Above: Leading metaverse platform Roblox as compared to leading generative AI programs ChatGPT and Midjourney on Google Trends
Longtime reader Iggy O. wonders why I keep comparing ChatGPT to metaverse platforms on Google Trends:
Hamlet, why continue to compare it to metaverses? That is like comparing sales of bicycles to motor vehicles, because they all have tires.
I'd say it's more like comparing motor vehicles to ADAS driving systems, but I take his point: The technologies have overlapping use cases, but are not the same. I wasn't trying to suggest otherwise.
Looking back, however, I can see my post was a bit too inside baseball for my main point to come across, which is roughly this:
The notion that generative AI programs like ChatGPT have "replaced" or "killed" the Metaverse in any substantial way is a false narrative not borne out by actual user data.
It's true that there's more chatter in the tech world around generative AI than the Metaverse — especially among evangelists and marketers inclined to hop onto the latest buzzword — and definitely an uptick of venture investment chasing that buzz. But from that it doesn't follow that one has "replaced" the other.
And that's pretty obvious to see from basic, publicly available data from Google Trends, or even the free version of SimilarWeb, which shows that OpenAI dropped 400 million monthly visits between May and July.
That's not even factoring in limiting factors, such as, just last week, a US judge ruling that AI art cannot be copyrighted. (Remember how AI was supposed to take over Hollywood? Inconveniently, studios tend to want full ownership over their IP.)
But hard data around actual users and sustainable use cases lags behind hype, so over the last few months, we've had to grit our teeth through headlines like this:
- The Metaverse, Zuckerberg's tech obsession, is officially dead. ChatGPT killed it. (Entrepreneur)
- Mark Zuckerberg Quietly Buries the Metaverse. The CEO of social-media giant Meta has sworn by AI, popularized by the chatbot ChatGPT. (The Street)
- "Has AI killed the Metaverse?" was even a question I had to field at a recent VentureBeat conference on a panel with an executive with the metaverse platform Roblox — which currently has an active user base nearly the size of the United States' population. Watch below — I literally eye roll at around 25 minutes in:
Obviously I'm highly biased with all this, but then again, I try pointing out the many limitations with the Metaverse as well. (The line, "The Metaverse is not for everyone", is literally in the first page of my book.)
As for the current buzz over generative AI, here's a pro tip: Any time you see someone on social media making overly broad claims about AI's potentials, scroll back to see if a year earlier, they were making overly broad claims about NFTs. (Or any other tech trend that's since come and go.)
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