Facebook's Rebranding To Put the Much-needed Spotlight Back On Creation Of the Metaverse

The metaverse is by no means a new concept. Yet, the stars are aligning for its success: with or without Meta

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Meta (formerly Facebook) CEO Mark Zuckerberg's announcement of taking his creation to another level―that he defines as an 'immersive embodied Internet'―has put the spotlight back on the Metaverse which is being touted as the future of the Internet. Though there would be no changes in the current Facebook platform, the rebranding exercise will bring the company's offerings―Facebook, Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp―under one umbrella of Meta, something which Google did earlier with Alphabet. However, this has certainly opened a discussion on where Zuckerberg targets to take his company by envisioning a 'mirror world': a replica of real world situations on the Internet that is more engaging, immersive, interactive with interoperability, avatars, natural interfaces, telepresence and digital goods.

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The metaverse is by no means a new concept. Yet, the stars are aligning for its success: with or without Meta. The key idea behind the concept revolves around the nucleus of extending the horizon of virtual reality to develop a digital environment where online interactions can be multi-dimensional and immersive, without needing to be in the same physical space. The technology has evolved significantly and fast internet, increased processing power of devices and easy creation of 3D scans, models or avatars have made it possible for a user sitting in a different location to enjoy dinner, a concert or meeting with  friends, colleagues or families located in a different location,  virtually in a simulated setup. Taking virtual reality a step ahead, the metaverse further gives its users an access to enter a virtual world through a device that feels exactly real.

Meta is trying to usher in a paradigm shift in online social connections and their metaverse unlocks a new dimension to this by enabling users to create and customize their own avatars in digital spaces. Open to everyone, the users will be able to socialise, learn, engage, communicate, entertain, collaborate and play in new ways that are not possible within the current infrastructure. In simple words, the metaverse will enhance online connections between people, places and things and interactions with people or their digital selves will get more real as things go ahead. Experiencing new places―both real and virtual―are gaining steam and the metaverse will make it more seamless, which will be supported by advances in 3D technology in Web browsers.

A combination of augmented, virtual and mixed reality, the metaverse has so far remained limited to gaming and limited applications in niche segments. But the urge to have real life 3D environments that are accessible and interactive in real time can result in widespread adoption of the metaverse, or three-dimensionality in general. It can become a medium for social and business activities, providing a strong platform where more transactions can happen with the real-world economy such that it eventually becomes its extension. It will ease the way for companies, stakeholders and individuals to come together and engage in business activities in the same way they do in the real world for better trade and investments in products, goods and services.

While the metaverse is becoming a buzzword to represent the next evolution in the world of Internet, it will still need standardisation and support from industry or tech giants to connect their Internet platforms to each other which is a major challenge. It will still take time for the industry to align on interoperability, currently being jostled between Meta, Apple and Microsoft with a probable re-entry from Google in the future. If conceptualized perfectly, an interoperable three-dimensional internet can bring a massive transformation in the industry and society.

The Metaverse today is an idea gradually taking some semblance of form, but there are many questions that come along on its way of becoming a reality. Privacy, inclusion, mitigation of harmful content, and interoperability are some of them. Interoperability remains the biggest challenge and even Zuckerberg has admitted that this would require rethinking of the existing rules and more open standards and cooperation. Also, creation of an exact replica of real world situations, or avatars would also require technology to catch up as it is still developing.

Privacy is another area of concern and it is still unclear how user-privacy will be taken care of in this area, which is still at an early development phase. The idea can bring a host of privacy and security concerns which are still not addressed that specifically include deepfakes and other cybersecurity issues. Those who are towards developing it, should take care of the user's data, including biometric, location, and banking information, which will exist almost exclusively in virtual form.

The metaverse is set to bring a paradigm shift with new technology and the idea―really promising if it does translate to reality―can massively transform the users' behavior across industries, and across the internet. The world's leading tech giants are investing billions of dollars in its development. However, this would also require inclusive working with the rest of the industry and internet to truly welcome us all to the Metaverse.