Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook has been a leading voice on the hype of the “metaverse,” a virtual reality version of the internet that the tech giant sees as the future.
The metaverse, short for “meta-universe,” is a digital world where the real and virtual merge into a vision of science fiction and allows people to move between different devices and communicate in a virtual environment.
In practical terms, it refers to augmented and virtual reality products and services.
On Monday, Facebook announced in a blog post it plans to hire 10,000 people in the European Union to build the metaverse.
“The metaverse has the potential to help unlock access to new creative, social, and economic opportunities. And Europeans will be shaping it right from the start,” Facebook said in a blog post.
“Today, we are announcing a plan to create 10,000 new high-skilled jobs within the European Union (EU) over the next five years”.
The social media giant also said investing in the EU offered many advantages, including access to a large consumer market, first-class universities, and high-quality talent.
So, What Is Metaverse?
The term “metaverse” is the latest buzzword to capture the tech industry’s imagination — so much so that one of the best-known internet platforms is rebranding to signal its embrace of the futuristic idea.
Think of it as the internet brought to life, or at least rendered in 3D. Zuckerberg has described it as a “virtual environment” you can go inside of — instead of just looking at on a screen. Essentially, it’s a world of endless, interconnected virtual communities where people can meet, work, and play, using virtual reality headsets, augmented reality glasses, smartphone apps, or other devices.
What will I be able to do in the metaverse?
Things like go to a virtual concert, take a trip online, view or create artwork and try on or buy digital clothing.
The metaverse also could be a game-changer for the work-from-home shift amid the coronavirus pandemic. Instead of seeing co-workers on a video call grid, employees could join them in a virtual office.
Facebook has launched meeting software for companies, called Horizon Workrooms, to use with its Oculus VR headsets, though early reviews have not been great. The headsets cost $300 or more, putting the metaverse’s most cutting-edge experiences out of reach for many.
For those who can afford it, users would be able, through their avatars, to flit between virtual worlds created by different companies.
“A lot of the 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 require competing technology platforms to agree on a set of standards, so there aren’t “people in the Facebook metaverse and other people in the Microsoft metaverse,” Petrock said.
Will this be another way to get more of my data?
Zuckerberg’s embrace of the metaverse in some ways contradicts a central tenet of its biggest enthusiasts. They envision the metaverse as online culture’s liberation from tech platforms like Facebook that assumed ownership of people’s accounts, photos, posts, and playlists and traded off what they gleaned from that data.
“We want to be able to move around the internet with ease, but we also want to be able to move around the internet in a way we’re not tracked and monitored,” said venture capitalist Steve Jang, a managing partner at Kindred Ventures who focuses on cryptocurrency technology.
It seems clear that Facebook wants to carry its business model, which is based on using personal data to sell targeted advertising, into the metaverse.
“Ads are going to continue being an important part of the strategy across the social media parts of what we do, and it will probably be a meaningful part of the metaverse, too,” Zuckerberg said in the company’s most recent earnings call.
Petrock said she’s concerned about Facebook trying to lead the way into a virtual world that could require even more personal data and offer greater potential for abuse and misinformation when it hasn’t fixed those problems in its current platforms.