The possible origin of the term “Metaverse” and its meaning may shock you.
Yesterday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that the tech giant will change its company name to Meta. Zuckerburg says that Meta will also hold other Facebook apps such as Instagram, Whatsapp, and virtual reality brand Oculus.
“In recent decades, technology has given people the power to connect and express ourselves more naturally. When I started Facebook, we mostly typed text on websites,” the 37-year-old says in his Founder’s Letter on the rebrand. “When we got phones with cameras, the internet became more visual and mobile. As connections got faster, the video became a richer way to share experiences. We’ve gone from desktop to web to mobile, from text to photos to video. But this isn’t the end of the line.”
However, it’s not “end of the line” of the company’s public relations distress.
Announcing @Meta — the Facebook company’s new name. Meta is helping to build the metaverse, a place where we’ll play and connect in 3D. Welcome to the next chapter of social connection. pic.twitter.com/ywSJPLsCoD
— Meta (@Meta) October 28, 2021
Profits over people
It was only this month when former Facebook employee and whistleblower Frances Haugen testified to US Senators on the company’s dangerous inner workings. In the October 5 hearing, she accused Facebook of prioritizing “astronomical profits before people.”
The reinvention of the social media giant is timely to recently leaked documents known as the Facebook papers. In the documents (thousands of them) were revealed that the apps were breeding grounds for deception on political elections and had a problematic feed algorithm that highlighted “misinformation, toxicity, and violent content.”
In a Twitter post, Meta says the new virtual environment they dub as the “Metaverse” is “a collective project that will be created by people all over the world, and open to everyone.” The tweet includes a clip juxtaposing retro cartoons with modern pop culture and advanced technology.
The metaverse is the next evolution of social connection. It’s a collective project that will be created by people all over the world, and open to everyone. You’ll be able to socialize, learn, collaborate and play in ways that go beyond what’s possible today. pic.twitter.com/655yFRm8yZ
— Meta (@Meta) October 28, 2021
The company aims for Metaverse to let people connect in 3D as “the next chapter of social connection.” From his Founder’s Letter, Zuckerberg added that “privacy and safety need to be built into the Metaverse from day one. So do open standards and interoperability.”
If Zuckerburg is trying to value the public’s well-being with the new mega platform, it’s ironic that “Metaverse” is from the dystopian science-fiction novel Snow Crash. Although it’s not officially by the company where the name’s derived, social media users made thought-provoking assumptions.
The term was coined by its author Neal Stephenson. In the story, the Metaverse is “a dangerous escape from a world overrun by the corporate mafia, mercenary defense forces, and sovereign gated communities protected by armed guards.”
So, is Facebook launching Meta as a gateway to technologically advanced means of human connection or a distraction from their unethical practices? We’d have to (cautiously) wait and see.
Banner photo from @zuck on Instagram.