Facebook has been in the news recently after it came to light that part-human, part-android owner Mark Zuckerberg was investing a lot of money into creating a Facebook ‘metaverse’. Remember Ready Player One? And how everyone in that film logged into a shared augmented and virtual reality space, in which they could pretty much do everything. That’s kind of what Zuckerberg is aiming for.
Admittedly, on paper, it’s an attractive proposition. We collectively already spend most of our time inside the digital world. We work on computers, we browse on our phones, and many of us choose the escapism provided by video games. Being the first company to create one hub where all of these different platforms converge would essentially be a license to print money. However, while Ready Player One? may have made metaverses look cool, in practise it would be truly horrible.
Metaverse = Overwhelming
Honestly, Facebook can already be overwhelming as it is in its current state. Whether it’s memories bringing up moments you’d rather forget, or old work colleagues posting morally questionable opinions, Facebook can be an assault on the senses, and can even be overwhelming in terms of mental health.
Imagine all of those overwhelming elements, but in AR and VR. Imagine large communal spaces, filled with people who have no filter whatsoever. Facebook is already known for the sheer amounts of racism on its platform. Now, imagine having to witness that kind of behaviour in a 3D environment. It just sounds dreadful in the worst kind of way.
Then there're the adverts. Facebook adverts are already pretty intrusive, placed across the main home page, messages and across the other various feeds such as video and the marketplace. In VR and AR, these adverts are likely going to be even more aggressive. While a mobile phone or PC screen allows you the privilege of looking away, in VR, you are locked in unless you close your eyes or take the headset off. The concept of condensing numerous social media platforms into one space just sounds incredibly overwhelming.
In fact, that's the one part of Ready Player One that worked well. The Oasis, the narrative's horrendously nerdy metaverse, was in threat of aggressive advertisements. The metaverse can only really work without advertisements plaguing the experience, but that's not what's going to happen.
Sounds better in practise
The sci-fi novel Snow Crash first introduced the concept of a metaverse back in 1992. It was then further developed in Ready Player One, and has floated around as a concept for some time. Even The Matrix is essentially a digital metaverse presented as consciousness. However, sci-fi makes all the concepts of a purely digital world seem too good to be true. The Matrix, Snow Crash and Ready Player One all present a limitless universe in which users can be whoever they want. The reality, however, will probably be far more dull.
Mark Zuckerberg has already publicly spoken about the metaverse, and the language he used was less than inspiring. Zuckerberg got particularly excited about how the metaverse could change office working, stating that it could improve “focus time and individual productivity”. Why focus on a limitless world of imagination when you can recreate the same office you already work in, but with added work-focused features. It’s honestly such a Mark Zuckerberg thing to do, and it’s exactly why Facebook’s Metaverse will suck.
Facebook also isn’t typically known for its success in the gaming field. It owns Oculus, however, the majority of gamers have not adopted VR. Facebook’s vision of the metaverse is one that revolves around workplace productivity. For most people they envision a platform that would allow them to play video games in VR with hundreds of other players.
A monopoly in the making
Considering Facebook’s position in the market, it is already essentially set up to have a monopoly in the metaverse industry. No other company is as well positioned to create such a monopoly. Zuckerberg owns Facebook, Oculus, WhatsApp and Instagram, platforms that would all be a perfect fit for such a thing. Having such a dominant presence from the off would constrict the industry, making it incredibly difficult for other metaverses to gain any real clout.
This would mean that Zuckerberg’s incredibly limited vision for the platform would be the de facto standard. The gaming and social marketplace of ideas would be replaced by Zuckerberg’s vision of some ultra productive recreation of the modern workplace. We could have the unparalleled potential Star Trek’s holodecks. Instead, we’ll instead have soulless recreations of office life, but within an AR or VR headset.
Honestly, the thought of Zuckerberg driving the metaverse concept honestly sucks every ounce of fun out of it.This should be a limitless world of imagination in which we can do whatever we want, it’ll instead be a VR edition of Microsoft Office which we are all invited to. Sci-fi envisioned a world which freed us of our human constraints. Zuckerberg wants to turn it into a capitalism manifested. It’s a no from me.