The term “metaverse” appears to be everyplace. Facebook have been hiring thousands of engineers in Europe to work on it, while video-game companies are outlining their long-term visions for what several consider the next huge thing online.
The metaverse, which can spring-up again when the Facebook releases earnings Monday, is the latest buzzword to capture tech industry’s imagination.
It can be the future, or it could be the latest grandiose vision by the Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg that does not turn-out as-expected or is not widely adopted for years, if at all.
Plus, numerous have concerns about a new online world tied to a social media giant that could get access to also more personal data and is accused-of failing to stop harmful content.
Here is what this online world is all about:
WHAT IS METAVERSE?
Think of it as internet brought to life, or at least rendered in three-dimension. Zuckerberg described it as a “virtual terrain” you can go inside of, rather of just-looking at on a screen. Essentially, it is a world of endless, inter-connected virtual communities, where people can meet, work & play, using virtual reality headsets, augmented reality glasses, smart-phone apps or other devices.
It even will incorporate other aspects of online life like shopping & social media, consistent with Victoria Petrock, an analyst who follows emerging technologies.
“It is the next-evolution of connectivity where all of those things start to come together in a seamless, doppelganger universe, so you are living your virtual life the same way you are living your physical life,” she said.
But keep in mind that “it is hard to define a label to something that has not been created,” said Tuong Nguyen, an analyst who tracks the immersive technologies for research firm Gartner.
Facebook warned, it would take 10-15 times to develop responsible products for metaverse, a term introduced by writer Neal Stephenson for his 1992 science fiction novel “Snow Crash.”
WHAT WILL I BE ABLE TO DO IN THE METAVERSE?
Things such as go to a virtual concert, take a trip online, and buy & try on digital clothing.
The metaverse even could be a game-changer for the work from home shift amid coronavirus pandemic. Rather of seeing co-workers on a video call grid, employees could see them virtually.
Facebook launched meeting software for companies called Horizon Workrooms, to use with its Oculus VR headsets, though early reviews haven’t been great. The headsets bring $300 or more, putting metaverse’s most cutting-edge experience out of reach for numerous.
For people who can afford it, users would be able, through their avatars, to flit between virtual worlds created by different companies.
“A lot of metaverse experience is going to be around being able-to teleport from one experience to another,” Zuckerberg says.
Tech companies still have to figure-out how to connect their online platforms to each other. Making it work will need competing technology platforms to agree on a set of standards, so there are not “people in Facebook metaverse and other people in Microsoft metaverse,” Petrock said.
IS FACEBOOK GOING ALL IN ON THE METAVERSE?
Indeed, Zuckerberg is going huge on what he sees as the next-generation of internet because he thinks it is going to be a huge part of the digital economy. He expects people to start seeing the Facebook as a metaverse company in coming years instead of a social media company.
A report by the tech news site The Verge said Zuckerberg is looking at using the Facebook’s annual virtual reality conference this coming-week to announce a corporate name change, putting legacy apps such as Facebook & Instagram under a metaverse-focused parent company. Facebook has not commented on the report.
Critics wonder, if potential pivot might be an effort to distract from company crises, including anti-trust crackdowns, testimony by whistle-blowing former employees and concerns about its handling of misinformation.
Former employee Frances Haugen, who accused the Facebook’s platforms of harming children & inciting political violence, plans to testify Monday before a United Kingdom Parliamentary Committee looking to-pass online safety legislation.
IS METAVERSE JUST A FACEBOOK PROJECT?
No, Zuckerberg acknowledged that “no one company” will create metaverse by itself.
Just because Facebook is making a big-deal about metaverse does not mean that it or another tech giant will dominate space, Nguyen said.
“There are even a lot of startups that could be potential competitors,” he said. “There are new technologies & trends & applications that we have yet to discover.”
Video game companies even are taking a leading part. Epic Games, company behind the popular Fortnite video-game, raised $1 billion from investors to help with its long-term plans for creating the metaverse. Game platform, Roblox, is another big player, outlining its vision of metaverse as a place where “people can come together within millions of three-dimensional experiences to learn, work, play, create & socialize.”
Consumer brands are getting-in on it, too. Italian fashion house, Gucci, banded in June with Roblox to sell a collection of digital-only accessories. Coca-Cola & Clinique sold digital tokens pitched as a stepping stone to metaverse.
Zuckerberg’s embrace of metaverse in several ways contradicts a central-tenet of its biggest enthusiasts. They envision metaverse as online culture’s liberation from tech platforms such as the Facebook that assumed ownership of people’s accounts, photos, posts & playlists and traded-off what they gleaned from that data.
“We want to be able to move around internet with ease, but we even want to be able to move around internet in a way we are not tracked & monitored,” said venture capitalist Steve Jang, a managing partner at the Kindred Gambles who focuses on cryptocurrency technology.
WILL THIS BE ANOTHER WAY TO GET MORE OF MY DATA?
It seems clear that the Facebook wants to carry its business model, which is supported on using personal data to sell targeted advertising, into metaverse.
“Advertisements are going to continue being a crucial part of the strategy across social media parts of what we do and it’ll probably be a meaningful part of metaverse, too,” Zuckerberg said in company’s most recent earnings call.
That raises fresh-privacy concerns, Nguyen said, involving “all the issues that we’ve today and then some we have yet to discover because we are still figuring-out what metaverse will do.”
Petrock she said she concerned about the Facebook trying to lead the way into a virtual world that could need more personal data and offer more potential for abuse & misinformation when it has not fixed those problems in its current platforms.
“I do not think they completely allowed through all the risks,” she said. “I worry they are not necessarily thinking through all privacy implications of metaverse.”