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Facebook and the Metaverse: A Simple Guide

Everybody is talking about it and it seems we can’t scroll through social media without encountering a Meta and Black Mirror comparison meme. So, Zuckerberg has decided to change Facebook’s name to Meta and many people are talking about the Meta Universe but what does this mean? How will this affect us as everyday people outside of the social media business world? Do we need or even want these changes and why should we care? Wishu is here to pack all the necessary answers into a nutshell, otherwise known as this article. 

According to Zuckerberg, Meta stems from the Greek term for ‘beyond’. “For me, it symbolises that there is always more to build, that there’s always a next chapter to the story,” Mr Zuckerberg said.

To first clear up the major misconception; it isn’t that Facebook is changing its name – as a social media platform – but rather the umbrella company that will become to be known as Meta. So for example when you load up Instagram or Whatsapp, instead of reading ‘from Facebook’ it will read ‘from Meta’ or something along those lines. 

Zuckerberg felt the name change was necessary in order to reflect the multiple services and platforms it owns, including WhatsApp, Instagram and Messenger. 

“Right now, our brand is so tightly linked to one product that it can’t possibly represent everything that we’re doing today, let alone in the future,” he said.

“Over time, I hope that we are seen as a metaverse company and I want to anchor our work and our identity on what we’re building towards […] We’re now looking at and reporting on our business as two different segments: one for our family of apps, and one for work on future platforms.” There you have it I guess. 

Okay, but what will the metaverse do? Well, while Mr Facebook chose the term Meta for his new brand, he didn’t invent the term metaverse. That was American author Neal Stephenson who coined the term in his 1992 seminal and highly influential sci-fi novel Snow Crash to describe what is essentially a virtual reality (VR)-based version of the internet – talk about forward thinking (I actually think Ross in Friends quoted this paper in an episode starring Elle McPherson – circa 2000 – but that’s a story for another day). 

But yeah, you guessed it, Facebook therefore wants to make the metaverse a virtual reality, complete with a $50m investment pledge made last month. That’s where the creepy Black Mirror memes come in. 

“The metaverse will feel like a hybrid of today’s online social experiences, sometimes expanded into three dimensions or projected into the physical world,” the company announced on Thursday night. Again Black Mirror vibes. 

The company wants to stress however that the change isn’t to encourage people to spend more time online but rather make the time they do spend more meaningful. Visitors to these virtual spaces will be able to work, play, learn, shop, create and hang out with friends, among other activities. 

Like the internet, the metaverse will not be built, owned or operated by one company alone, it will lessen our reliance on physical devices to access virtual spaces and is likely to be under construction for another 10 to 15 years, the company has projected.

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