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Facebook risks meta flop, metaverse developers say pointing to shift in user behavior

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Facebook risks missing the point of metaverse — and a coming shift in consumers’ behavior — if it fails to permit digital ownership, according to some of the virtual world’s pioneers.
The social media giant made waves last month by changing its name to Meta Platforms and announcing a focus on the buzzy “metaverse.”

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However, with few details beyond the rebrand, metaverse participants doubt it is ready to embrace the spirit driving creativity and profit in the space.
“What Facebook is doing with meta…is a ‘fake metaverse,’ unless they actually have a real description as to how we can truly own it,” said Yat Siu, chairman and co-founder of Animoca Brands, an investor in and builder of metaverse platforms, speaking on a panel at the Reuters Next conference.
“Until then, it’s just Disneyland. It’s a beautiful place to be, but we probably don’t want to really live there. It’s not the kind of place that we can actually build a business.”
The metaverse refers to an array of shared spaces accessed via the internet. Some use augmented reality, via smart glasses, though current platforms often look more like the inside of a video game than real life.
Serious money is sloshing around in there, with a patch of “real estate” in an online world called Decentraland changing hands for the equivalent of $2.4 million last week.
Such plots and other virtual objects typically transact blockchain-based assets called non-fungible tokens (NFTs), sales of which topped $10 billion in the September quarter, according to market tracker DappRadar.
Facebook’s entry has further turbocharged interest in the space. It had no immediate response to an emailed request for comment on Wednesday, and has not previously responded directly to criticisms of its metaverse plans.
But Siu said ownership is the bedrock for improvements and new paths for products and commerce, much like car ownership gave rise to baby car seat makers or how home ownership drives demand for furniture and businesses like Ikea.

Same, same, but different

For fellow metaverse pioneer Benoit Pagotto, co-founder of virtual sneaker company RTFKT, digital ownership makes room to change the roles of brands and consumers.
“It’s a huge shift in (the way) the relationship between business, creativity and consumerism is working,” he said at the Reuters Next conference. “A product is not a one-off thing. You need to think of how you can continue to update it,” he said.
“It’s very, very much more fluid. I think the real world will soon be overwhelmed by that because the possibilities of interaction in a digital world are so much deeper.”
In the meantime, there has been a scramble to catch up, both by brands wanting a slice of the action and lawyers trying to pin down what digital ownership really is.
NFTs are largely unregulated and fraudsters lurk. Anybody can create and sell an NFT and there is no guarantee of its value.
“It is causing a little bit of headaches to people in the legal profession trying to reconcile the vocabulary with what’s happening in fact,” said Sophie Goossens, a partner specializing in technology and media law at Reed Smith in London.
“Ownership in legal terms means something…(generally) a monopoly over a resource that is enforced by the state,” she said. “The type of rights that you are being granted on digital ownership of an NFT are slightly different. You may not have the right to control fully the asset that you own as an NFT.”
Still, that does not appear to be holding back the metaverse’s reach into the mainstream, especially for young people who are already video game or fashion consumers.
“I think we’re going to see a blend of digital assets seamlessly fitting into our real environment,” said Natalie Johnson, founder of Neuno, a forthcoming marketplace for fashion brand NFTs, as tech firms launch augmented-reality glasses.
“You don’t need to be a hardcore gamer to be embracing and playing with this new technology. It’s going to be for everyone.”

Read more: After Facebook Papers, Zuckerberg changes company name to Meta

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RAK arts festival celebrates 10th anniversary in February launch

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The Ras Al Khaimah Fine Arts Festival (RAKFAF) will celebrate its 10th edition this year, under the theme ‘The Journey,’ a celebration of the annual event’s first decade and the first 50 years of the United Arab Emirates.

The annual arts festival – established under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi, UAE Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Ras Al Khaimah – will open to the public on Friday 4 February and run until Thursday, 31 March 2022.

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Artists will share their interpretations of what this theme means to them through the lens of ancestry, migration, national identity, and personal growth.

The historic Ras Al Khaimah pearling village of Al Jazirah Al Hamra will once again provide the central backdrop for the Festival, having been its home for the past three years and standing as a critical bridge between Ras Al Khaimah’s cultural heritage and contemporary art scene.

Satellite exhibition sites will also offer unique settings for different events including the public viewing deck of the UAE’s highest peak Jebel Jais and the Open Park on Al Marjan Island.

The free-to-attend outdoor art, photography, and sculpture exhibition will present a diverse collection of artworks from over 150 artists hailing from more than 45 countries. There will also be a vibrant program of film screenings, workshops, guided tours, and other events held across the Festival’s various locations.

The Festival’s Director, Suqrat bin Bisher, noted that despite the global pandemic hitting the event last year, it remained popular.

“After the success of last year’s Festival which played a truly important role in bringing the community together in spite of a global pandemic, we are excited to reach this 10th year in which we celebrate togetherness, humanity and Ras Al Khaimah’s role in the world of art and culture,” Bisher said.

“Our stunning natural landscape offers the perfect backdrop for open-air events from film to exhibitions in addition to helping us broaden the festival’s reach to those who may not otherwise have discovered us.”

Speaking ahead of the Festival’s opening next month, His Highness Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi, UAE Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Ras Al Khaimah, suggested that the 10th year of RAKRAF is a momentous occasion and a cause for great celebration, coinciding as it does with the UAE’s 51st year.

“Arts and culture are vital components in humanity’s ongoing pursuit of greater togetherness and tolerance, as these fields promote the virtues of dialogue, collaboration and understanding, which remain a constant means of uniting humanity. The festival provides a platform for artists from all over the world, as well as our local talent and community members, to come together in a unique location to converse, to forge bonds and to learn, all through the medium of art and culture,” he said.

All international standard COVID-19 safety guidelines are in place for RAKFAF.

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Al Arabiya becomes first regional news channel to exceed 10 mln YouTube subscribers

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Al Arabiya has become the first news channel in the Arab region to reach over 10 million YouTube subscribers.

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Videos posted on Al Arabiya’s YouTube channel have gained over 5 billion views, a number no other competing news channel in the Arab region has reached.
The Al Arabiya team has published 110,000 videos and the hours watched on the Arabic YouTube channel exceeded the 200-million-hour mark.
The numbers also reveal more about the keenness of Arab nationals to follow and interact with Al Arabiya and its published content. Al Arabiya videos on YouTube have received more than 52 million likes, and more than 20 million comments.
Al Arabiya is not only leading the Arab region channels on YouTube, but also on other social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and others.
Mamdouh al-Muhaini, General Manager of Al-Arabiya and Al-Hadath channels, confirmed that Al Arabiya always aims to lead, whether as a television station or through its various platforms on social media.
Al-Muhaini pointed out that these figures confirm the trust of the viewers and followers of Al Arabiya, “and this trust is a major responsibility that falls on the shoulders of Al Arabiya and its employees.”
He also stressed that “Al Arabiya has not and will not stop improving to keep up with anything new in the media,” explaining that “the content published on the Al Arabiya platforms always takes into account the age group and the geographical location of the reach of each media platform in different countries.”

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Qatari Al-Attiyah wins Saudi Arabia’s Dakar Rally, Sunderland takes motorbike race

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Nasser Al-Attiyah clinched his fourth Dakar Rally title on Friday in Jeddah after leading from the first stage on New Year’s Day.

Al-Attiyah could afford to let nearest rival Sebastien Loeb, the former nine-time rally world champion, beat him by more than five minutes on the 12th and last sandy stage from Bisha and still cruise to overall victory by more than 27 minutes. The Qatari previously won in 2011, 2015 and 2019.

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British rider Sam Sunderland won his second Dakar motorbike title after beating stage winner Pablo Quintanilla of Chile by 3 1/2 minutes, the closest margin since 1994.

But the rally’s end was overshadowed by the road crash death of a support staff member from the PH Sport team on a liaison route.

Quentin Lavalée, aged 20 of France, was killed when the car he was driving collided with a local truck, police told Dakar Rally organizers. A passenger with Lavalée, Maxime Frere of Belgium, was injured and taken to a Jeddah hospital. Lavalee was a chief mechanic.

Al-Attiyah was runner-up in the last two Dakars in Saudi Arabia, and focused on rallying in the past year without sharing time with sport shooting or powerboating. Plagued by punctures on the Dakar, he fine-tuned a Toyota with bigger tires and suspension and came to Saudi having won seven rallies.

His biggest rivals struck trouble early. Defending champion Stephane Peterhansel lost a rear wheel and three-time champ Carlos Sainz made a bad navigation error. Loeb’s drive shaft broke and by the rest day a week ago, Al-Attiyah had a 50-minute lead.

Loeb desperately chipped at the gap in search of his first Dakar title but Al-Attiyah and co-driver Matthieu Baumel expertly avoided trouble.

“It was an incredible Dakar for us. The whole race went without a hitch,” Al-Attiyah said. “We opened up a gap on the first day and have since managed our lead. We’re really happy, and I reckon we’ll start thinking of the next Dakar in a week or 10 days.”

Al-Attiyah’s fourth Dakar tied him for second most with Ari Vatanen. Peterhansel leads with eight.

Loeb’s second place matched his 2017 result in Argentina.

“We never stopped attacking, so we have no regrets,” Loeb said. “Nasser has tons of experience and a co-driver who only makes mistakes once in a blue moon, so he controlled the race to perfection. I still had a blast, though, because every time we gained time on him, it felt great.”

Saudi driver Yazeed Al Rajhi was third for his first Dakar podium at his eighth attempt.

Sunderland’s preparation wasn’t ideal. Riding for his new team GasGas, he had a bad crash at the Rally Kazakhstan and retired ill from the Morocco Rally. Yet, he led throughout the first week of the Dakar and when he was challenged in the second week, timed his winning run to perfection.

“I had a pretty rough season, but when you win the Dakar, it’s all worth it,” Sunderland said.

Quintanilla was runner-up for the second time in three Dakars.

“It was physically and mentally exhausting. But I’m really pleased with my performance,” Quintanilla said.

Austrian rider Matthias Walkner, the 2018 champion and twice runner-up, was nearly seven minutes back in third overall which, he said, “almost feels like a victory.”

Sunderland’s brother-in-law, Adrien van Beveren of France, was fourth, and Joan Barreda of Spain fifth while carrying a shoulder injury.

Mason Klein, the 20-year-old American on debut, was ninth, 13 seconds ahead of two-time winner Toby Price of Australia.

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