As June came to a close, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced an ambitious new effort to his staff. The company’s future would go well beyond its current ambition of developing a collection of linked social apps and supporting hardware. Instead, he stated that Facebook would create a maximalist, interconnected range of experiences right out of science fiction, dubbed the metaverse.
In a remote presentation to staff, he said the company’s groups targeted on products for communities, artists, commerce, and virtual reality would progressively cooperate to accomplish this ambition. “What interests me the most is how these themes will coalesce into a larger concept,” Zuckerberg remarked. “Across all of these endeavours, our ultimate purpose is to assist in bringing the metaverse to life.”
Metaverse for Facebook
The metaverse is experiencing a renaissance. The word was coined in Neal Stephenson’s 1992 sci-fi novel Snow Crash to describe the merging of physical, enhanced, and virtual reality in a put publicly arena. The New York Times published an article earlier this month that looked at how firms and products like Epic Games’ Fortnite, Roblox, and even Animal Crossing: New Horizons were becoming more metaverse-like.
Matthew Ball, a venture capitalist, published an influential essay in January 2020 that sought to identify fundamental qualities of a metaverse. It should span the real and virtual worlds, have a fully functional economy and provide “unprecedented interoperability” – users must be able to transport their avatars and items from one area of the metaverse to another, regardless of who controls that section. The metaverse, therefore, would not be governed by a single firm — it will be an “embodied internet,” as Zuckerberg described it, with many different actors operating in a decentralized manner.
I couldn’t tell which aspect of Zuckerberg’s presentation was more audacious: his vision or timing. When the US government aims to break up Zuckerberg’s existing company, he has revealed his intention to construct a more maximalist version of Facebook, covering presence online, office work, and entertainment. A set of bills currently making their way through Congress may force Facebook to spin off Instagram and WhatsApp, as well as limit the company’s ability to make future deals — or sell services tied to its hardware goods.
Even if tech regulation in the US stalls — not a bad bet historically — a thriving metaverse would pose familiar and unexpected problems about how the virtual realm is regulated, how its contents regulate, and what its presence would do to our common sense of reality. We’re still wrapping our heads all around this double version of social media; handling the three-dimensional version could be much more difficult.
At the same time, according to Zuckerberg, the metaverse will provide huge potential to individual inventors and artists; to people who wish to work and own homes outside of today’s urban centres; and to people who reside in areas with limited educational and recreational options. According to him, a fully realized metaverse could become the next best thing to a functioning teleportation apparatus. Facebook is attempting to construct one through its Oculus business, which manufactures the Quest headset.