Troubled social media giant Facebook sees the growing metaverse – think of it as the internet on steroids – as the future of its business, and has now made it official by announcing the company will henceforth be known as Meta.
Meta will be the name for the overall company, although most of its individual apps and services – such as Facebook itself, Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram – will maintain their current branding under the Meta umbrella.
“The metaverse isn’t a single product one company can build alone,” tweeted Nick Clegg, Facebook’s Global Affairs VP, exactly a month ago. “Just like the internet, the metaverse exists whether Facebook is there or not. And it won’t be built overnight. Many of these products will only be fully realised in the next 10-15 years.”
It’s clear that, by very definition, Meta fully intends to own the metaverse, starting right now. “I think we’re basically moving from being Facebook first as a company to being metaverse first,” CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg said after announcing the name-change during the streaming keynote for this week’s annual Facebook Connect event.
What, Exactly, Is the Metaverse?
So what, exactly, is the metaverse? It’s a term loosely describing the future evolution of the internet, in which the flat apps and websites used today are gradually replaced by 3D environments and shared spaces, making interactions more “immersive”, to use a word Zuckerberg is especially fond of.
The metaverse won’t be a single entity, rather a conceptual collection of open worlds and settings joined by interoperable assets and experiences. Collectible NFT assets, for example, could be turned into 3D avatars that owners could place into all sorts of web spaces, whether for work, play, exercise, or social interactions.
Facebook – sorry, Meta – clearly wants to lead the charge into the metaverse. The company has announced it will invest US$50 million over the next two years into research and partnerships, and that it aims to hire 10,000 people across Europe in the next five years to aid in the effort.
The Ultimate Diversionary Tactic?
The company has said it will help build the metaverse “responsibly”, and took time in this week’s keynote to highlight its focus on privacy and open collaboration with external creators and firms. Cynics might say that’s a direct response to criticisms directed at Facebook over the years (and especially lately, by whistleblower and former employee Frances Haugen) in regards to privacy, security, its failure to control fake news, misinformation and hate speech, and accusations of incipient harm to teenagers’ mental health.
The US Federal Trade Commission has also filed an antitrust lawsuit against (pre-Meta) Facebook accusing it of anti-competitive practices. As Forrester Research director Mike Proulx has said, changing FB’s name to Meta “doesn’t suddenly erase the systemic issues plaguing the company”. In other words, never mind all that, look at our new, shiny name!
On December 1, FB/Meta shares will start trading under a new ticker symbol, MVRS. Hmmm … wonder what that stands for?
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