Future titans of the Metaverse: Part 1
In this new series we explore the past, present, and potential future of the largest players in the Metaverse, starting with Meta (formally Facebook).
Meta was created on the 28th of October 2021 when co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg confirmed Facebook would be changing its name. While the name change was derided by some as being nothing but a PR stunt, and others pointed toward the plateauing of Facebook’s user growth, the official reason was that the company wanted to focus its vast resources into constructing virtual reality products and setting up the Metaverse.
In Zuckerberg’s founder’s letter, he describes Meta’s role to “to accelerate the development of the fundamental technologies, social platforms and creative tools to bring the Metaverse to life, and to weave these technologies through our social media apps.” So, what role will might Meta play in the future of the Metaverse. Let’s take the part of Meta’s role where it seeks to “weave [Metaverse] technologies through our social media apps.” Meta’s apps currently include Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, and Messenger. So, what might the weaving of Metaverse technologies into these applications look like?
Facebook is a social media platform that allows you to search for and connect with other people, share your status and content like text, images, videos, and external links like blog posts. The whole idea of the Metaverse is one of an ‘embodied internet’. That is, an internet that is concrete and perceptible, an internet that you can touch, feel, taste, smell. The addition of Metaverse technologies would allow people to interact with Facebook content, to explore the references in a post, to travel to a place that someone has visited, or a time in history that someone is interested in, or to enable immersion in a video, to feel as if you’re really there yourself, experiencing what that other person is experiencing or has experienced previously.
Whatsapp is Meta’s all-in-one communication app, which comes with text, voice, and video calling. Whatsapp in the Metaverse might be the provision of virtual environments that allow people to connect with friends, colleagues, or others, perhaps a doctor, a therapist, a local councillor, a travel agent. In this scenario, its easy to see Meta integrate Whatsapp and other products, such as Workplace, Meta’s communication tool for businesses, with Horizon Worlds, Meta’s virtual reality platform.
With the addition of data from other applications that capture a person’s conversations (Messenger) and photographs (Instagram), Meta will be able to create a virtual museum of a person’s life. The questions people might ask include: “What is this useful for?”, and “Why would we want this?”.
Other areas of the Metaverse that Meta might choose to infiltrate include the fitness space, via the Beat Saber virtual reality rhythm game it acquired back in 2019, and the entertainment space, via Horizon Venues, which allows users to attend events virtually. Whatever direction Meta chooses to go, it is almost inevitable that it will play a leading role in the realisation and evolution of the Metaverse for many years to come.
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