January 27, 2022

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Metaverse Hype Is Like Communist Propaganda: Soviet-Born Tech Founder

  • Phil Libin, Evernote’s founder, discussed the metaverse on a podcast hosted by Eric Newcomer.
  • Libin compared metaverse hype to the communist propaganda he heard in the Soviet Union as a child.
  • He described the metaverse as “spectacularly stupid,” among other things.

A tech founder compared today’s hype around the metaverse with Soviet propaganda he experienced as a child.

Phil Libin, the founder of the note-taking app Evernote and the CEO of the videoconferencing company Mmhmm, made the comments in a podcast hosted by the tech journalist Eric Newcomer released on Tuesday.

Libin expressed deep skepticism of tech companies touting the metaverse and drew a comparison with his experience growing up in Leningrad, now St. Petersburg, Russia.

“I went to first grade in the Soviet Union,” Libin said. “I was subjected to a lot of Soviet propaganda, and I was told as a little kid repeatedly: ‘Communism doesn’t exist yet. We haven’t built communism yet. We’re building towards communism. But it’s not communism yet. What you see around you, this horrible, horrible place, isn’t communism. We’re building towards it. It’s going to be great when it gets here.'”

Libin continued: “You know, you can smell a bad idea before it’s fully built. So I don’t want to hear ‘Oh yeah, the metaverse doesn’t exist yet. No, no, no, all this stuff, all this stupid, useless, crappy stuff that exists right now, that’s not the metaverse. The metaverse is coming — it’s coming.'”

The word “metaverse” is borrowed from science-fiction and refers to a future version of the internet accessed through immersive technologies such as virtual-reality and augmented-reality headsets. It has been pushed in particular by Mark Zuckerberg, who rebranded Facebook as Meta in October.

Libin described it as “a gloss that uncreative people and companies put over fundamentally a lack of good ideas.”

“There’s a part of me that hates it and a part of me that fears it, but since I think it’s so spectacularly stupid, there’s actually not that much to fear,” he added.

Libin said he thought VR headsets would be a major inhibiting factor for the metaverse.

“VR is the thing that guarantees none of this will ever take off, because no one wants to spend any amount of time with a plastic thing strapped to their face,” he said.

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