Author Ma Ji
During lunch break on weekdays, Wu Shuang habitually opened the gel app. On the virtual square on the home page, some “friends” are walking back and forth, with a panoramic view of the latest status.
Some people stumble but still “move bricks” diligently, some people immerse themselves in “study”, some people do nothing and “fish”, and others simply “lie flat”
With these exquisite, lovely and fashionable virtual images, the gel quickly became popular with young users.
Since its launch on January 19, this “metaverse social” app has replaced wechat and topped the free list of app store in the mainland in less than a month, becoming the first app to squeeze wechat out of the top position since 2019.
However, with the popularity, there are also disputes about app infringement of user privacy, Caton flash back during operation, and plagiarism of clothing accessories.
On February 13, the gel that had dominated the list for three consecutive days took the initiative to get off the shelf and suspended the entry of new users. The official pointed out that the Caton problem has not been solved in the three weeks since the app was put on the shelves. The reason for getting off the shelves is to “focus on improving the existing user experience”. In addition, gel also announced that it would take legal action against all kinds of false rumors.
Under the popularity of metaverse, major manufacturers at home and abroad have made frequent layout actions in metaverse social track in recent years. The launch of “gel” has surpassed wechat to become the top of the list so efficiently. Behind the phenomenon, is the metaverse social era that subverts traditional social networking really coming?
1. It’s trendy and cute. Friends change hands
Similar to many “pinch face” apps, each gel user has its own 3D virtual image.
The gel is equipped with 115 detailed facial features and 455 free clothes and accessories. Users can adjust the appearance and dress of the virtual image at any time according to their looks and preferences.
The virtual clothing full of tide flu has made many young people “grow grass”.
On the social platform little red book, there are more than 5800 notes searching for “gel wear”. Among them, some users shared their daily wear on the gel with the label of “ootd” (output of the day, meaning “wear today”), which attracted many netizens. Some netizens said in the message that the clothes on the gel provided inspiration for their daily clothes, while some netizens posted to buy where they can buy similar clothes.
In addition to pinching and dressing freely, the gel also designs different actions and scenes for the virtual image according to the different moods and states set by the user.
For example, when the mood is “sad”, the corresponding virtual image in the gel will sit on the sofa, hold the pillow and “cry” and wipe tears; When you choose “leisurely” mood, the virtual image will sit comfortably in a chair, cross your legs, brush your mobile phone and “like”; When the mood is “emo”, the virtual villain squats in the big trash can with the words “non recyclable”, holding the edge of the bucket with both hands and looking out with tears
Users can interact with these virtual friends active in the square through functions such as “poke” and “what are you doing”, and can also understand each other’s geographical location through labeling.
The interesting and lovely personalized dynamic image makes Wu Shuang unable to stop. “Every movement is so cute!”
The display mode of friends in the gel is also different from that of other social media platforms, which is similar to the “name + Avatar” mode of address book. Instead, three-dimensional 3D characters are displayed on the virtual storage rack. “The process of adding friends is like opening a blind box. Friends standing on the shelf are like villains drawn from a blind box. It’s very interesting.” Wu Shuang said.
In addition, users can also post real-time updates on the gel and chat with friends.
Currently, the gel app only allows users to invite 50 close friends to build a more private circle of friends, but the circle of friends of most platform users is still difficult to support this demand.
In order to enrich their gel social square and “collect” more friends as much as possible, many gel users actively “seek friends” through other social platforms.
On Xiaohong book, some posts seeking to add gel friends have received positive responses from hundreds of netizens. They have left their ID with the post one after another, hoping to meet interesting “predestined friends” on the gel app.
2. Big companies are eyeing metaverse social networking
The popularity of smart phones and the rapid development of mobile Internet have deepened people’s dependence on mobile social software.
From 2018 to 2020, the number of users of China’s mobile social networking platform increased from 770 million to 890 million. The social needs of acquaintances account for more than 60%, of which wechat and QQ are the absolute leaders.
Under the framework of metaverse, can the short-term transcendence of gel be regarded as the overall rise of metaverse social networking?
With the concept of metaverse becoming a tuyere, social networking has become one of the most attractive scenes. In recent years, social apps focusing on the concept of “metaverse” such as gel have emerged one after another, and many large manufacturers also take social networking as an important cut in the layout of metaverse.
Baidu officially launched the metaverse project in December 2020 and officially released the metaverse social product “xirang” at the end of 2021. In the virtual space created by “xirang”, the “world” presents the shape of Mobius ring. The city is composed of several virtual buildings. The layout refers to Chang’an City in the Tang Dynasty and Beijing City in the Ming and Qing Dynasties, and restores architectural attractions such as Shaolin Temple, Sanxingdui and Hangzhou West Lake.
After users create virtual images in “xirang” and sign the “xirang star Convention”, they can realize social functions such as making friends, meeting, exhibition and so on.
In 2021, baidu AI developers conference was held in “xirang”, which became the first conference held in metaverse in China. It is said that it can accommodate 100000 people to interact on the same screen at the same time.
Tencent and byte beat have also joined the competition in the social field of metaverse. At present, Tencent’s “super qq show” and byte’s “Party Island” are in the testing stage.
On February 10 this year, Tencent QQ team launched the “super qq show”, which upgraded the user image from 2D to 3D, and supported AI face pinching and virtual image interaction, which was interpreted by the outside world as “an important step for Tencent towards metaverse”.
Byte launched its social product “Party Island” in January this year, which also has the color of “metaverse”. Users can join the virtual scene through the virtual image and chat with other users.
The international social giant meta, which started metaverse’s social layout earlier, is also accelerating its action.
Recently, horizon worlds, a VR social platform built by meta based on its VR devices Quest 2 and oculus PC, was officially opened, and the first batch of adult users in the United States and Canada. In horizon worlds, users can create their own worlds and games and explore with others.
Microsoft, another Internet giant, announced that it would launch the chat and collaboration platform mesh for Microsoft teams in the first half of this year. Users can join online meetings, discussions or share documents through virtual images.
With the popularity of capital, metaverse social track is hot, and many platforms have won a lot of financing in the near future.
In December 2021, metaverse social platform rec room announced that it had completed a financing of US $145 million, with a post investment valuation of US $3.5 billion. In the same month, metaverse virtual social platform zepeto received a round B financing of about $189 million, becoming a unicorn valued at more than $1 billion.
On February 14 this year, metaverse social platform bud also announced the completion of $15 million a + round of financing.
The Bloomberg industry research report predicts that the market size of metaverse will reach US $800 billion in 2024. PwC predicts that by 2030, the market size of metaverse will reach US $1.5 trillion.
3. How many innovations does metaverse social have?
Virtual identity is considered as a pass to enter metaverse. Although the playing methods of various metaverse social platforms on the market are different, virtual identity and virtual image have become one of their common points.
However, products with similar functions have long been popular in the global market, but at that time, there was no “metaverse” label.
At the end of 2018, “pinch your face and change your clothes” app zepeto detonated the “sun exposure” boom in the circle of friends. This app, launched by snow, a photography application subsidiary of South Korean Internet giant naver, once occupied the first place in the free list of the app store for several consecutive days and became one of the absolute “popular” applications in that year.
On zepeto, users first need to “pinch” their virtual image. Through the virtual image, users can take group photos with friends, visit schools, haunted houses and other scenic spots on the app, initiate voice chat, and even participate in camping activities or virtual weddings on the app.
According to the BBC, zepeto has more than 250 million users, and more than 1.6 billion virtual fashion clothes or accessories have been released on the platform, including international luxury brands such as Gucci, Burberry, Dior and Balenciaga.
Although the Chinese version of “Zizai” jointly launched by zepeto and Tencent is not as splashy as it is, the similar product “Taobao life” launched by Taobao follows the trend and quickly “ascends” with the help of Taobao platform traffic.
Public data show that in 2020, Taobao life users reached 400 million, of which more than 80% were post-90s users.
Similar to zepeto, “Taobao life” not only supports face changing, but also introduces virtual shoes and clothing accessories of major brands, as well as simple social functions such as visiting friends’ homes or establishing virtual homes.
It is worth noting that when users change their clothes on “Taobao life”, they can also directly jump to the commodity sales page of Taobao, which directly solves the cash problem for some merchants.
Whether zepeto or the imitator “Taobao life”, face pinching and dressing products were born before the concept of metaverse was heated.
Even back more than 10 years ago, in the Wii game console launched by Nintendo, there have been 3D virtual images that can pinch the face and adjust the body, as well as virtual friend square in gel. However, the modeling is far less exquisite than now, and the clothing is not fashionable, just a simple color logo. In addition, Wii hosts do not support networking, so friends can not interact in real time. They can only operate the game through the game console.
In contrast, at present, most metaverse social apps, in addition to creating more exquisite virtual images and scenes, some have also spliced more functional modules with social attributes, but these “upgrades” do not seem to fully reflect the essential difference between them and previous social apps.
Because the underlying infrastructure of metaverse products is far from complete, technology can’t get around the barrier for some products with more grand and complex scenes.
Take Baidu, App as an example. After opening the App, it was not only rough by the Tucao’s quality, slow loading scenes, and single interaction, but also make complaints about flash back and even page stuck.
When Baidu AI developers conference was held in “xirang” in 2021, it is claimed that it can accommodate 100000 people to interact on the same screen at the same time. Compared with the meta product horizon worlds, which only supports 14 people’s real-time chat, xirang has great ambition, but its actual performance is not satisfactory. After the developer conference, although users can speak, they can’t establish effective communication with each other because they are too catchy.
Although it did not achieve the expected results, the basic computing power behind the conference has been amazing.
“Metaverse’s demand for computing power is almost infinite. The AI primary cloud created by Baidu Intelligent Cloud provides the PFLOPS world’s super large heterogeneous computing power, hundreds of GB bandwidth resources and unlimited storage to support this super large scale data transmission project.” Hou Zhenyu, senior vice president of Baidu, once said when explaining the basic computing power support of the conference.
Ma Jie, vice president of Baidu, once said that there are still many imperfections in xirang, and there is still huge room for growth from the goal. At present, it can only be called version – 6.0. Baidu and even the global metaverse exploration is still in a very early stage. Building a mature metaverse community requires more world, human and material resources.
Under the metaverse craze, Facebook simply changed its name to meta, showing its determination to enter metaverse. But in fact, meta’s metaverse division, reality labs, has suffered a cumulative loss of US $21.3 billion in recent three years. Last year alone, metaverse’s business lost more than US $10 billion. Affected by this, meta’s share price fell sharply, and Zuckerberg’s wealth shrank by nearly $40 billion this year, falling out of the top 10 of the global rich list.
Looking at China, social app soul took the lead in putting forward the concept of “young people’s social metaverse” in the industry, but behind its bright user data, the loss is also expanding year after year.
As a new thing, metaverse social has a promising future, but the real social transformation needs to be supported by core technology breakthroughs. Although major manufacturers around the world are competing to layout metaverse, and many interesting products have indeed been born during this period, at present, there is still a long way to go before the arrival of the real metaverse social era.