Why Mark Zuckerberg should stop talking about the metaverse

CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently said he wants Facebook to become a company from the metaverse. But there is a problem with this: this “metaverse”, as defined by Facebook, does not really exist yet and probably will not for years. Like premature conversations from past augmented reality and virtual reality companies, talking about such a distant technology too early can hinder Facebook’s long-term efforts to bring the metaworld into the mainstream.

In a sense, this evolution seems a natural problem for the social media giant, especially for those who own the main product of virtual reality (Oculus), through which people can experience digital space. Facebook started talking about meetings in common digital spaces at its conference for F8 developers in May 2018. Then Facebook started teasing about its future augmented reality glasses, another key portal into the digital space. This summer, Zuckerberg seemed to broaden the company’s vision when he turned to the meta-universe, a kind of alternative digital reality that would connect all the various digital spaces of their own together.

Now Facebook regularly opens the metaworld. This week, the company announced a new grant program that it said will help minority groups play a significant role in defining the metaverse. At the Atlantic Festival on Monday, Facebook Reality Labs vice president and future technical director Andrew Bosworth and global vice president Nick Clegg spoke on the subject in two separate interviews sponsored by the conference’s main underwriter, Facebook.

But in practice, the metaverse is still many years away. Some of the technologies needed for full implementation, such as VR or AR glasses with high-performance lenses and long battery life, are not yet available. Many companies, including Apple, are quietly working on these and other issues with core AR technologies, but few are talking about it as much as Facebook. Why?

Some speculate that Bosworth and Clegg’s speeches may be an attempt to divert the press and public from the latest damn Facebook stories. The Wall Street Journal which revealed fundamental problems with the company, including a lack of content moderation in markets outside the United States, a willingness to loosen content rules for senior users, mountains of vaccine misinformation in comments to posts, and Instagram research showing the program’s harmful effects on teenage girls.

Asked why Facebook talks so much about new technology, Bosworth said Facebook just wants to start a conversation as soon as possible. “[In] over the last 10 years, we have seen that sometimes the public and regulators are surprised by technological change, and this is not healthy for anyone, ”he told his interviewer. Wired editor-in-chief Peter Rubin. “So we try to open this conversation long before this technology is ever presented in any integrated form.”

Bosworth’s answer is full of irony. For years, Facebook has amazed users and regulators with new privacy breaches, followed by remorseful apologies and meager, often productive concessions. Bosworth wants to convince the media and the public that Facebook is now a more mature company, that it will not use the same approach to growth at all costs that has helped it dominate social media to capture the metaverse.

Instead, Facebook insists that its conquest of the metaverse would be a “much more gradual and deliberate” process than its frantic rush in the late 2000s and 2010s to monopolize social media. “It’s almost the opposite of the long-abandoned slogan ‘move fast and break things,'” Clegg said of Sarah Fisher. Axios in his interview with Atlantic Festival.

Speaking so early, the company also hopes to establish interoperability between the virtual spaces it creates and those created by other companies.

“I think the question is how are we going to work together in the industry to when [people] use a metacosm that they don’t get stuck in the Apple meta universe, or the Epic meta universe, the Facebook meta universe, or the Google meta universe, ”said Clegg. “We have to work together to create standards of interaction so that people can move from one part of the metaverse to another.”

A new cycle of hype

By talking about this nascent technology so publicly, Facebook may continue to undermine its already tarnished reputation. People in the mixed reality industry will tell you that the industry has already been affected by advertising cycles and misguided expectations. Google started talking about its Google Glass project long before the public was ready to hear the story. There was a reaction to privacy. People complained about the limited functionality of the device and its high price ($ 1,500). Years later, Magic Leap captured the imagination of the technical world with its headset of augmented reality and its own concept of the metaverse – “Magic Universe”. But the company’s technology was underdeveloped to provide vision (and promotional videos), and when it became apparent, confidence in the entire AR space was hit.

Facebook acknowledges that its own AR spectacle technology is still a research project. And the company is only now trying to understand how people want to use such glasses. A recent response to his partnership with Ray-Ban to produce glasses with built-in cameras indicates how the public can relate to social interaction with people who wear fancy AR glasses, especially those whose cameras support real-time face recognition.

Facebook is just the latest technology company to talk about AR and the metaworld. This may attract the attention of the public and the media, but it would be a mistake to keep talking about it for years before this mythical sphere really exists. After all, Facebook can be considered just another big technology company that promised something it could not fulfill.

The public digital VR / AR space in one form or another and under a certain name will start to grow over time, and this will create very serious social and regulatory problems. The technology industry, the public and perhaps the government will need to talk very seriously about this. But this should happen after the market for the necessary hardware and software ecosystems begins to take shape, when Facebook’s metacosm is more than a lab concept.

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