Charting the Next Frontier: What is the Facebook Metaverse?

When I first heard about the Facebook rebrand into Meta, I felt as if my worst Black Mirror fantasies had become a reality. It felt a tad ironic reading up about the news as...

Fiona Gurtiza
Fiona Gurtiza November 15, 2021

When I first heard about the Facebook rebrand into Meta, I felt as if my worst Black Mirror fantasies had become a reality. It felt a tad ironic reading up about the news as someone who’s quit social media and has been in the dark about any industry-related updates for two years now, but my curiosity had gotten the best of me.

After reading up, I realized that my fears had mostly been exaggerated, and the rise of the Facebook metaverse might be a welcome change (or the escape hatch) we’ve all been waiting for.

From Facebook to Meta

Mark Zuckerberg, co-founder and CEO of Facebook, announced the name change from Facebook to Meta on Facebook Connect, the company’s virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) conference platform. During the conference, Zuckerberg explained that he wanted to embark on the next chapter by redefining Facebook’s identity. 

From an iconic social brand, it would turn into a company that builds products to help people stay connected.

Image taken from CNN

In a single swift stroke, Facebook was demoted as a subsidiary alongside other social networking and communication platforms like Instagram and WhatsApp. Now, they’ve all folded into the overarching brand called Meta. This move isn’t uncommon for tech giants — Google also wrapped itself into its parent company Alphabet back in 2015.

As a devoted fan of the classics, Zuckerberg shared that the name was inspired by the Greek word “meta” which means “beyond.” For him, the word embodies what Meta should be, and how there’s always more to build. The current web design and new logo also seem befitting to the rebrand: a blue infinity sign.

What Sparked the “Sudden” Rebrand?

The whole idea of a metaverse sounds fascinating, right? Not everyone seems convinced, though.

Some say the timing of the rebrand reveals its true intentions: Facebook was simply trying to crawl itself out of a swamp of bad press. It’s no secret that Facebook has come under fire because of an endless string of PR nightmares, as well as its failure to combat hate speech and fake news. 

If you need to catch up with what you’ve missed, everything’s been summarized in the Facebook Papers. These documents were made public by whistleblower Frances Haugen, who describes Facebook as a socially irresponsible corporation driven solely by profit.

So What Is the Facebook Metaverse?

A lot of controversy surrounds the Facebook rebrand, but where does the metaverse come in? 

Some news sites have gone ahead and described the Metaverse as a “dystopian hellscape,” a “bizzare techno fever dream” and other things far worse. 

Even I got a little confused because it shares the same name as an alternate section of the Marvel multiverse. But after doing my research, I found out that this metaverse isn’t a parallel universe inhabited by superheroes. Instead, it describes the effort to combine VR and AR technologies into a new online realm.

The truth is, there’s no standard definition of what the metaverse is yet. But Facebook says that it’s a set of virtual spaces where people can interact with other people who don’t share the same physical space as they do. Basically, it’s an immersive digital reality that used to just exist in sci-fi, and you can learn more about it here.

As a fan of Star Wars, it sounds like the holographic tech we first saw in 1977, when Princess Leia recorded a holographic message for General Kenobi. 

Image taken from The New Yorker

Facebook has explained that the Metaverse lets you explore different AR possibilities, where you can attend a concert by projecting a hologram next to your friend present at the venue or attend a call with colleagues in a virtual meeting room with your own avatars. 

The company plans to hire 10,000 people in Europe to make these lofty Metaverse ambitions a reality.

Image taken from The Verge

Digital Experiences Beyond Our Smartphones

There’s no denying that we live in a world dominated by screen ubiquity. We’re spending more time than ever with our faces glued to our screens. 

Meta plans to change that by saying that our smartphones won’t be the focal point of our attention anymore. Rather, we’ll be more immersed in a world that blurs the line between the physical and digital worlds. And it’ll be a lot more detailed and convincing than the current landscape that we inhabit. 

And it’s just the tip of the iceberg. Zuckerberg shares that people can start VR calling on Messenger, shopping and selling on a virtual Facebook marketplace, and start playing more games in the virtual world (I just hope this doesn’t turn out like Sword Art Online IRL).

The idea of sharing an immersive virtual experience with people when you can’t be together in person is a welcome change. As someone who’s been working remotely since November 2020, I’m dying to spend time with my friends and loved ones (and I miss my long-distance girlfriend terribly). Despite my messy break-up with Facebook in 2019, I’m willing to reactivate my account and experience the Metaverse and interact with people in ways I haven’t before.

I’m excited at what the future has in store for the Metaverse but I’m also paralyzed with worry. Will people ever get off their phones, and will there come a time when people will permanently inhabit this Metaverse once and for all? Only time will tell. 

In the meantime, it’s time for us to reimagine the digital experience while the Metaverse isn’t here yet. Partner with Growth Rocket to learn more about how to future-proof your brand or e-commerce business for the virtual future.

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