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how the Facebook metaverse wants to revolutionize the Internet

Announced with great fanfare a few weeks ago, Facebook’s metaverse already promises to transport us to a virtual world never before explored. But what is it exactly?

We have been hearing about it for several weeks now. After announcing the creation of 10,000 jobs in Europe and the possibility of changing up its company name, Facebook is now considering its metaverse as “The future of Facebook as a company”, but also as the future of social networks. A sort of transdimensional virtual world oscillating between the real and the dematerialized, what exactly is the metaverse?

Thinking about the Internet of tomorrow

Mark Zuckerberg is convinced: it is in the metaverse that the Internet of the future will be played. Surfing the web, attending virtual events, communicating, playing video games and even teleworking… our web consumption is about to take on a whole new dimension.

Several months ago, the battle royale Fortnite had paved the way, bringing together several million spectators for a few virtual concerts. Before Epic Games, others had already explored this idea of ​​the metaverse, whether through cinema as with Ready Player One by Steven Spielberg, released in 2018, or more concretely, like Nvidia and its project Omniverse.

The idea of ​​a virtual world is therefore not new; it suffices to note the success of the game Second life from the years 2003 to realize it. In the hands of a giant like Facebook, the concept of metaverse could, however, take on very different proportions.

Concretely, the possibilities offered by Facebook’s metaverse seem endless. From a smartphone, a computer or – better – a virtual reality headset, Internet users will now be able to visit the apartment of their dreams, stroll in a virtual exhibition room (where the works sold will be NFTs), and attend cinema sessions with their friends from the other side of the world. Born from gaming, the metaverse has long passed the entertainment stage, and could well within a few years, as predicted by Mark Zuckerberg, revolutionize the very idea of ​​the Internet.

The new goose that lays golden eggs at GAFAM

If Facebook hopes to revolutionize consumer habits through its metaverse, this is obviously not out of altruism. The company also knows thatshe can win very big by dictating the future of social networks. While the platforms “Historical” As Facebook, Twitter and even Instagram are seeing aging audiences and plummeting engagement rates, the metaverse could allow GAFAM to renew your offer, and to oppose the Chinese octopus TikTok head-on.

Among content creators in particular, you don’t have to look very far to understand the value of the metaverse. Take the example of Travis Scott’s concert on Fortnite in April 2020, and its some 27.7 million spectators, to realize the potential reach – and therefore the potential monetization – of the virtual world dreamed of by Facebook.

Among brands too, the metaverse could be an opportunity to get out of the game. If a significant part of the profits earned by Facebook each year is played on the advertising displayed on the social network, the metaverse is already establishing itself as a showcase of choice for companies.

At the same time, the emergence of cryptocurrencies could also play a key role in the development of the metaverse, in particular via NFTs. The interest of the general public for non-fungible tokens may have run out of steam in recent months, these virtual objects could soon populate our virtual universes. According to forecasts by the research firm IDC, expenditure related to NFTs should also be multiplied by six between 2020 and 2024.

Dystopia or technological revolution?

The idea of ​​being virtually transported to a tangible Internet resembling a parallel world has long attracted pop culture. Imagined in 1992 by novelist Neal Stephenson in The Virtual Samurai, the concept straight out of the imagination SF quickly invested small and large screens. Since the saga Matrix, up to Ready Player One and Black mirror, the metaverse already exists in the collective imagination, so much so that without ever having experienced it, we know what to expect.

However, the very idea of ​​the metaverse also raises a number of questions, often more ethical than technological. Starting with our avatars, these virtual doubles that Mark Zuckerberg dreams of to populate his new generation social network. In its development project, the company does not exclude the idea ofequip your Oculus headsets with a biometric reader, capable of authenticating, but also of reproducing the facial expressions of its wearer. Beyond making our future exchanges much more realistic, this functionality above all risks delivering a quantity of sensitive biometric data to Facebook. Not necessarily engaging from a company regularly singled out for its questionable management of personal data.

The challenge of VR

To carry out its metaverse project, Facebook is surfing on the idea of ​​a mental teleportation. In addition to holograms and augmented reality, capable of transporting the virtual into the real world, the company has for several years now relied heavily on virtual reality. It must be said that nearly seven years after the takeover of Oculus, it was time for GAFAM to capitalize on VR, until then in its infancy, and reserved for video games. Initiated by the University of Utah in the 1970s, the technology had to wait until the 2010s to imagine (finally) a large-scale deployment. However, the concept is still a niche product today, and neither the Oculus Rift, nor the PS VR, nor the HTC Vive have yet really succeeded in establishing themselves among the general public.

The whole stake for Facebook for the next few years will therefore be to develop its VR technology alongside its metaverse. To achieve this, the company intends to give itself the means: a few weeks ago, it announced no less than $ 10 billion in investments of Research & Development on its Reality Labs division. Because we have to be realistic: Mark Zuckerberg may well insist that his virtual world will be accessible from any computer, all the interest of the metaverse will take on meaning once the Internet user is equipped with his VR headset.

The virtual world already exists

It is in its immersive nature that the Facebook metaverse stands out the most from the Internet that we know. Able to propel us into a virtual world without even having to move from our living room, the concept pushes the boundaries of the physical world, to the point of questioning the very concept of reality.

Because we have to be realistic: if today the idea appears to us at the limit of science fiction, it was the same a few decades earlier for the Internet. Today, the Manichean opposition between real and digital no longer really needs to be : We spend more and more time in front of a screen, create and maintain relationships on social networks, and our work as well as our entertainment responds more and more to the call of the dematerialized. We didn’t have to wait for the appearance of the metaverse to see the boundaries blurring between the IRL and virtual worlds. By imagining his social network of the future, Mark Zuckerberg is only part of the continuity of what has been started for years already.

Instead of taking part in the space war between Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg seems rather determined to invest virtual space, and this is ultimately not surprising. Announced when it is still in its infancy, the metaverse is above all a means for the company with the blue logo to seduce another audience – that of young adults – at a time when it records an aging audience, struggles to monetize its content, and suffers from a reputation at the lowest since the broadcast of Facebook Files. A lifeline for Facebook in an increasingly fierce Internet market which, however, raises very many ethical questions. It will be for European and international regulators to seriously consider the issue, in order to avoid let the metaverse become a virtual no man’s land, where Mark Zuckerberg reigns as sole master on board, like Stu Camillo in the series Future man.

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