Mark Zuckerberg recently announced that Facebook had been renamed, Meta. In July this year, he had discussed through an interview how the company would transition to focusing on being a metaverse company.
'Meta' is the umbrella company that will own and run Instagram, Whatsapp and other apps owned by Facebook. Earlier this week, the company said Facebook and the other apps would be housed in a separate division from Facebook Reality Labs, which makes the company's augmented and virtual reality products.
While the internet has not reacted well to Zuckerberg's announcement, many are unaware of what the term metaverse means.
Zuckerberg has described it as "an embodied internet where you're in the experience, not just looking at it". Simplistically, the metaverse is the internet brought to life. In a video, Zuckerberg described it with more specific information. You can feel the presence of the person you are interacting with by seeing their facial expressions and body language. There will be avatars - living 3D representations for each person. You can design your home space, own digital goods and clothes for yourself, and you can invite people home. You can attend a concert without physically attending it or do a presentation without going to the office through the metaverse. A digital currency like NFT or crypto will possibly help you buy goods in the metaverse.
The metaverse, though, is not only a project exclusive to Facebook. Other companies like Microsoft and Nvidia are also investing in it. Zuckerberg insists that interoperability and portability are crucial to the success of the metaverse. He wants to create it so that users can move from one part of the universe to another irrespective of who owns that part.
'Metaverse' was first used in Neal Stephenson's 1992 novel Snow Crash as a collective virtual space. Metaverse combines the prefix meta, meaning 'beyond', and verse from 'universe'.
Online games like Fortnite, Roblox and Second Life have features similar to the metaverse. There is no definition of the metaverse. It is only a concept till now.
Facebook has described it as -
"The 'metaverse' is a set of virtual spaces where you can create and explore with other people who aren't in the same physical space as you."
The company will invest USD 10 billion this year in Reality Labs to build the metaverse. Facebook has also announced that it will create 10,000 new high-skilled jobs within the European Union (EU) to build the metaverse over the next five years.
Multiple companies are working on the Metaverse. Zuckerberg wants to work with other companies for it to be "portable" and "interconnected".
Zuckerberg has vowed that privacy and safety will be built into the metaverse. But critics worry that this data could be used for data mining.
The rebranding move comes shortly after Frances Haugen, a former employee turned whistleblower, leaked documents and testified about Facebook's dodgy policies.