Facebook’s Metaverse vs an Open Metaverse: Choose Wisely

Jan. 13, 2023.
6 min. read. 10 Interactions

The metaverse will soon transform many aspects of our society – do you want it under the control of unaccountable corporations?

About the Writer

Ivan Irakoze

2.51714 MPXR

A.P. is a blog and feature writer, an award-winning poet, and an interactive storyteller. Views expressed in his independent writing are his own and should not be considered the views of any organization he works for. He's passionate about blockchain tech, football, and figuring out what rhymes with orange.

Credit: Tesfu Assefa

If it talks like a duck, looks like a duck, but walks like an overarching, data-hungry, centralized, profit-obsessed… duck, do you really want to be involved with it?

“It” in this instance is Facebook, and the “duck” is what it’s trying to become: a metaverse.

That’s right, the metaverse is here. Well, not yet in its full glory, but the foundations are there.

So what exactly is the metaverse, why is Facebook so eager to get into it, and what could possibly go wrong?

That’s what we’re looking into today. So take a sip of your drip as we delve into:

What is the Metaverse?

Why Does Facebook Want Its Own Metaverse?

What Should the Idea Metaverse Be?

What Is the Metaverse?

Coined by Neal Stephenson in his 1992 novel, Snow Crash, the metaverse is a 3-D virtual world. In this realm, one can interact with others through digital representations of themselves better known as avatars.

“In the lingo, this imaginary place is known as the Metaverse. Hiro spends a lot of time in the Metaverse.”

Neal Stephenson, Snow Crash

Essentially, the metaverse is a virtual space where we’re all interconnected without borders. Or at least it should be.

Imagine a virtual world like the one in the Sci-Fi flick Ready Player One and you pretty much get the picture. 

It’s not just an escape from reality, but a space where communities are formed, economies are created, boundaries don’t exist, and we all get to ‘be’ with each other.

In a world where many of us haven’t been able to socialize as we’d want to lately, the metaverse becomes a realm where that’s possible.

With Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), Blockchain, and more recently Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs), this concept is now closer to becoming real than ever before.

It’s so close you can almost touch it, and so can Facebook.

Why Does Facebook Want Its Own Metaverse?

Why would a company controlling some of the biggest social media platforms where people share their realities want to control the people’s alternate realities as well?

Facebook’s Latest Investment

Facebook’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, and his team have been looking at how to make the most of future possibilities for some time now. Facebook’s latest fascination has been with the prospects of creating its own metaverse.

Recently, however, the social media giant announced how much this metaverse project would really cost them: at least $10 Billion in 2021 alone.

This was originally revealed during Facebook’s third-quarter earnings report when Zuckerberg also stated the cost would likely increase in the future.

A large initial investment indeed. One that would only make sense if you targeted a large audience that would want to explore the future of social networks.

Targeting A New Generation 

And that’s exactly who Zuckerberg has in mind: young adults.

“We are retooling our teams to make serving young adults their North Star rather than optimizing for the larger number of older people.” 

Mark Zuckerberg

It makes perfect sense when you consider Gen Z’s general sentiment towards Facebook. Ask any kid, young teen, or early 20-something whether they’re on Facebook and many will tell you, “No.” 

Many of today’s youths will say that Facebook is for old people. They’d much rather spend more and more time on TikTok, Twitter, and new decentralized platforms.

Deteriorating Trust in Centralized Social Media

Unless you’ve been living under a rock lately, you know how ‘inconvenient’ centralized social media platforms can be. And that’s putting it politely.

In fact, you don’t have to think back that far about when you were last inconvenienced by such platforms. Just three weeks ago, Facebook’s services and apps went down for about six hours (an eternity these days).

The list of apps and services included:

  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • Messenger
  • WhatsApp
  • Workplace
  • Oculus

That last one is particularly concerning to us given that it’s Facebook’s VR platform, creating some of the tools needed for a metaverse.

Credit: Tesfu Assefa

Valuing Profits Over Everything

But having a central point of failure isn’t the only kind of inconvenience Facebook, Inc. has been in the news for lately.

That’s right, we’re talking about the Facebook Papers.

Disclosed to the SEC by Facebook’s former product manager, Frances Haugen, the Facebook Papers show that the social media giant prioritized profitability over everything by:

  • Failing to adequately clamp down the spread of misinformation that led to January 6th’s insurrection at the U.S. Capitol 
  • Making public statements that weren’t in line with internal findings
  • Failing to provide clear guidelines for its users outside of the U.S.

Not a good look, Mark. Especially when you’re trying to convince every young person that they should trust you and use your platforms.

When you consider Zuckerberg’s statement about the metaverse and Facebook’s goal for it, it doesn’t seem like Facebook’s priorities are likely to change any time soon. 

“If you’re in the metaverse, you’ll need digital clothes and digital tools and different experiences. Our goal is to help the metaverse reach a billion people and billions of dollars in commerce in the next decade.” 

Mark Zuckerberg

In fact, it sorta kinda feels like Facebook isn’t in it for the right reasons. Like they would do anything it takes to meet their goal, no matter who their actions hurt. Sounds… familiar.

meme comparison between the open metaverse (Superman) and Facebook’s metaverse (Homelander)

Facebook’s Centralized Metaverse

If the metaverse is comparable to OASIS in Real Player One, then Facebook might just be its IOI. One corporation determined to have ultimate control over the space and its ‘inhabitants’ by:

  • Owning the metaverse’s tools and AI
  • Accessing the players’ information
  • Manipulating the metaverse’s rules and reality
  • Removing elements of the metaverse at will

We have a feeling that many potential Facebook Metaverse explorers would end up feeling the same way as a certain Ethereum founder once felt about centralized systems.

“I happily played World of Warcraft during 2007-2010, but one day Blizzard removed the damage component from my beloved warlock’s Siphon Life spell. I cried myself to sleep, and on that day I realized what horrors centralized services can bring.”

Vitalik Buterin

What Should the Ideal Metaverse Be?

One entity controlling an entire virtual world goes against the ideals of what a metaverse should be.

A true, open metaverse should be accessible to all and controlled by no one. Or as Outlier Ventures, a passionate team invested in the creators of an open metaverse puts it: 

“We believe the defining characteristic of a true Metaverse, is that it needs its own economy and currencies native to it, where value can be earnt, spent, lent, borrowed or invested interchangeably in both a physical or virtual sense and most importantly, without the need for a government.”

Outlier Ventures, Introducing The Open Metaverse OS Paper

An open metaverse, by definition, equates to more freedom, not less. The freedom to explore a new world around you, to build a life, earn a living, create relationships in real-time, and ultimately bring that back to the real world.

That being said, the choice of which metaverse you decide to get involved in is ultimately up to you. As it should be.

Choose your duck wisely…

Neo from the Matrix in a bathtub with a duck on his head

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