When Zuckerberg Goes ‘Metaverse’
October 26, 2021
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by Arabella Seebaluck

The Verge’s Alex Heath may not have broken the internet with his viral article about the Facebook rebranding, rumoured to be announced by creator Mark Zuckerberg at the company’s Connect event on October 28, 2021. But he certainly got it talking, whether serious analysis or just the flurry of memes to come out right about the same time former president Trump was making his own grand announcement, also related to social media. It’s easy, at this stage, to be tempted to confound the two.

But let’s get serious to begin with, starting with the metaverse. This term that Zuckerberg can thankfully not claim to be of his own coining. It’s a term borrowed by author Neal Stephenson’s novel Snow Crash, which ‘elevated him [Stephenson] to the status of a technological Nostradamus.’

In the novel, “humans, as avatars, interact with each other and software agents, in a three-dimensional virtual space that uses the metaphor of the real world. Stephenson used the term to describe a virtual reality-based successor to the Internet” Wikipedia notes.

What Zuckerberg also allegedly wants, is a revert to the younger demographic which spurred the actual creation of the platform.

Zuckerberg — who started the company with Eduardo Saverin and others while they were undergrads at Harvard — said that the social media giant would start “serving young adults the North Star, rather than optimizing for the larger number of older people.” Their target demographic would move from all ages — or at least your cousins who are bad at spotting conspiracy theories — towards ages 18 through 29 Matt Prige reports.

Warning bells

Zuckerberg’s metaverse is going to be highly VR/AR focused. That’s literally what he wants to have a dominion over. He has invested no less than $50 billion into the project and plans on recruiting 10 000 people in Europe alone to the see it through.

For me, this rings warning bells.

As Youpal Group CEO Karl Leahlander said in this same publication, AI remains highly unregulated and therefore, people are running away with their ideas. VR and AI are two different concepts, which are likely to merge as the technology progresses. What if the AR/VR technology was a stepping stone to something we are not seeing coming, but which Zuckerberg is ready to manifest in his ‘metaverse’?

Twitter was dotted with similar questions:

“The word ‘metaverse’ … originally described a virtual world owned by corporations where end users were treated as citizens in a dystopian corporate dictatorship…What if Neal was right?

Or is it a publicity stunt?

This is the other side of the story… and a lot of memes and trolling sprouted all over the internet since the alleged rebranding was leaked. References to Google’s Alphabet and other similar ‘rebranding’ endeavours resurfaced. All of this, of course, on the back on the infamous recent allegations made by whistle blower Frances Haugen and a prior to that, Facebook’s buy or bury’ saga.

So, it’s no surprise that a lot of reactions from Twitter and other social media platforms pointed out that the renaming of the company founded by Zuckerberg is just a way to get people to look the other way. If there was ever a classic PR move, this is definitely one of them.

BuzzFeed played the game, suggesting a few names which show the cynicism with which the internet received the rebranding story. These included: ‘Facebook for Kids’, ‘BuzzFeed 2’, ‘Unionize Tech Workers’ and ‘Zuckussy.’ A simple hashtag search reveals even more creative and ROLF-worthy names and trolls.

It almost makes one want to not take this seriously, as after all, who can get past Zuckerberg’s everlasting college-boy face and standardised grey t-shirts? I, for one, will take his endeavour seriously – as countless others do too – but a to a degree more. I believe in omens and Zuckerberg was born in 1984.

‘Nuff said’? Or should we attempt to add a level of Orwellian presage to the already dystopic metaverse plan?

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