WHAT’S THE STORY?
Will Facebook’s rebranding stop the Meta…Curse?
- During the Annual Connect Conference on 28th October, Facebook will announce its plans to shift from being a social media company to becoming a Metaverse company, with a savvy name change included! The Metaverse is a virtual, interconnected world that will allow users to interact with each other in a 3D space.
- Facebook has made headline news for scandals including anticompetitive practices, obfuscation of user figures to advertisers, and contribution to the harm of its youth. Politicians, Facebook employees, and the public are pushing for external regulatory intervention.
- There has been speculation regarding inevitable regulation that could delay or even stop Facebook’s Metaverse expansions altogether – a metacurse. Yet, I think Facebook is making the right choice by exploiting its technology to develop the Metaverse, associating the Metaverse with its name, and getting its foot in the door early for when we all end up inside it.
WHY IS IT INTERESTING?
CEO Mark Zuckerberg thinks the Metaverse is an inevitable ‘reality,’ which means it could become YOUR reality.
What will the Metaverse look like? If you criticise the Metaverse on its potential to become Snow Crash or Ready Player One, then you’re in danger of creating a straw man. Remember those movies about flying cars and AI taking over the world? Well, we’ve got self-driving cars (ish) and automated document-sorting systems instead. Turns out, humans are bad at making predictions. The Metaverse will use VR/AR technology to introduce slow, but convenient changes to assist everyday situations, including 3D immersive workspaces to eschew the need for a physical office, online shopping venues, meetings with realistic
avatars and spatial audio and artistic collaborations like concerts and stand-up comedy. The Metaverse isn’t science fiction. It is a long-distance relationship on another level. Have I convinced you it’s happening yet?
How will Facebook move forward? You are probably aware of the litany of anticompetitive and moral scandals tied to Facebook that means regulatory crackdowns are due. US Congress wants to break apart the tech giant’s social media apps, a whistleblower has claimed that Facebook lies about its user metrics to advertisers and there are staunch moral concerns about the mental and physical abuse imposed on its youth. Despite Facebook’s negative global image, it is moving forward with its mega rebrand, including plans to spend $10 billion this year and to hire 10,000 European workers to build the Metaverse.
You might say that this is like a burger shop uncovering food contamination, unhygienic premises, hogwash ingredients, addiction issues, money laundering scandals, then offering to now sell you… Sushi? If Facebook is already harming billions, then it is sensible to fear its conversion to an omniscient-super-universe-platform thing. However, the Metaverse also brings huge advantages.
Firstly, the Metaverse is an immense opportunity for cultural change. User norms on social media can hardly be attributed to top-down decision-making, but happen somewhat mysteriously. No one could foresee that Facemash would lead to Facebook, or that Facebook would be losing its youth user base like it is now. The younger generation is turning towards more immersive platforms like Fortnite and GTA, where chatting with friends is as prioritised as actual gaming. The Metaverse is catching this wave and can encourage genuine friendship-making and connection without the channel limitations of text boxes and emoji reactions.
Secondly, Facebook can use its technology to get its foot in the door before anyone else. Facebook has the world’s most active daily users, the cheapest and most popular VR headsets, world-class engineers, and billions of dollars worth of ad revenue. It has the potential to (finally) grow as a hardware company and interweave the Metaverse into its products.
Thirdly, Facebook has both the time and the resources to deal with a regulatory onslaught. Remember how long it took the G7 to agree on a tax rate? Up against the consortium of diplomats and lawyers that will incite regulations against Facebook is… well, a multi-billion-dollar company that also has diplomats and lawyers! Whether checks on Facebook’s use of user data and anticompetitive practices occur now or within the Metaverse, it is better to create the thing and deal with regulations later on than to halt the process altogether.
The Metaverse might not be the fantasy world we envisioned, but it is here to satisfy our growing expectations of life and connectedness through technology. Facebook is simply here to take the lead.
This article was written by Yenli, a fierce dairy-free baker, professional amateur violinist and lover of escaping the real world through vintage film photography. She studies MA Law at Bristol University and is an aspiring commercial solicitor.