on a steamy evening in early April.

There in a gilded ballroom-turned-theater, MAGA world icons including Kellyanne Conway, Corey Lewandowski, Hope Hicks and former president Donald Trump himself were gathered for the premiere of “Rigged: The Zuckerberg Funded Plot to Defeat Donald Trump.”

Keep Reading Show less
Issie Lapowsky

Issie Lapowsky ( @issielapowsky) is Protocol's chief correspondent, covering the intersection of technology, politics, and national affairs. She also oversees Protocol's fellowship program. Previously, she was a senior writer at Wired, where she covered the 2016 election and the Facebook beat in its aftermath. Prior to that, Issie worked as a staff writer for Inc. magazine, writing about small business and entrepreneurship. She has also worked as an on-air contributor for CBS News and taught a graduate-level course at New York University's Center for Publishing on how tech giants have affected publishing.

Sponsored Content

Why the digital transformation of industries is creating a more sustainable future

Qualcomm’s chief sustainability officer Angela Baker on how companies can view going “digital” as a way not only toward growth, as laid out in a recent report, but also toward establishing and meeting environmental, social and governance goals.

Three letters dominate business practice at present: ESG, or environmental, social and governance goals. The number of mentions of the environment in financial earnings has doubled in the last five years, according to GlobalData: 600,000 companies mentioned the term in their annual or quarterly results last year.

But meeting those ESG goals can be a challenge — one that businesses can’t and shouldn’t take lightly. Ahead of an exclusive fireside chat at Davos, Angela Baker, chief sustainability officer at Qualcomm, sat down with Protocol to speak about how best to achieve those targets and how Qualcomm thinks about its own sustainability strategy, net zero commitment, other ESG targets and more.

Keep Reading Show less
Chris Stokel-Walker

Chris Stokel-Walker is a freelance technology and culture journalist and author of "YouTubers: How YouTube Shook Up TV and Created a New Generation of Stars." His work has been published in The New York Times, The Guardian and Wired.

Fintech

From frenzy to fear: Trading apps grapple with anxious investors

After riding the stock-trading wave last year, trading apps like Robinhood have disenchanted customers and jittery investors.

Retail stock trading is still an attractive business, as shown by the news that crypto exchange FTX is dipping its toes in the market by letting some U.S. customers trade stocks.

Photo: Lam Yik/Bloomberg via Getty Images

For a brief moment, last year’s GameStop craze made buying and selling stocks cool, even exciting, for a new generation of young investors. Now, that frenzy has turned to fear.

Robinhood CEO Vlad Tenev pointed to “a challenging macro environment” marked by rising prices and interest rates and a slumping market in a call with analysts explaining his company’s lackluster results. The downturn, he said, was something “most of our customers have never experienced in their lifetimes.”

Keep Reading Show less
Benjamin Pimentel

Benjamin Pimentel ( @benpimentel) covers crypto and fintech from San Francisco. He has reported on many of the biggest tech stories over the past 20 years for the San Francisco Chronicle, Dow Jones MarketWatch and Business Insider, from the dot-com crash, the rise of cloud computing, social networking and AI to the impact of the Great Recession and the COVID crisis on Silicon Valley and beyond. He can be reached at bpimentel@protocol.com or via Google Voice at (925) 307-9342.

Enterprise

Broadcom is reportedly in talks to acquire VMware

It hasn't been long since it left the ownership of Dell Technologies.

Photo: Yichuan Cao/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Broadcom is said to be in discussions with VMware to buy the cloud computing company for as much as $50 billion.

Keep Reading Show less
Jamie Condliffe

Jamie Condliffe ( @jme_c) is the executive editor at Protocol, based in London. Prior to joining Protocol in 2019, he worked on the business desk at The New York Times, where he edited the DealBook newsletter and wrote Bits, the weekly tech newsletter. He has previously worked at MIT Technology Review, Gizmodo, and New Scientist, and has held lectureships at the University of Oxford and Imperial College London. He also holds a doctorate in engineering from the University of Oxford.

Podcasts

Should startups be scared?

Stock market turmoil is making VCs skittish. Could now be the best time to start a company?

Dark times could be ahead for startups.

Photo by Startaê Team on Unsplash

This week, we break down why Elon Musk is tweeting about the S&P 500's ESG rankings — and why he might be right to be mad. Then we discuss how tech companies are failing to prevent mass shootings, and why the new Texas social media law might make it more difficult for platforms to be proactive.

Then Protocol's Biz Carson, author of the weekly VC newsletter Pipeline, joins us to explain the state of venture capital amidst plunging stocks and declining revenues. Should founders start panicking? The answer might surprise you.

Keep Reading Show less
Caitlin McGarry

Caitlin McGarry is the news editor at Protocol.

Latest Stories
Bulletins