Since its rebrand as “Meta”, Facebook has been throwing its considerable weight behind the idea of an immersive virtual reality world. Here’s everything you need to know
5 January 2022
HIRO PROTAGONIST doesn’t see much promise for his future. Stuck in a dead-end job in a world where traditional money has been supplanted by encrypted alternatives and a few big companies shape things to their own ends, he struggles to make ends meet following a global economic collapse. To escape, he slips on virtual reality goggles to visit a place called the metaverse, where his digital avatar walks the streets of a more interesting, engaging, inclusive world.
This vision of a 21st-century reality comes from Snow Crash, a 1992 book by science fiction writer Neal Stephenson. But wind forward to 2022, and one large and powerful company is certainly betting all on Protagonist’s escape route. In October 2021, Facebook rebranded itself as Meta, and founder Mark Zuckerberg set a goal for a billion people worldwide to join its version of the metaverse by the end of the 2020s. It committed at least $10 billion last year alone to make that a reality.
Zuckerberg isn’t the only one latching on to a radical vision in which we go to work, seek entertainment and connect with each other not in a physical world, but in a virtual reality. The buzz surrounding the metaverse raises many questions. Chief among them are, what exactly is the metaverse, is it really just around the corner and, if so, do we actually want it?
For the company now known as Meta, you can see the attraction in the metaverse. The firm currently makes its money selling advertising based on our interactions with Facebook, its core app. But that only gives the firm visibility over the parts …