If You Think Facebook is Bad for Privacy, Wait Until You See Mark Zuckerberg’s Metaverse

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Since Mark Zuckerberg announced that Facebook would be rebranded as Meta to emphasize a new focus on virtual reality (VR), it has been hard to avoid hearing about the “metaverse”. It’s surprising that the idea has been picked up in such a big way, since it is hardly new. The concept of the metaverse — a virtual reality world where people can move, act, and interact with each other — goes back to the 1992 novel “Snow Crash” by Neal Stephenson who coined the term. There have since been various attempts to turn that artistic tour de force into a real platform that people can use. One of the most complete implementations is Second Life, launched in 2003 by Philip Rosedale, who had long been interested in the idea of creating a virtual world. Since then, a number of other metaverse-like platforms have appeared, notably Roblox, Minecraft, and Fortnite, along with several others that combine creation with interaction and various kinds of gaming. A number of Chinese companies are also active in this field.

Meta’s metaverse is by no means the “official” version of the idea. Indeed, Stephenson tweeted:

Since there seems to be growing confusion on this: I have nothing to do with anything that FB is up to involving the Metaverse, other than the obvious fact that they’re using a term I coined in Snow Crash. There has been zero communication between me and FB & no biz relationship.

Perhaps the reason people have latched on to the metaverse idea since Zuckerberg’s announcement is simply the scale of the resources that are being put behind it. Meta has said that it plans to spend at least $10 billion this year developing its metaverse, and to create 10,000 jobs within the EU over the next five years — all dedicated to realizing the idea. That’s quite impressive, unlike the initial video explaining Zuckerberg’s vision for socializing in the metaverse. The video is a sequence of Facebook employees — led by Zuckerberg — proclaiming that embarrassingly feeble animations representing the possible uses of virtual reality technology are “awesome” and “amazing”.

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