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My Roblox landlord wears Gucci
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Paying subscribers will be getting an interview tomorrow with the original artist behind one of Tumblr’s biggest controversies: Miss Officer and Mr. Truffles. The artist behind the fan art that spiraled out into one of the platform’s most infamous scandals has never really spoken about what happened until now. She talked about what it was like to be an 18-year-old art student from Mexico suddenly accused of defrauding the entire Tumblr community. Hit the button below to get that in your inbox.
The Internet Landlords Are Coming
I swear I’m trying to space out all the Web3/metaverse stuff I cover in Garbage Day, but, unfortunately, there’s a lot and it’s all happening very quickly. It could be that we look back at all of this in three years and cringe, but there’s just simply so much money being dumped into this space that it seems likely that something will stick. If I had to make a prediction, I assume we’re looking at least another awkward year of overhyped blockchain video games, dumb video conferencing avatars, and
ponzi schemes “tokenomic Discord communities” before tech companies realize that all anyone really wants from Web3 is an easy-to-use digital tip jar and cool augmented reality filters for their short-form video apps.
The New York Times has a wildly troubling report out this week, titled, “Investors Snap Up Metaverse Real Estate in a Virtual Land Boom”. Here’s a passage that should send a chill down your spine:
In October, Tokens.com, a blockchain technology company focused on NFTs and metaverse real estate, acquired 50 percent of Metaverse Group, one of the world’s first virtual real estate companies, for about $1.7 million. Metaverse Group is based in Toronto but has virtual headquarters in a world called Decentraland in Crypto Valley, which is the metaverse’s answer to Silicon Valley. Decentraland also has districts for gambling, shopping, fashion and the arts.
“Rather than try to create a universe like Facebook, I said, ‘Why don’t we go in and buy the parcels of land in these metaverses, and then we can become the landlords?’” said Andrew Kiguel, a co-founder and the chief executive of Tokens.com.
My disclaimer with everything relating to the metaverse is that it is inherently stupid, but the amount of money involved is, unfortunately, not. What we’re watching happen right now are people with a lot of money brainstorming ways to buy pieces of the internet. As I said, this is dumb because the internet, by definition, is infinite. Though parts of it go down a worrying amount, in theory, you can just keep adding servers to it. Except, it’s getting harder to use the entirety of it beyond the walled gardens built by massive online platforms.
What we call Web 2.0 — the rise of social and interactive online publishing platforms — was, at first, a way to build what some people used to call a “semantic web”. An internet that could be interfaced via human language rather than code. Web 2.0, though, has increasingly become a way for tech companies to reduce the infinitely scalable nature of the internet to essentially fourteen platforms: Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, iMessage in the US, Google, YouTube, Netflix, TikTok, Twitter, Pinterest, Reddit, Amazon, and the Apple and Android app stores. Within a matter of 15 years, a hard-to-use and oftentimes boring internet, consisting of websites, blogs, P2P sharing sites, open protocols like email and RSS, and basic file hosting sites has become an easy-to-use and exciting internet where everything is brought to you. Even searching now is not something you do actively, but, instead, a game of how many letters of what you’re looking for do you need to type before Google fills in the rest. What if one day you open it and it already knows what you were going to search?
Anyways, what the Times piece this week is describing is the very experimental early stage of what is likely a big concerted step towards an even smaller internet. Decentraland is a blockchain-based experiment to see if people will spend real money to buy “real estate” on a Minecraft-esque online sandbox platform. So far, that experiment is paying off. Investors are buying “parcels” of “land” on Decentraland with the hopes of, well, being internet landlords. This kind of nonsense digital speculation, though, has actually happened at the beginning new era of the internet. People were becoming millionaires off basic domain names up until the dot com bubble burst. And every new social platform has kicked off a race to get the best handles. We’re now seeing this with the “metaverse,” except, unlike domain names or two-letter Twitter handles, I don’t get the sense that people actually want the metaverse, at least in its current form.
All of this makes me think there are two possibilities here. The first, and funniest, is that we are possibly seconds away from a crypto-fueled global economic crash. This is all just bull shit driven by cocaine and DAO Discords. (Do crypto guys do cocaine? Thinking about it, that entire scene seems like they’d be way more into doctor-shopped adderall.) Maybe, six months from now, the idea that Gucci was designing metaverse avatars for Roblox will just be a funny thing you hear as you huddle for warmth next to a burning trash can in the Walmart parking lot you’re living in. It’s extremely possible that right now finance bros on Telegram who just learned what memes were nine months ago are dumping a bunch of money into metaverse startups that will go nowhere, while platforms like Fortnite, Minecraft, and Roblox will become more sophisticated. They’ll figure out ways to actually build a more immersive and interactive internet of the future — without the help of the blockchain. The other version of this, though, is less funny.
Something like Decentraland could grow like Amazon, quietly and methodically replacing alternatives. A blockchain-based metaverse platform could raise enough money to start securing exclusive contracts for consumer products or, like Netflix, start buying entertainment that can’t be seen anywhere else. Or it could grow like Facebook, using network effect to basically peer pressure everyone into using it. Or it could simply end up like Twitter, a place where journalists, furries, and deeply unwell teenagers eavesdrop on rich people and popular artists.
There are plenty of Web 2.0 examples for how Web3 could grow, but, right now, platforms like Decentraland are all missing two key things: they’re not popular and they’re a pain in the ass to use. But they have a lot of money and it’s not insane to think that if you give enough Bored Apes enough money they’re bound to produce the next Facebook.
Tumblr’s Year In Review Is Out
Tumblr’s end of year roundup dropped today and it’s full of really interesting insights. Here are the top 10 trends on the site for 2021:
The Dream SMP Minecraft Server
Destiel (Dean Winchester & Castiel, Supernatural)
Artists on Tumblr
Boku no Hero Academia
A few observations about these. First, the size of the Dream SMP Minecraft fandom on Tumblr is immeasurable. TommyInnit at number four and Ranboo at number seven up there are both part of the Dream SMP, to be clear. I recently wrote a piece for Polygon exploring how weird and massive that fandom has grown since the pandemic started, but I don’t think it’s an accident that Minecraft fans have settled on Tumblr as their home base. It’s the only platform that has the tools needed to really archive the jaw-dropping amount of content produced by the fandom and its stars.
Supernatural getting two spots on the list isn’t that surprising (see Allegra’s Corner from earlier this month for a good retrospect.) But I am surprised on how popular Critical Role is. If you’ve never heard of it, it’s quietly become one of the largest media companies on the internet. It’s a tabletop roleplaying show with over a million subscribers on YouTube and 990,000 on Twitch. It also has an animated show coming to Amazon Prime soon. Though, what might surprise folks the most is that Critical Role “episodes” are often between four and seven hours long.
In fact, the majority of what’s popular on Tumblr right now — and by extension, fandom spaces across the rest of the internet — are things that are both massive and immersive. The platform’s year-in-review list this year is full of scripted Minecraft playthroughs, marathon tabletop roleplaying shows, Marvel and Star Wars properties, long-running anime and manga like Boku no Hero Academia, K-Pop groups, and open world RPGs like Genshin Impact. These are all infinitely deep rabbit holes for fans to go down, and, thus, live inside. Looking at all these trends, it does really seem like the key to success, for both traditional entertainment, as well as influencers, is creating an impossible amount of content to consume and hoping fans are up for the challenge of navigating it all. Which — here’s a gut punch — means that, basically, everything is Homestuck now.
New TikTok Moral Panic Dropped
A TikTok user named Sabrina Prater recently shared a video of themselves dancing to a Shania Twain song in what appears to be their garage or shed. Their bio reads, “I’m a 34 yr old male been dressing up since I was lil! working on coming out.” The video was picked up by creepypasta accounts that started speculating that Prater was a serial killer.
Internet culture reporter Kelsey Weekman has a really good thread on this. Weekman wrote, “in a video that's now private, the original user (who goes by sabrina prater on the platform) said, ‘I didn't do nothing wrong. I'm sick of being hurt by this. I'm just like anybody else. I just want to be loved and accepted, man, and I'm not.’”
Prater’s various social account are all down or private now and many of people have pointed out that this was likely a poor trans woman making fun videos before millions of people started accusing them of being a murderer.
You can see this in the video embedded above, in the comments section the users are desperate to point out details in the background of Prater’s videos that could imply something more ominous. It’s TikTok’s version of Slender Man, but these users don’t seem to understand or care that they’re turning real people into their viral boogeymen. This macro trend has become only more popular following the Gabby Petito disappearance a few months ago. It’s the direct result of TikTok’s algorithm, which links together trending audio and challenges and promotes random users to massive audiences without their consent. The whole thing is extremely sad and grim and seems to only be getting worse.
The Scottish Snow Plows Are Back
I covered this last year. Gritters are what they call snow removal trucks in Scotland. There’s a map that shows all the gritters in the country and, most fantastically of all, many of the gritters have names. My favorite one from last year Spready Mercury, but this year I’m more partial to Buzz Iceclear. You can click through on that tweet to see the full map.
Ryan From The O.C. Is An Anti-Crypto Activist Now
I did not know this until this week, but Ben McKenzie, who played Ryan on The O.C., is now a super outspoken crypto critic. He’s written a bunch of pieces attacking the crypto industry and his Twitter is actually a really fantastic rolling feed of all the latest scandals and controversies happening in that world. If you’re looking for a good critical eye on this stuff, I actually really recommend checking his account out.
The Keyboard Lady Of TikTok
Myra Magdalen is a TikTok user whose account is growing pretty fast right now because her bathroom is covered in keyboards. Also, she revealed in a recent video that her bathroom floor is covered in old typewriters. Here’s a Tumblr mirror of one of her videos. Seemingly, with every new video, Magdalen reveals even more keyboards. It’s very impressive. No idea where this is headed, but I’m excited to find out!
A Cool Metaverse Video
In the future, this is the premium content that you’ll have to pay 3.5 million doge coins to access.
Chinese Internet Users Discovered Brazil’s Trenzinho Carreta Furacão
OK, so there are a few moving pieces to this. First, in Brazil, there are little street trains that drive around with dancers. They’re referred to as trenzinho carreta furacão. It doesn’t have a direct translation, but if you’re curious, the expression in English would be “little hurricane train”. You’ve no doubt seen GIFs or videos of these. They’re a big fixture of Brazilian social media:
Last week, a Brazilian Mandarin teacher tweeted out a video of Chinese internet users on Douyin (Chinese TikTok) learning how to do a dance from a video of a trenzinho carreta furacão.
The replies to this tweet are all full of suggestions for which Brazilian internet trend should be exported to China next. My vote is for Cuca, the sassy alligator puppet.
Obviously, the internet is global content network, where different cultures are constantly interacting with each other, but I think this is a super interesting example of what a meme exchange looks like without the US involved whatsoever. Talk to any internet user outside of America and they’ll be more than happy to tell you about the annoyances of having “internet culture” be dictated by the whims of US trending topics. But America’s place as the leader of online culture, in my opinion, began to seriously waver, first, with the arrival of K-Pop group BTS and, then, when ByteDance launched TikTok. So this is definitely a fun example of a meme traveling around the world, but it’s also a really fascinating example of how confusing (and cool) pop culture could continue to get as the US’s influence on the global cultural stage lessens.
A Fun YouTube Video Of Stuff Exploding
This is an old video, but I just saw it and it’s very fun. A lot of stuff blows up and you also will learn some very interesting facts about electricity!
Here’s A good Tweet
Some Stray Links
P.S. here’s a good wizard's orb meme.
***Any typos in this email are on purpose actually***