Originally published on Oct. 21, 2021 at Newsmax.com, Written by Marisa Herman
It has only been a few months since Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg teased the possibility of transforming the powerful social media company into an immersive “metaverse” — and the big tech billionaire isn’t wasting any time creating his unprecedented virtual reality world.
Despite months of high-profile problems — including allegations from whistleblowers, lawmakers calling for more regulation, and numerous lawsuits — Facebook announced plans to hire 10,000 highly skilled workers from Europe during the next five years to develop its metaverse. The social media behemoth is also rumored to be announcing a company name change in the coming days to reflect its new focus.
As imagined, a metaverse is a Matrix-like, virtual form of reality where users are immersed in the internet, rather than looking at it from the outside. The term was coined nearly 30 years ago in the 1992 dystopian novel “Snow Crash,” and elements of the futuristic metaverse have already debuted in popular video games such as Fortnight and Roblox.
Techies view the metaverse as the internet’s next frontier to be conquered and Facebook appears to be moving quickly toward completing its quest to become the first major tech company to take the plunge, offering the masses a space that combines the physical world with an augmented virtual existence.
Chris Haynes, a political science professor at the University of New Haven, said Zuckerberg’s hiring spree shouldn’t come as much of a surprise because Facebook has been looking into a pivot towards the untapped metaverse for some time.
Facebook has said that this new virtual reality is the next generation of Facebook as opposed to [it] just being a social media company.
“This is something that has been a real buzz in the tech world, especially with the COVID pandemic and the inability for people to get out there and interact,” Haynes said. “Facebook has said that this new virtual reality is the next generation of Facebook as opposed to [it] just being a social media company.”
Back in 2014, Facebook spent $2 billion to purchase Oculus, a company behind virtual reality gaming headsets. Since then, the tech giant has invested more money and manpower in developing the next phase of tech, positioning the company to shift away from tools like messenger and toward services like virtual boardroom meetings.
A few months ago, Facebook rolled out Horizon Workrooms, an app that allows users wearing VR headsets to gather in boardroom-style meetings with cartoon avatars of their co-workers. The app is reported to be part of Facebook’s secret “Horizon” project, which, according to The Verge, is an unreleased VR version of Facebook.
This summer, Zuckerberg shared his vision for the metaverse, which he dubbed “an embodied internet,” on “The Vergecast” podcast.
He said the metaverse will be a “big focus” for Facebook and a “big part of the next chapter for the way that the internet evolves after the mobile internet.”
Haynes said the timing of the jobs announcement, however, is no coincidence and comes as Zuckerberg is “attempting to change the narrative and reframe the public image of the company and himself.”
“[Facebook] recognizes that they have done a lot of damage,” he said. “One way of shifting the narrative of the news media is to focus on something that is more beneficial.”
Haynes said given the fact that Facebook hasn’t always been completely transparent with its users and the government, the company is betting its public perception will get a boost by touting the benefits the metaverse will bring.
He said the calculus behind the metaverse push is that if there is public buy in for it, the government will back off.
Currently, Facebook is taking heat from users and elected officials on both sides of the political aisle. It has been blasted by lawmakers on the left for not doing enough to manage alleged misinformation posted to the social platform. It’s also been slammed by conservatives who feel the company suppresses the voices of those who lean to the right, including former President Donald Trump. The company is facing a barrage of lawsuits ranging from privacy issues to antitrust concerns, too.
Dallas-based marketing and big tech expert Adam Rizzieri said that, on one hand, Facebook should clean up the mess it faces in the U.S. before it jets across the world to start its new endeavor. He noted the irony in Facebook’s talk about consolidating and strengthening what it has already built even as it builds the metaverse — all while Congress is trying to reel the company in.
But he isn’t surprised to see Zuckerberg brush off the criticism he faces at home for a fresh start elsewhere because “Facebook sees the world as its house” more than it views itself as an American company.
“Anyone who is watching knows that issues within Facebook’s walls are yet to be resolved,” he said. “The focus on the rebrand is an interesting way of ignoring problems that still exist.”
He said Zuckerberg’s move into the metaverse showcases the “power that the company continues to wield” and its desire to “control the future and their destiny in it.”
“Today we are concerned about big tech unfairly wielding its power in our daily online interactions,” he said. “Tomorrow, with the metaverse, we have to be concerned about big tech doing the same in a world that has no boundaries.”
As the physical and virtual worlds become more intertwined, he questions where we will “draw the line of separation between what’s mine and what’s ours?
© 2021 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
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