The company behind Facebook and Oculus, previously known as Facebook, have unveiled a new name: Meta. Oh christ. Yes, it is named after the metaverse, because tech megacorps can't resist the delusion that their platform to sell adverts is elevating humanity to a new plane of existence. Mark Zuckerberg suggests that in the future they're building, you'll experience everything through virtual and augmented reality, and that definitely won't be a horrible world devoid of intimacy, okay, it'll be great.
The company announced the new name last night. Facebook the social network is still named Facebook, but now it's part of the parent company Meta, along with Instagram and the rest. Though they do plan to rebrand Oculus goggles to Meta goggles.
The metaverse, according to nerks who read too many bad cyberpunk novels (or feel they've as good as read the novels because it's part of the zeitgeist, y'know, everyone knows it, no need to read a book), is the next step of Internet evolution. Through VR and AR, it will have a physical presence, be a physical place we can go, transport bodies and objects not just minds and fingertips.
"In this future, you will be able to teleport instantly as a hologram to be at the office without a commute, at a concert with friends, or in your parents' living room to catch up," Mark Zuckerberg said in a public letter. "This will open up more opportunity no matter where you live. You'll be able to spend more time on what matters to you, cut down time in traffic, and reduce your carbon footprint.
"Think about how many physical things you have today that could just be holograms in the future. Your TV, your perfect work setup with multiple monitors, your board games and more — instead of physical things assembled in factories, they'll be holograms designed by creators around the world."
Zuckerberg says "the metaverse will not be created by one company," rather loads of "creators and developers making new experiences and digital items that are interoperable and unlock a massively larger creative economy than the one constrained by today's platforms and their policies." A chilling mention of "new forms of governance" too. And yes, of course NFTs and NFTs and cryptocurrency are part of the plan. Famously good for your carbon footprint, crypto.
I realise I sound like a Luddite, but I don't want this. Even their best-case-scenario dream of a metaverse looks rubbish. And the internet is already too big a part of my life. Strapping on sweaty goggles (which still don't work with my eyes, or hair, or makeup) to go to work sounds horrible. After 18 months of social distancing, I've come to appreciate being offline and in the same physical space as people more than ever.
While I expect parts of the Internet might one day move vaguely in this direction, it's unlikely that the metaverse will develop according to the visions of Mark Zuckerberg, Epic Games, and the rest. I understand why tech companies who run advertising platforms or have established licensing relationships with big brands desire the metaverse, mind. I wouldn't want Facebook to have a hand in any such thing.
Facebook has been used to incite genocide, foster insurrection, spread disinformation and conspiracy, subvert democracy, and more. Their attempts to control it are so halfhearted and uncaring that woefully undersupported moderators are often left suffering PTSD. They can't be trusted with your uncle's photos of pub lunches, let alone a new plane of cyberexistence.
While nerks are out here cheerleading for a cybergoggle metaverse or the NFT-pumping Web3, what I want is a return to the cosy and surprising Web 1.0. Give me homepages and serendipity. Fewer social networks; more webrings. No NFT; lots of "About Me". Fewer tracking and profiling ads; more punching the monkey to win a free iPod.
At worst, can we not just return to Second Life instead?