On the 28th of October, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that his company has a new name: Meta. He said that the company’s brands — which include Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram — will not change. However, the new name reflects an ambitious goal: to bring the metaverse to life.
Companies often change their names to escape controversy. Facebook has been criticised for its content and for encouraging social media addiction. However, Zuckerberg says that the company was rebranded for a different reason.
Mark Zuckerberg (American accent): Today we’re seen as a social media company, but in our DNA we are a company that builds technology to connect people. And the metaverse is the next frontier, just like social networking was when we got started.
a virtual universe
He believes that the metaverse is the next chapter for the internet. But what is it exactly? The word is an amalgamation of ‘meta’, which means ‘beyond’, and ‘universe’. Basically, it’s a virtual world that feels like real life: a place where people play, work, shop and socialise through digital avatars. It is accessed through devices such as computers, smartphones, games consoles, and headsets.
The name ‘metaverse’ was created by author Neal Stephenson in his 1992 novel Snow Crash. In it, the protagonist (called Hiro Protagonist) travels in and out of a virtual world. Incidentally, Snow Crash also reintroduced the Hindu term ‘avatar’. The book later inspired the Matrix movies. Ernest Cline created his own metaverse in his 2011 novel Ready Player One, calling it the Oasis.
Outside of fiction, there are many examples. Second Life was one of the earliest metaverses. Launched in 2003, ‘residents’ live a parallel life online. They play games, take classes, go to concerts, attend conferences and buy consumer goods. It‘s all two-dimensional, though. The newest metaverses are 3D, using virtual and augmented reality (VR and AR).
videogames or music
Most are related to gaming, from World of Warcraft to Roblox. They have their own currency and allow users to create their own environments. Fortnite also started doing concerts in 2020. The first featured Travis Scott, attended by 12.3 million concurrent players.
Facebook already was a virtual world where people socialised. In fact, all of the company’s apps are designed for online social interaction. Meta wants to make them part of a single, unified metaverse. It is building the Horizon platform, which will be accessed through VR headsets. Zuckerberg is convinced that the technology will become mainstream in the next five to ten years.
Mark Zuckerberg: The future is going to be beyond anything we can imagine.