Meta mayhem, MetaLetters, and other meta festivities (Issue #8)
A bad week for the Zuck. A good week for most of the rest of us.
Just like that, January is but a distant memory and February is upon us, replete with promises of fresh sports-related drops, new PFP projects primed to reveal their treasures (or tragedies), and the deadline for filing taxes in the U.S. — April 18 — drawing inexorably nearer.
Once again, it’s been a week jam-packed with enough action to make it feel like a month, but that’s what we’ve come to expect from the NFT market and, frankly, we wouldn’t have it any other way. In the words (and album title) of Spice Girls founding member Geri Halliwell, we suggest you “scream if you want to go faster.” Because there appears to be no alternative. Sorry.
Right, let’s get straight into it!
Meta, the company formerly known as Facebook, and now the umbrella beneath which Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Oculus (which is now called Meta Quest) shelter from the storms of investor and consumer backlash, had a really bad week. It missed earnings forecasts and saw user numbers decline for the first time ever, and the resultant lashing from the market was swift and merciless.
The company’s market cap shed $230 billion on Thursday (a new one-day record for a U.S. company), wiping $31 billion off founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s personal fortune, and dropping him to the bottom end of the top 10 of the world’s most wealthy people in the process. Don’t feel too bad for him, though, his net worth remains an estimated $89.6 billion, which still equates to a lot of hydrofoils, sunscreen, and/or Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ sauce.
Facebook’s over-zealous pivot to being a “Metaverse company” is doubtless partly to blame. Those who genuinely think web3 is the future don’t think letting a company like Meta dominate it is the outcome anyone wants. Meanwhile, those who dismiss and deride web3 as a vapid buzzword (like, say, some of Meta’s institutional investors) see Meta’s efforts to corner the nascent market as a shameless, self-serving, cash-grabby play at best, and a failed attempt at controversy-dodging rebranding at worst. It’s a lose-lose for the social media giant.
At the same time, virtual reality remains a niche interest even among self-professed web3 enthusiasts, younger users are fleeing Meta’s platforms (if they even try them at all), and Facebook hasn’t had an original idea in more than a decade, choosing instead to either mimic rivals or acquire them… something it’s largely curtailed from doing now because regulators are breathing down its neck.
All of which is bad news for Meta, but arguably great news for the open metaverse. A land grab only works if you actually get to keep the land (or at least chase off other claimants), but the territory of the metaverse is still liquid, shifting, and mired in the fog of war, so Meta’s claims to it are as hard to justify as they are easy to undermine.
Meta’s actions suggest it thinks the metaverse is Pangaea, and sticking a flag in it is enough to claim ownership when, in reality, continental drift hasn’t just happened in the still-cooling metaverse, it’s speeding up. Like the late days of the Roman Empire (from whence Mr. Zuckerberg’s preferred haircut comes), the metaverse is expanding rapidly, and that makes centralized control increasingly untenable.
Moreover, the metaverse most people envision doesn’t need an emperor. In fact, the very notion is anathema to it. That’s neither good news for Meta nor for its shareholders. But it’s reassuring for the rest of us.
Definitely something 🚨
This week we unveiled the 10 finalists from our first open call to artists for the forthcoming MetaLetters DAO. A quick reminder: We’re inviting artists, designers, photographers, coders, bakers, cross-stitchers, or anyone else with creative leanings, to design a letter (or all of the letters) of our name: Metaversal.
To get us started, we put out a call to artists, received almost 200 submissions, picked our top 10 (which you can see below), and are now asking you to vote on the finalists and pick the ultimate winner, whose submission will be one of the first MetaLetters auctioned by the MetaLetters DAO. Please head to this Twitter thread to vote before next Friday.
If you would like to contribute a letter, please do (see the details about submissions here). The DAO will be auctioning a letter every day for five years, which equates to more than 1,800 letters, so this is just the start.
We’re effectively open-sourcing our brand identity because every letter is released under a CC0 license, so anyone can rework, reuse, or remix the letters as they see fit without asking permission. Plus, the funds raised by the DAO treasury will be used to support emerging artists, so not only do you get to participate in a first-of-its-kind initiative, but your participation literally helps shape the metaverse.
🚂 All aboard 🎟
Probably nothing 🤔
Forever Coachella 🐚
The word '“utility” is becoming increasingly prevalent in the NFT community, and this week we saw a household name demonstrate precisely what that can mean. Legendary music festival Coachella announced it would begin offering NFTs, some of which would include lifetime access to its annual bacchanalian event.
Other, lesser (and cheaper) NFTs on offer endow their buyers with virtual and physical photographs and posters from the festival’s archives, and much like the lifetime passes, they can be traded on Solana-powered marketplace FTX. How the lifetime passes work when they do trade hands is unclear (does inheritance count?), but given they’re currently trading for a minimum of $26,000, we’re sure someone’s going to figure out the fine print.
Ready? Fight! 🥊
Last month, Dapper Labs (which runs the Flow blockchain that’s home to NBA Top Shot) launched its Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) NFT collectibles called UFC Strike, and sold 100,000 NFT packs to, umm, kick things off. The secondary market was meant to open on Monday (February 7), but it’s been moved out to February 15, so those who bought the $50 packs will have to wait a little longer to see what happens and whether they’re holding gold... or coal.
Dapper’s also the home to NFL All Day, and with the Super Bowl scheduled for February 13, we’re expecting some sort of big announcement, reveal, or other activity to coincide with it. In short, it’s going to be a big couple of weeks for sports fans.
🙃 Face, meet palm ✋
HitPiece or hitjob? 💿
Another week, another dubious NFT play. This time it comes from a handful of music industry insiders who’ve created a service called HitPiece that seemingly simply plugs into Spotify’s API to create NFTs from artists’ music, whether or not the artists in question have consented. Yikes.
Following the understandable outpouring of rage and teeth-gnashing, HitMusic’s homepage now has a single-sentence message: “We Started The Conversation And We’re Listening.” Well, they sure started something. Whether or not they listen remains to be seen.
StockX is getting sued 👟
We were somewhat amused when StockX, one of the preeminent secondary marketplaces for sneakers, streetwear, and gaming consoles announced its first foray into NFTs. StockX promised customers the ability to buy NFTs of rare sneakers, tethered to the actual sneakers that were being seconded in secure vaults in secretive locations.
But Nike, the creator of the bulk of the rare merchandise being locked up is having none of it. Instead, the sportswear behemoth (and owner of NFT studio RTFKT) is now suing StockX for misuse of its IP. Which has to sting. But which is also a lesson not to mess with Nike, a company that’s as protective as it is litigious.
📈 Zoom out 📉
To the moon 🌜
Last week it was Paris Hilton and Gwyn(.)eth Paltrow buying Bored Apes, this week it was Justin Bieber… who paid a 300% mark-up (500 ETH, or ~$1.29 million)… for an ape with no rare traits. Well, other than having been bought by the Bieb which, admittedly, is pretty rare.
Meanwhile, OpenSea continued its moonward trajectory, not only managing more than $5 billion in trading volume in January (an all-time high) but also becoming the most used product on Ethereum. This is despite the ongoing challenges the marketplace has faced with malicious users exploiting old listings (for which it’s had to compensate users to the tune of more than $1.8 million) and the backlash it had to contend with last week over mint and collection size limits it imposed and then sensibly and speedily reneged on.
Diving into specific projects, this week there were some outsized performers, and they weren’t the usual blue chips. Azuki recorded nearly $280 million (94,200 ETH) in secondary trading despite being less than a month old, and World of Women (which counts the likes of Reese Witherspoon among its holders, and music industry veteran and manager to the stars and BAYC, Guy Oseary, among its partners) climbed over 1,100%.
Oh, and Lamborghini, the preferred supercar for the crypto faithful, has announced its own line of NFTs. It was only a matter of time.
🪡 Thread of the week 🧵
Goats only 🐐
Whether you’ve got a CryptoSkulls collection that looks like an overflowing graveyard or you’re yet to buy your first NFT, you should be watching or listening to Goats and the Metaverse.
Each week, collectibles OG and entrepreneur Stan “The Goat” Meytin and Metaversal co-founder and CEO Yossi Hasson sit down to talk about digital and IRL collectibles, NFTs, and the week’s news worth knowing. And this week, they’re introducing a new segment called “Hot Off the Mint” that’ll give you their take on — you guessed it — a freshly minted project. Check out the latest episode here:
Aside from providing invaluable insights into digital art and collectibles, Stan and Yossi are also putting together a collection of NFTs dubbed “The Goat Vault.” When the show hits 5,000 subscribers on YouTube, one of those lucky subscribers will win the contents of the vault which, at last count, was valued at over $74,500 this week.
Come for the vibes, stay for the alpha 🏝
Since inception, we’ve had plenty of people get in touch with a simple, two-word query: “Wen Discord?” The answer, dear readers, is “now.” That’s right, if you’re a Discord Degen, or you’re merely Discord curious and want a safe space to learn the ropes, we’d like to invite you to join us in the Metaversal Discord server. It’s a place where there are no dumb questions, no insurmountable egos, and the sort of soothing, lo-fi beats that’ll ease any buyer’s remorse as you wait for a project to moon.
Money <> mouth 💸
“Chimera” is a fully on-chain generative art project of 987 editions on the ArtBlocks platform. It’s a reimagining of the classical archetype of the “still life” that’s still insofar as it’s immutably recorded on the blockchain that houses it… but dynamic in terms of the movement its code creates. As such, it embodies some of what we think are the most promising capabilities of web3 art: it harks back to the history of the form while pushing its boundaries and hinting at its future.
Until next time, see you in the Metaverse.