It’s come to my attention that, although Facebook has rebranded itself now to Meta, there’s very few people who are talking about “meta communities.”
In the field of ecology, a metacommunity is:
An ecological metacommunity is a set of interacting communities which are linked by the dispersal of multiple, potentially interacting species. The term is derived from the field of community ecology, which is primarily concerned with patterns of species distribution, abundance and interactions. Metacommunity ecology combines the importance of local factors (environmental conditions, competition, predation) and regional factors (dispersal of individuals, immigration, emigration) to explain patterns of species distributions that happen in different spatial scales.
- People represented as avatars, who interact with each other and with virtual agents
- Multiple communities that move fluidly between real and virtual worlds
- Individuals that sense belonging within multiple virtual communities (e.g. remote teams, social media, digital nomads, gamers, etc.)
This will become increasingly important to understand, as we’ve hit a point where human beings are beginning to value their digital lives and avatars more so than their physical. You can see these signals with cultural shifts around NFT (Non-Fungible Token) ownership.
With NFTs being the new “social flex”, people desire these digital collectibles because of their perceived scarcity and verifiability. No longer does an individual need to rely on being “approved” by a platform provider such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. You simply purchase the digital goods on a blockchain, and there’s your proof.
From a technical standpoint, the most popular blockchain in 2021 is Ethereum. However, as popular as it is, it suffers from some fundamental design flaws, resulting in increasingly high transaction (gas) fees. If future communities are going to rely on a blockchain for proof, it will need to be scaleable. Hence why Ethereum may not be the blockchain that wins long-term, but the culture shift needed is here now, and is happening (which is important to still pay attention to).
As people and technology start to further blur the lines between fantasy and reality, we will see the concept of “community” shift from being about who you know in one circle, to who you know intimately across multiple circles. As a result, it will become increasingly important for users (and as communities) to move their data with them between platforms. This will mean platforms won’t be the owners of data, but individuals themselves. Platforms will have to provide the best interfaces, as opposed to hold the most data.
Companies like Slack figured this out for the Web 2.0 era. They created a platform that plugged into every other platform possible, by design, and thus secured themselves an incredibly large user base in a relatively short time. Now, imagine that interoperability being even more fluid due to the data being stored on a blockchain. This is where things will start to get real interesting.
And this is where I see the future of online communities going: meta.