Metaverse or Metaworse? Zuckerberg is facing more criticism as he rebrands Facebook to Meta – taking it from a social media platform to a ‘Metaverse’ business that will hire over 10,000 new employees across Europe.
Zuckerberg announced the rebrand this week, but ‘Metaverse’ has been his buzzword for a while, having described it as the future of Facebook and a whole new economy for this generation. The Metaverse itself is not a Facebook creation, however, and is a term many in the gaming world already know. Games such as Animal Crossing, Minecraft and Fortnite have already entered this dimension aided by VR and AR. The term has been used in sci-fi for decades, usually to describe a dystopian universe. In fact, the term was first coined in 1992 by Neal Stephenson in his sci-fi novel Snow Crash. The Matrix is a metaverse.
Of course, this announcement coming in the middle of a PR storm over Facebook’s content regulation flaws has led many to vocalise the potential threat to society the Metaverse will bring, given the sheer amount of data there would be to regulate when more users own its AR and VR tools. Frances Haugen, the ex-Facebook employee who is now helping to form the online safety bill to regulate social media, said “Wow, do you know what we could have done with safety if we had 10,000 more engineers?” when she heard the news of the impending rebrand and the hires to support it.
Whether Zuckerberg is at the helm or not, The Metaverse is coming, and it’s going to change the way we live, work, date, shop, and more. And just because Zuckerberg is the most vocal about it in the media, doesn’t mean other companies aren’t building their offerings around the Metaverse also. It’s likely to create whole new industries and commerce opportunities. There’s been talk of the ability for governments to get involved – can they create public spaces, such as parks, in the Metaverse just like they do in the real world? As tech writer Mike Elgen, said, “the concept of a shared virtual world has been around and in the works for decades, from thousands of companies and universities. By publicly obsessing about it, Zuckerberg hopes to be associated with it as the leader”.
He’s not leading the way yet, though, with the social gaming industry already offering integration opportunities for brands to reach their hyper-engaged users. We’ve seen Gucci, Vans, Stella McCartney and others take these on. Crypto Fashion week ran a Meta Gala event in September, where avatars modelled virtual outfits to be auctioned off, with luxury fashion house Karl Lagerfield submitting an avatar for sale.
But from an ads point of view, the new Facebook has the potential to hold the monopoly with its wealth of user data that has been used by most brands as a core part of their marketing strategies for years. Its ad offering is affordable and easy to understand and activate for the smallest and largest of businesses. It’s likely to succeed in creating this in the Metaverse also, and this time, we hope with more interconnectedness across platforms than the Walled Garden of Facebook currently provides. Zuckerberg himself has expressed enthusiasm for this – he’s claimed to have invested £50m into a non-profit to ensure it’s built open and free. We’ll no doubt be hearing this buzz word more, and while Metaverse won’t appear overnight, now is the time for brands to start considering it as part of their future.