For fans of Neal Stephenson’s seminal work “Snow Crash”, the metaverse has been part of our digital consciousness for nigh on thirty years.
A portmanteau of the word “meta”, from the Greek meaning “after” or “beyond”, and “universe”, the metaverse is an exciting yet not fully defined virtual world.
Whilst Snow Crash is still yet to make it to the silver screen, the wildest example of the metaverse could be the one experienced in “Ready Player One”, the Steven Spielberg film of the book by Ernest Cline.
In the movie, people escape the drudgery of the real world by immersing themselves in a vast virtual universe of massive multiplayer games. It’s an absolute riot of a film with so many gaming references and incredible special effects.
Ready Player One is also a great story of triumph over adversity, with good winning against evil, a love story, so many geeky moments, wild imagination, heaps of camaraderie, and diversity all thrown into one huge melting pot of a movie. They’re also all the ingredients you find in the gaming community and that reflects the concept of the noble quest.
There are, however, some sobering concepts such as the fact that humanity has allowed so many people in a supposedly wealthy country to live in slums, the concept of internet/gaming addiction, an almost necessary need to escape from reality and corporate attempts to rule the world.
Talking of which, this week Facebook are expected to rebrand to reflect their new-found desire to be a metaverse company rather than a social media giant.
This is interesting timing after the recent “whistleblower” revelations from former Facebook employee Frances Haugen. Based upon thousands of liberated documents, Haugen’s exposé has led to accusations that Facebook put “profits over people”.
Facebook, valued at around one trillion dollars (That’s a one followed by twelve zeros – a million times a million in other words), is about to change into a hybrid business of social media, augmented (AR) and virtual reality (VR). What else, we don’t know yet; How that looks we can only imagine.
But with its $2billion acquisition of Oculus in 2014, Facebook signalled its intent to be the major player in Virtual Reality (VR). Since then, the Oculus brand has crept ever-so-slowly into real world homes. It’s pricing is competitive yet it’s still not ubiquitous.
But is that about to change?
Every home has a fridge, a microwave, vacuum cleaner and TV set. If Mark Zuckerberg can transition from plain social media and associated comms to a virtual reality universe where we go to get our updates, every home will have a VR headset, right? What about Facebook’s Portal?
And remember that in the AR level, between virtual and reality, Facebook quietly co-launched Ray-Ban Stories earlier this year, to very little fanfare.
Think about the Facebook ads!
Sorry, I’m excited about the virtual reality new Facebook is just about to unleash, but is this an altruistic, truly philanthropic gesture? What’s in store for the shareholders? Whilst Zuck may have great personal intentions, it’s the stockholders who the company is most answerable to.
As a digital professional and marketer it is going to be fascinating to see what Facebook morphs into. Will it dominate the metaverse? Will it be a place free for all and in competition? Will Microsoft be allowed in or do they have to create their own parallel metaverse?
Just like the real world, and current Facebook too, much good will come of this. Yet, in perfect step with the many benefits the social media giant has brought, the dark side is always lurking.
Ultimately, the key brands will probably remain the same but a new parent/umbrella company will be the metaverse business. Just like Alphabet is now the parent of Google and all it’s subsidiaries, in the Google restructuring that occurred back in 2015.
Let’s see what happens this week, aye?
Ready, Facebook One!