LONDON (AP) – The term “metaverse” seems to be everywhere. Facebook employs thousands of engineers in Europe work on it while video game companies outline their long-term plans for what some see as the next big thing on the Internet.
The metaverse, which could re-emerge when Facebook releases its earnings report on Monday, is the latest buzzword that has captured the imagination of the tech industry.
It could be the future, or the latest grand vision of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg that has fallen short of expectations or hasn’t seen widespread adoption for years – if at all.
In addition, many have concerns about the new online world associated with the social media giant, which may access even more personal data and is accused of failing to stop malicious content.
This is what this online world is all about:
WHAT IS METAVERS?
Think of it like a busy internet, or at least 3D. Zuckerberg described it as a “virtual environment” that you can enter rather than just look at a screen. Basically, it is 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.
According to Victoria Petrok, an analyst who monitors new technologies, it will also include other aspects of online life such as shopping and social media.
“This is the next evolution of communication where all of these things start to merge into a coherent, dual universe, so you live your virtual life the same way you live your physical life,” she said.
But keep in mind that “it’s hard to label things that haven’t been created,” said Tuong Nguyen, an analyst tracking immersive technologies for research firm Gartner.
Facebook has warned that it will take 10 to 15 years to develop responsible products for the metaverse, a term coined by writer Neil Stevenson in his 1992 science fiction novel Snow Crash.
WHAT CAN I DO IN METAVERSE?
For example, go to a virtual concert, travel online, buy and try on digital clothing.
The metaverse could also be a game changer for changing jobs from home amid the coronavirus pandemic. Instead of seeing colleagues on the video call network, employees could see them virtually.
Facebook has released a meeting software for companies called Horizon Workrooms that will be used with their Oculus VR headsets, although early reviews weren’t very good. Headsets are priced at $ 300 or more, making the most advanced features of the metaverse beyond the reach of many.
Those who can afford it will be able to use their avatars to move between virtual worlds created by different companies.
“Much of the metaverse experience will involve being able to teleport from one experience to another,” Zuckerberg says.
Tech companies have yet to figure out how to link their online platforms to each other. To make it work, competing technology platforms must agree on a set of standards so that “there are no people in the Facebook metaverse and other people in the Microsoft metaverse,” Petrok said.
IS ALL FACEBOOK ON METAVERSE?
Indeed, Zuckerberg is taking a big step forward in what he sees as the next generation of the Internet, because he thinks it will become an important part of the digital economy. He expects people to start looking at Facebook as a metauniverse company in the coming years, rather than as a social media company.
Report Tech news site The Verge reported that Zuckerberg is set to use Facebook’s annual virtual reality conference this week to announce the company’s name change, transferring legacy apps like Facebook and Instagram to the metaverse-focused parent company. Facebook has not yet commented on the report.
Critics wonder if the potential turnaround could be an attempt to distract from the company’s crises, including antitrust measures, testimony from former employees and concerns about handling misinformation.
Former employee Frances Haugen, who has accused Facebook platforms of harming children and inciting political violence, plans to testify on Monday before the UK parliamentary committee seeking to pass Internet safety legislation.
IS METAVERS A FACEBOOK PROJECT?
No. Zuckerberg acknowledged that “no company” will build the metaverse alone.
Just because Facebook places a lot of importance on the metaverse doesn’t mean one tech giant or the other will dominate the space, Nguyen said.
“There are also many startups that could become potential competitors,” he said. “There are new technologies, trends and applications that we have yet to discover.”
Video game companies are also taking the lead. Epic Games, the company behind the popular video game Fortnite, has raised $ 1 billion from investors to pursue its long-term plans to build the metaverse. Gaming platform Roblox is another major player outlining his vision of the metaverse as a place where “people can come together in millions of 3D experiences to learn, work, play, create and communicate.”
Consumer brands are also involved. Italian fashion house Gucci partnered with Roblox in June to sell a collection of digital accessories. Coca-Cola and Clinique sold digital tokens, which became a stepping stone into the metaverse.
Zuckerberg’s acceptance of the metaverse is in some ways contrary to the central tenet of his greatest enthusiasts. They see the metaverse as freeing online culture from technology platforms like Facebook, which have taken ownership of people’s accounts, photos, messages, and playlists and exchanged what they gleaned from that data.
“We want to be able to navigate the Internet easily, but we also want to be able to navigate the Internet without being tracked or monitored,” said venture capitalist Steve Jung, managing partner at Kindred Ventures. who specializes in cryptocurrency technologies.
WILL THIS ANOTHER WAY TO GET MORE DATA?
It seems clear that Facebook wants to move its identity-driven business model to sell targeted ads to the metaverse.
“Advertising will continue to be an important part of the social media strategy we do, and it is likely to be a significant part of the metaverse as well,” Zuckerberg said in the company’s latest earnings report.
This is causing new privacy concerns, Nguyen said, including “all the problems we have today, as well as some that we have yet to discover because we are still figuring out what the metaverse is going to do.”
Petrok said she is concerned that Facebook is trying to pave the way for a virtual world that may require even more personal data and offer more potential for abuse and misinformation if it hasn’t fixed these issues on its current platforms.
“I don’t think they have fully thought of all the pitfalls,” she said. “I’m afraid they don’t necessarily think through the privacy implications of the metaverse.”
O’Brien reported from Providence, Rhode Island.
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