Last week, Pepsi launched its first NFT collection, a series of cartoon microphones with Pepsi logo noses. Budweiser, which bought an NFT and Ethereum domain name in August and changed its Twitter handle to beer.eth, responded, "Welcome brand friend. WAGMI." Pepsi replied, "Thanks, fren! WAGMI."
Facebook, which renamed itself Meta in October, tweeted to Pepsi, "This is going to look great in the metaverse."
As one Crypto Twitter user summed up these exchanges: "Just nuke it all." Another replied drily, "We've become the very thing we set out to destroy."
This month also saw Adidas buy a Bored Ape NFT and overlay branded clothing onto it, and announce a metaverse project with the studio behind Bored Ape Yacht Club. Not to be left out, Nike bought RTFKT, a metaverse sneaker studio. White Castle bought a Sea Hams NFT and an Ethereum domain name.
Nike's move, in particular, prompted backlash among crypto people. Emma-Jane MacKinnon-Lee of DIGITALAX tweeted to RTFKT, "Congrats on ur exit from web3 it's a shame that you weren't in it for the long haul. so much to do to revolutionise fashion and break away from legacy brand control." There were many "rip rtfkt" replies.
A clash is brewing. Much like the many recent examples of gamers getting angry over crypto invading their platforms, the outrage can cut the other way: crypto people can see that brands are rushing into Web3 and making it uncool.
Crypto lingo like "WAGMI" (we are going to make it) could die a quick death when you have Pepsi proudly tweeting it. And Facebook's attempt to reclaim the word "meta" has even Keanu Reeves pleading, "Can we just not have metaverse be invented by Facebook? The concept of metaverse is way older than that."
But what about the tech itself?
Beyond their attempted adoption of crypto language, brands are rushing to stake ownership claims in the metaverse (and are already suing to do it). The idea of gated areas owned by centralized corporations is antithetical to the whole point of the metaverse. Animoca chairman Yat Siu says tech giants like Facebook and Tencent represent the biggest threat to an open metaverse, while Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney says no one company can own the metaverse. But with 2 billion users and a $930 billion market cap, Meta is making a formidable go at it.
It all feels like the 2018 "blockchain, not bitcoin" hype cycle, when banks and other financial institutions started saying they were building their own blockchains (crypto, ehh, not so much, that was still icky to them). The whole proposition of blockchain is that it's permissionless, open, peer-to-peer, decentralized. A closed, permissioned blockchain controlled by JPMorgan misses the point. And then came the blockchain name changes, punctuated by Long Island Iced Tea changing its name to Long Blockchain.
Might all the brands buying up .eth domain names make having one of those names a lot less cool?
On the other hand, if you believe the metaverse is real and here to stay, and so are crypto tools like Ethereum domain names, NFTs, and DeFi pools, then you don't mind brands rushing in because if it all truly goes mainstream, everyone will be in. And for crypto to grow, it needs to open its arms to everyone and create easier UX onramps for newcomers.
But still. It's hard to look at a cartoon microphone with a Pepsi logo on it without a serious sense of cringe.
This is Roberts on Crypto, a weekend column from Decrypt Editor-in-Chief Daniel Roberts and Decrypt Executive Editor Jeff John Roberts. Sign up for the Decrypt email newsletter to receive it in your inbox. And read last weekend's column: Democrats Are Blowing the Bitcoin Vote.