What is the metaverse and why is Facebook betting so big on it?

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been a leading voice in the hype for the “metaverse,” a virtual reality version of the internet that the tech giant sees as the future.

The metaverse, short for “meta-universe”, is a digital world where the real and the virtual merge in a science fiction vision and allow people to move between different devices and communicate in a virtual environment.

In practical terms, it refers to augmented and virtual reality products and services.

On Monday, Facebook announced in a blog post that it plans to hire 10,000 people in the European Union to build the metaverse.

“The metaverse has the potential to help unlock access to new creative, social and economic opportunities. Europeans will shape it from the start,” Facebook said in a blog post.

Today, we are announcing a plan to create 10,000 new high-skilled jobs within the European Union over the next five years.

The social media giant also said that investing in the EU offers many benefits, including access to a large consumer market, first-class universities and high-quality talent.

What is Metaverse?

The term refers to a cyberspace parallel to physical reality where a community of people can interact in the form of avatars. This concept was coined by author Neal Stephenson in the 1992 science fiction novel “Snow Crash”. It refers to the merging of physical, augmented, and virtual reality into a shared online space.

Some video game communities have already created embryos of meta-universes, like Roblox (a platform that includes countless games created by kids and teens) or Fortnite (a survival shooter with 350 million players).

In April, more than 12 million players followed in five virtual concerts for rapper Travis Scott, who appeared as an avatar in Fortnite.

Gradually, screens, holograms, virtual reality headsets, and augmented reality glasses will allow seamless “movements” from virtual universes into physical spaces, a process Zuckerberg likened to “teleportation.”

The ultimate social technology

Facebook previously announced that it would create a product team to work specifically on metaverse-related projects.

“In the coming years, I expect people will move from seeing us primarily as a social media company to seeing us as a metaverse company,” Zuckerberg said in July.

In many ways, the metaverse is the ultimate expression of social technology.

Facebook, the world’s largest social network, has invested heavily in virtual and augmented reality, acquiring devices such as the Oculus VR headset and working on augmented reality glasses and wristband technologies.

It has also purchased a handful of virtual reality game studios, including BigBox VR. The Information reported in March that it has about 10,000 employees working on virtual reality.

Zuckerberg said he thinks it makes sense to invest deeply to shape what he bets will be the next big computing platform.

“I believe the ‘metaverse’ will be the successor to the mobile internet, and creating this suite of products is the next step in our journey to help build it,” he said in a Facebook post in July.

“If we do it well, I think within the next five years or so … we’ll really go from people seeing us primarily as a social media company to a ‘metaverse’ company,” he told The Verge in July.

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