Facebook’s name change to Meta Platforms comes as the company battles criticism from lawmakers and regulators over its market power.
- Facebook’s name has changed to Meta Platforms
- In virtual worlds, users can walk around as an avatar
- Decentraland founded in 2017 with about 7,000 daily users now
Facebook has decided to take the next step in the ever-expanding Internet world by launching the ‘metaverse,’ which aims to push virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) to new heights. On Thursday, the social media behemoth changed its name to Meta, marking a significant step forward in its new path. The corporation also hinted that it was working on several projects aimed at bringing the metaverse to life via its online presence. But what is the metaverse, and how might it affect how we use the Internet today?
What is metaverse?
The term “metaverse” is not new, having been invented by science-fiction author Neal Stephenson in his novel Snow Crash in 1992. Regardless, the Menlo Park, California-based firm plans to make that fictitious world a reality.
“The metaverse will not be built by a single corporation. “It will be developed by creators and developers creating new experiences and digital things that are interoperable and unlock a significantly larger creative economy than the one confined by today’s platforms and policies,” said Mark Zuckerberg, co-founder and CEO of Facebook.
Early adopters of the virtual realms known as the metaverse slammed Facebook’s rebranding as a cynical attempt to cash in on growing interest in a concept it didn’t invent.
This year, the term “metaverse” has become a digital buzzword, with businesses and investors eager to be a part of the next big thing. Users, on the other hand, have been spending time in these rapidly increasing but obscure virtual worlds for years.
“They’re essentially attempting to rebrand what many of us have been constructing for years,” said Ryan Kappel, an American who has organized meet-ups in various metaverses for more than two years.
A request for comment was not immediately returned by Facebook.
Facebook’s name change to Meta Platforms, as well as details on its intention to create its own immersive digital world, were unveiled on Thursday, as the company faces increased scrutiny from lawmakers and regulators over its market power, algorithmic judgments, and policing of abuses on its platforms.
Users can move around as an avatar, meet friends, and play games in virtual environments. Some of the blockchain-based platforms also allow users to speculate on virtual real estate.
“I believe Facebook made this early name change to essentially acquire the new trademark legally as soon as possible as more brands grow interested,” said Pranksy, a UK-based cryptocurrency trader who purchased virtual world real estate in early 2020.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s announcement of the makeover felt “rushed… kind of like attempting to inject themselves into the metaverse narrative that is unfolding right now,” according to Artur Sychov, who launched metaverse Somnium Space in 2017.
Sychov, along with 1,000 to 2,000 other daily users, spends up to five hours a day in Somnium Space.
Facebook’s approach may face criticism from metaverse users who are wary of the company’s control over material, according to Dave Carr, communications head at the organization that operates the virtual world Decentraland.
“People who wish to control the future of the virtual worlds they inhabit, keep ownership of their creative work, and move freely between them would select the decentralised version,” he added, defining Decentraland’s metaverse as decentralised and Facebook’s plan as likely centralised.
Decentraland, which was launched in 2017 and today has over 7,000 daily users, views itself as a competitor to traditional social media platforms that sell user data and control what users see.
Many extant metaverse platforms are built on blockchain technology, which eliminates the possibility of central control. The distributed-ledger architecture that underpins cryptocurrencies is known as blockchain. People in these virtual worlds buy land and other digital goods with cryptocurrency in the form of non-fungible tokens (NFTs).
Early metaverse adopters, on the other hand, did not all have a negative reaction. Some speculated that Facebook’s arrival will increase interest in virtual worlds in general, attracting more users and facilitating the creation of various virtual worlds.
Tristan Littlefield, co-founder of NFT business nft42 and a metaverse member since 2018, said his initial reaction to Facebook’s announcement was negative since he dislikes the corporation’s data-selling practices.
However, he believes that “having a monster like Facebook come in and just dump billions of money” could be a good because of the fresh people it would attract to the field.