As big tech buys up first media and now gaming, we might reasonably ask, is there any sector they won’t eventually consume? It can seem as if Google, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook and Amazon provide the water that all other tech companies swim in. Like the prisoner, our apps serve at their Majesties pleasure.
The illusion of totality is key to these companies’ designs. To the user, there is only one internet, which is why it works. A “metaverse” fails if it isn’t complete — if you need to look outside it to solve your problems then it’s just another app on someone else’s platform.
And there’s the linden leaf in the dragon’s blood: unlike in China, where an ultimate authority can regulate what content is allowed, in the American internet there is a grey-area of content the tech companies’ can’t touch but that nevertheless exists. Porn most obviously, but also politically sensitive speech of all kinds. If your metaverse doesn’t have Joe Rogan, then “the conversation” must be happening elsewhere. You’re not the internet, you’re just an app.