Last week Mark Zuckerberg sent shockwaves around the globe when he announced that Facebook would be changing its name. Facebook Inc which owns social media giants Instagram and WhatsApp, as well as virtual reality company Oculus, will now be going by Meta Platforms Inc. Whilst this name change may not hold much significance right now, it marks a seminal move in Zuckerberg’s long term business plan to create the metaverse.
What is the metaverse?
First coined in the bestselling 1992 sci-fi novel ‘Snow Crash’, the metaverse is envisioned as the next-generation successor of the internet. In this shared virtual environment, users can create a sense of physical presence. Facebook is by no means the first company to dive into virtual social worlds; prolific games such as Second Life, The Sims and Fortnite have garnered huge followings for their promise of virtual escapism. Piggy-backing on the success of these platforms, Zuckerberg intends to take it to the next level and make the metaverse a reality where users can make digital and physical purchases, socialise and live a fully-fledged virtual existence.
The re-brand to Meta Platforms Inc is by no means Zuckerberg’s first foray into the metaverse, marked by the creation of Horizon Worlds and its beta platform Horizon Workrooms. Horizon Worlds is a VR game where users can play games, design worlds and connect with people worldwide. With a similar premise, Horizon Workrooms is a professional version of the platform where users can meet up in virtual conference rooms and collaborate on projects. Zuckerberg intends to add to the Horizons portfolio Horizon Homes, a digital house space for users to store digital goods and meet up with friends.
How will the metaverse create revenue?
When questioned about its financial viability, Facebook stated it believes the metaverse will become a prominent digital marketplace where users can make digital and physical purchases from many vendors. The plans to move away from targeted adverting, where Facebook currently generates most of its revenue, come as no surprise given the current tensions with Apple. The new iOS update from the tech giant allows iPhone users to opt-out of third-party tracking and thus, placed a barrier on Facebook’s current fiscal strategy.
Is it really the way forward?
Although Facebooks very own ‘Ready Player One’ Oasis has already come to fruition, is a VR world something people in 2021 want? As the world reflects on pre-pandemic times, the young audiences Zuckerberg is aiming to entice are increasingly moving away from social media. People are waking up to the negative impacts constant social accessibility has on their mental health. Furthermore, Facebook has repeatedly come under fire for its inability to clamp down on the spread of misinformation. How would the platform be able to moderate such a vast digital space? Can creating an even more immersive virtual existence be a positive technological step with these concerns in mind?
Zuckerberg’s ability to conceive a futuristic online world further illustrates the tech moguls genius. Yet, has he grossly misjudged the demands of the modern world and instead tried to emulate the technological visions of the past? Zuckerberg sees the metaverse as a virtual utopia with the power to revolutionise marketing as we know it, but can he realistically get enough people on board with this futuristic idea? Or, in reality, will marketers and users move into different platforms and make Facebook a relic of the past.