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Facebook, Metaverse and a new name for Future

The Verge first reported that Facebook might be planning to change its name. The behemoth has already been in news enough recently with information leaks and growing scrutiny, but Facebook is moving on. Moving on to the metaverse. Facebook could soon announce a parent company with Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram under its umbrella, similar to Google operating under Alphabet.

This is not the first time Facebook happens to have mentioned the term. Mark Zuckerberg in July had told The Verge over the next several years, “we will effectively transition from people seeing us as primarily being a social media company to being a metaverse company.”

What is the Metaverse

Metaverse can be inferred in several ways and in several levels of complexities. It’s seen its representation in comics and films as a parallel, virtual, world where users can have different identities, possessions and characters.

Metaverse, of how we mostly see it now, is supposed to be the post-Internet world with a decentralised computing platform, which is very much as consistent and live as the real world. It is an entirely digital economy, and the way most Silicon Valley intellectuals see this, metaverse exists both in the digital and physical realm.

Virtual worlds exist now as well, yet one cannot transition through them seamlessly. This is where interoperability comes in. The metaverse is expected to solve this issue through several companies participating in the formation and drawing up collaborations, opening up a lot of possibilities.

One might call a video game and the metaverse similar, and they might be as well. The only thing to know is that metaverse would go much beyond a video game, encapsulating several technologies, virtual reality simply being one of them.

According to VC investor Matthew Ball’s nine-part series on his blog, “virtual reality would be an element of this metaverse, but the idea goes beyond just donning a VR headset and starting to play a game. The metaverse does not reset or pause or end, but continues indefinitely.”

“If you could dream of something and live inside your dream, it is called the metaverse. You cannot do it with just your mind because the body also has to participate in it,” Icertis CTO & co-founder Monish Darda said. Icertis works on blockchain technology, which powers cryptocurrencies and Non-Fungible Tokens (NFT) which are used in the metaverse, to draft digital contracts.

The possibility to create an environment almost lifelike and semi-real is what makes the idea of metaverse so lucrative. Technologies like virtual reality, mixed reality and augmented reality make the virtual spaces lifelike, which can be experienced through the use of specialised gadgets.

“The crypto and blockchain technology which allow you to own, especially anonymously, and create stuff like NFTs in that universe is also another technological aspect powering this. The technologies and social side of things are the two big powers moving this,” says Darda.

Metaverse is beyond the scope of any one single company building it, as the working of the system might have made it evident. And Facebook alone does not have plans either. Epic Games, the creator of Fortnite, has major aspirations for the metaverse using its unreal engine. In fact, Fortnite already has many elements which would conform to the idea such as live events, its own currency, etc.

Concerns

Facebook has already started to show some symptoms of work by announcing plans to invest $50 million as part of its efforts to create a ‘responsible’ metaverse. It is also set to hire around 10,000 engineers from Europe to build the platform. The social networking firm’s India head Ajit Mohan has even spoken about how the creator economy can fuel the metaverse.

But concerns have been arising in and out of context of the metaverse.

In spite of the fact that the metaverse would require several players to lay out the carpet, similar to most breakthrough innovations, the metaverse is also expected to be monopolised by a bunch of technology companies.

Besides, how this would turn out for people’s privacy and the socio-neurological impact this could have on them cannot be gauged, very much similar to the kind of concerns the internet generates for people right now.

“There are massive concerns about whether people will lose touch of reality. The concerns get bigger as we get more hooked to technology. Whether people will make that jump and adopt this technology is also yet to be seen,” says Darda.

Apart from the metaverse and its rollout itself, some Facebook critics have argued that the introduction of concepts that might be difficult for people to grasp is a mere move to conveniently distract media from the deeper issues at hand, similar to the strategy of tobacco giant Philip Morris changing its name to Altria in 2001 or British Petroleum to BP Amoco in the late ’90s and then BP in 2001.

“Faced with a tsunami of evidence of irresponsible behavior and possible criminal violations, Facebook is desperate to change the subject,” Roger McNamee, an early investor in the company who has become one of the company’s most vocal critics, told Recode. “Journalists and policymakers need to remain focused on the crime scene, not the arm-waving.”

The reported probability of name change has most probably not gone down well with some American legislators as well, such as Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN). Blackburn co-chairs the influential bipartisan Senate Commerce subcommittee that has been leading an investigation into the recent whistleblower’s claims.

She tweeted on Wednesday that Facebook changing its name “doesn’t make a difference until they change their habits of prioritizing profit over the well-being of children.”

Besides speculations, how things turn out for Facebook and its shared dream metaverse is a show we could only wait to watch.

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