Economy March 28, 2023
Government-Backed NFT Scrapped By UK Treasury
Government-backed non-fungible tokens (NFTs) were in the news last April, after the UK made a bold move to create digital collectibles to foster the country’s commitment to tech. While this was seen as a positive one year ago, a statement released on March 27 has thrown the once-innovative idea into complete disarray.
The Treasury of the UK has nixed the idea of releasing a government-backed NFT which would have placed the country ahead of other crypto-friendly nations as a leading global crypto hub.
Economic uncertainty across the entire decentralized finance (DeFi) sector due to a muddied regulatory picture was cited as one of the main concerns leading to the scrapping of the token. That’s according to statements made by Harriet Baldwin, Chair of the Treasury Select Committee, to the BBC.
Current British PM proposed idea last year
Last April, John Glen, the minister and economic secretary to the Treasury, told an audience at the Innovative Finance Global Summit that then-Chancellor Rishi Sunak, the current Prime Minister, petitioned Royal Mint to make an NFT before the end of summer 2022.
According to Glen, the whole idea was part of the UK’s forward-looking approach towards utilizing the latest technology in the country’s development.
Brutal for NFTs/online worlds and it's not even 8am: Disney has folded down its metaverse team and Rishi Sunak's dream of a UK government issued NFT has ended…. sad!
— Lucy HM (@LHM1) March 28, 2023
While a government-backed “NFT for Britain” now appears off the table, economic secretary Andrew Griffith has made it known that the proposal will remain under review.
Shadow city minister Tulip Siddiq was quick to put the boot in, saying: “I’m glad the Royal Mint has finally made the Conservatives see sense, but we’ve been calling on the chancellor to drop this crypto gimmick for months.”
Global NFT market soars past $50bn in sales
Despite the negative market sentiment occasioned by the UK Treasury’s decision, the digital collectibles market remains the most profitable in the crypto-economy after the deepening of bearishness in the second half of 2022 due to the collapse of Terra and FTX.
Global NFT sales in the past 24 hours stood at $41 million from the activities of 74,786 users involved in more than 180,000 transactions. Lifetime sales volume, meanwhile, has surpassed $50 billion.
Popular NFT project CryptoPunks holds the record for the four highest-selling individual NFTs, Axie Infinity remains the number one NFT collection by all-time sales volume with $4.2 billion, and Vitalik Buterin’s Ethereum remains the biggest NFT blockchain by all-time sales volume of about $38 billion.
NFT users are spread throughout the globe, with the majority hailing from the United States, Thailand, Brazil, China, Vietnam, India, Canada, Indonesia, Germany, and South Africa
How the Metaverse is Changing the Beauty Industry
Countless obituaries have been written about the metaverse, but not everyone is reading from the same page. This week, 120-year old American cosmetics brand Elizabeth Arden launched its first virtual store in the metaverse. The store’s opening signals the growing importance of the metaverse for the beauty industry throughout the world.
Located on the experiential e-commerce platform Obsess, the digital store allows users to explore Elizabeth Arden’s products like skincare and fragrances, and learn about its history. It is a fully immersive experience that lets people interact with the products in a realistic way.
According to Martine Williamson, the brand’s global chief marketing officer, users can zoom in on the products, read about their ingredients, and even try them on virtually. The store also features a history section that tells the story of the eponymous brand founder.
“We are truly operating as an omnichannel business to evolve our customer experience and engage a whole new generation of shoppers about our products and legacy through digital storytelling,” Williamson said in a statement.
Also read: Gucci uses Metaverse as a Product Testing Ground
Reinventing beauty the metaverse way
The metaverse is an emerging, immersive virtual world created by the convergence of virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and the internet. It is a place where people can connect with each other and with digital content in a way that feels real for some users.
In an industry that already thrives on digital marketing and e-commerce, beauty brands are well-positioned to benefit from the metaverse. It can offer brands such as Elizabeth Arden a new way to reach consumers, according to metaverse expert and author Rume Dominic.
“The metaverse is an opportunity [for entities] to innovate on a more immersive experience [for consumers] in the application of their beauty products virtually,” Dominic, author of beginners guide “An Evolution into the Metaverse,” told MetaNews.
“It also promotes a better social community – online is the new community. Like it or not, there is influence and value distribution of environments that the metaverse allows you to experience. Elizabeth Arden wants to meet its customers at their point of need,” he added.
As a leading beauty industry innovator for over 120 years, we are thrilled to introduce to you the first-ever virtual store experience for Elizabeth Arden! 🎉
We can't wait to see you all there!
Tap to explore our new virtual world: https://t.co/0ByzvEBtFg pic.twitter.com/HGtgD3DCQ2
— Elizabeth Arden (@ElizabethArden) May 16, 2023
Dominic spoke about how Elizabeth Arden could use the metaverse to create virtual makeovers or to offer live beauty tutorials. The metaverse is also useful for building new forms of beauty content, including virtual fashion shows and beauty documentaries.
“This is a journey into the digital transformation of their [beauty companies] e-commerce and online shopping by balancing virtual and physical experiences,” said Dominic.
More beauty brands join the bandwagon
Beauty lovers are already experiencing multiple metaverse use cases elsewhere in the industry. Brands that include Sephora, MAC Cosmetics, and L’Oréal have all opened stores in the metaverse.
These brands are using the metaverse to engage directly with their customers for commercial and promotional purposes.
In April, Estee Lauder’s Clinique launched its eponymous virtual shopping experience called “Clinique Lab”. The digital storefront, built in partnership with metaverse company Journee, comes with a virtual Clinique counter that lets users create a customized avatar and explore six unique zones.
French beauty brand Laura Mercier opened its World of Beauty metaverse store in December. As with Elizabeth Arden, the company worked with Obsess to set up its first virtually experiential e-commerce presence. Laura Mercier is making use of web-based VR and AR to offer high-definition quality, 3D and 360-degree metaverse experiences.
Obsess recently launched its Ava by Obsess service, which enables brands and retailers to create stores in the metaverse. To date, the company says it’s helped create over 200 immersive stores for brands like Ralph Lauren and Charlotte Tilbury.
For Charlotte Tilbury, the retailer initially launched a digital twin of its physical store in 2020. The following year the company unveiled a 3D virtual store with a feature enabling users to invite their friends and family to join them for a virtual store experience by email or text.
The retailer reportedly “now offers metaverse shoppers branded avatars that can be personalized across all of a shopper’s characteristics, including skin tone, facial features, body shape, clothing and makeup.”
Not all rosy
But it is not always rosy for beauty brands pitching up to the metaverse. Metaverse expert Rume Dominic told MetaNews that companies could struggle with issues of data privacy and security, including the requisite technology and infrastructure.
“The technology may not be as reliable as it needs to be and the cost of setting up and and maintaining a metaverse store is expensive,” he said.
There are also issues around lack of regulation in the space, which means “there are no clear rules or regulations about how businesses can operate in the metaverse.”
Presidential Hopeful RFK Comes Out in Support of Crypto
Democratic Presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has given cryptocurrencies his support, calling them “a major innovation engine.”
The 69-year-old member of the Kennedy dynasty took to Twitter to outline his views on digital assets as his campaign for the White House kicks into gear. RFK launched his primary bid on April 19 and a recent Fox News poll put his support at 19%.
Kennedy slams centralization, endorses crypto
“Cryptocurrencies, led by bitcoin, along with other crypto technologies are a major innovation engine,” Kennedy wrote on Twitter. “It is a mistake for the U.S. government to hobble the industry and drive innovation elsewhere. Biden’s proposed 30% tax on cryptocurrency mining is a bad idea.”
The latter comment refers to the President’s ambition to pass a 30% tax on the electricity used in cryptocurrency mining in the next federal budget. The so-called Digital Asset Mining Energy (DAME) excise tax doesn’t cut much muster with Kennedy, though.
“Yes, energy use is a concern (though somewhat overstated),” he acknowledged, “but bitcoin mining uses about the same as video games and no one is calling for a ban on those. The environmental argument is a selective pretext to suppress anything that threatens elite power structures. Bitcoin, for example.”
The tweet thread didn’t just tackle bitcoin energy FOMO, a common criticism levelled at the currency. The long-shot Presidential candidate was also keen to debunk the claim that digital assets are the preferred currency of criminals.
“Some advocate tight control of cryptocurrencies to prevent their use by criminals. But it isn’t just criminals who want privacy. So do dissidents and ordinary citizens,” Kennedy noted.
“Governments harass their enemies and crush dissent by controlling bank accounts and payment platforms. Until we restore trust in government (a distant prospect) we need cash and crypto to ensure freedom.”
Kennedy is not a lone voice: politicians on both sides of the aisle have voiced support for cryptocurrency. On Wednesday, Republican Representative Mike Flood of Nebraska said “Digital assets are at the heart of our digital economy’s future, but the Biden’s Administration’s response is driving innovators out of America and into the hands of international competitors.”
Just as a biodiverse ecosystem is a resilient ecosystem, so too will our economy be more resilient if it has a diverse ecology of currencies, not just a single, centrally controlled one. We are seeing today how fragile our over-centralized system is.
— Robert F. Kennedy Jr (@RobertKennedyJr) May 3, 2023
Kennedy’s tweet thread garnered 3.3 million impressions and almost 40,000 likes, with many voicing their support for the Presidential hopeful.
“Woah! RFK jumping up in my personal poll,” wrote one. “I haven’t bothered to vote for a president in years, but if this really is your stance, I’d go out of my way to vote just to show support for this,” said another.
Kennedy sets out stall for White House
In a wide-ranging interview with Freddie Sayers of UnHerd this week, Kennedy touched on many key topics – war in Ukraine, the environment, the merger of state and corporate power, and what he calls “the systematic gutting of the middle class.”
The environmental lawyer also took aim at the expenditure of the Biden government, including the recent bailout of the crypto-friendly Silicon Valley Bank and “the war in Ukraine, which is costing us $113 billion.”
With Ron DeSantis looking like the most obvious rival to Trump on the Republican side of the fence, does Kennedy have what it takes to challenge Biden?
Six Months of Twitter Under the Rule of Elon Musk
Twitter has barely been out of the headlines since its takeover by Elon Musk last October in a deal worth $44 billion. Partly these have stemmed from the raft of significant changes made to its policies. Though company-wide layoffs and Musk’s brain-fart tweets have also got tongues wagging.
Musk’s Twitter buy was the social media takeover story to end them all, and the first six months with the mogul at the wheel have been eventful to say the least. In this article, we’ve summarized some of the most notable stories of his reign so far.
Musk made a memorable entrance to Twitter HQ, holding a sink in his hand to indicate “Let that sink in.” Things appeared to start on a positive note when he added, “Meeting a lot of cool people at Twitter today.”
However, he did not waste any time in laying off employees in huge numbers, starting with then-CEO Parag Agrawal, the CFO, and the head of legal, policy, and trust.
The exact number of employees dismissed under Musk’s leadership is unclear. However, within the first three weeks of his tenure, nearly two-thirds of the company’s 7,500-person workforce were purged.
Furthermore, the company had lost almost all of its senior leadership. And the number of people with access to Twitter’s internal systems fell to just over 2,700, according to two sources who saw the numbers in the last week of November.
The layoffs have included long-tenured engineers, some with more than a decade of experience at the company, as well as a growing list of corporate leaders.
Advertisers sever ties
Since October, many corporations and companies have cut ties with the platform for advertising.
Major corporations such as Ford, General Motors, Volkswagen, General Mills, Mondelez, Pfizer, and United Airlines have paused or pulled their advertisements from Twitter due to concerns over hate speech and conspiracy theories.
International ad and consulting firm Interpublic, which represents American Express, Coca-Cola, Fitbit, Spotify, and dozens of other major corporations, has also stopped advertising on the platform. That cut caused Twitter to lose $24 billion in value since Musk took over.
Introduction of paid verification subscription
Without a doubt, one of the most popular changes on Twitter since Musk’s takeover is its Bluetick subscription feature.
In November, the Tesla chief introduced a feature called “Blue for $8/month,” which brought a drastic change to Twitter’s policy by providing a verification checkmark known as a Bluetick. This feature also offers additional benefits such as the ability to edit tweets, half-ads, longer tweets, text formatting, bookmark folders, NFT profile pictures, etc.
However, it has also raised concerns that Twitter Blue’s additional features make the platform more elitist. Interestingly, though, the change has been copied by Facebook and Instagram owner Meta, whose subscription service Meta Verified lets users add a blue checkmark to their accounts.
Twitter for everything app
Reportedly, Musk has long wanted to turn Twitter into an “everything app.” The maverick social media typhoon envisions a future where Twitter becomes like China’s WeChat, offering a wide range of services beyond social media.
This would involve integrating features such as e-commerce, messaging, and even transportation services, all within the Twitter platform.
Musk’s ambition is apparently to turn Twitter into a comprehensive digital ecosystem that people can rely on for all their needs. Watch this space.
Q4 revenue tumbled by 35%
Twitter’s fourth-quarter revenue plummeted by 35% year-on-year to $1.03 billion, as advertisers held back spending after Musk’s takeover.
More than 500 advertisers pulled the plug on ad spending after the takeover, with revenue representing 72% of the company’s own targets for the quarter under review.
Twitter faces an imminent finance charge of $13 billion and has projected first-quarter revenue to come in at $732 million, down 39% from a year ago.
Controversial 2FA policy change
Back in February, Twitter faced criticism from experts when it announced that SMS-based two-factor authentication (2FA) would only be available to Bluetick subscribers.
The move was seen as contradictory to Twitter’s goal of improving security and sparked concerns that users would be confused by the sudden change. Despite SMS-based 2FA being considered less secure than other methods, some questioned why verified users were being given unfavourable treatment.
Twitter leverages AI to detect manipulation
The Twitter boss is also working on AI despite his agreement to pause developing the technology.
In the months ahead, we will use AI to detect & highlight manipulation of public opinion on this platform.
Let’s see what the psy ops cat drags in …
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 18, 2023
As MetaNews previously reported, Musk’s announcement comes after Twitter has faced criticism for its handling of disinformation and propaganda on its platform.
Musk, who often uses Twitter to voice his opinions and ideas, believes that his AI platform can identify misinformation campaigns and protect users from having their opinions manipulated.
His initiative is part of a broader trend toward the use of AI to monitor and regulate social media platforms.
Algorithms go public
Twitter made its timeline algorithm code public on GitHub, allowing developers to access and use it.
The move came with the expectation that developers would have more freedom to create new features and enhance the platform’s functionality.
The announcement generated a buzz among social media users, with some hoping to find out why certain posts were prioritized.
According to a Twitter blog post, the algorithm prioritizes likes and retweets over replies when selecting tweets to feature on the For You timeline, with each like given a 30x boost and each retweet a 20x boost.
Monetization avenues for content creators
Musk has announced that the social media platform will now allow creators to monetize their content through a new feature called “Subscriptions.”
Content creators can now enable subscriptions to their text, pics & video worldwide on this platform! https://t.co/XzrFMLPytB
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 28, 2023
This move is part of Twitter’s efforts to generate more revenue and compete with other social media sites.
Creators can charge subscribers $2.99, $4.99, or $9.99 per month and will receive 97% of revenue up to $50,000 in lifetime earnings.
Additionally, Twitter plans to promote creators’ work and give them full ownership of their content.
Aside from the controversies and policy changes, Musk has reached some personal milestones since taking over. Indeed, he has become the most followed individual on the entire platform, surpassing former President Barack Obama.
Musk also paid for the blue tick verification of three celebrities, after they declined to sign up themselves.
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