Indrani Sen: Monopolising the Metaverse

15 Nov,2021

Indrani SenBy Indrani Sen

 

Seventeen years after he launched Facebook from his university dorm in 2004, Mark Zuckerberg announced in a virtual press conference on October 29, 2021, a change of the corporate name of the company from Facebook Inc. to Meta Platforms Inc. which is being referred in short as Meta.

 

A recent Amul topical ad on the ‘Meta’ change

As explained by Zuckerberg, internet technology has moved on and the corporate name Facebook no longer fits in with the future vision of the company which is being built around the metaverse. “Over time, I hope that we are seen as a metaverse company and I want to anchor our work and our identity on what we’re building towards,” Zuckerberg said.

 

The rebranding of the company name would align better with the objectives of the company at this stage when it plans to broaden its reach beyond social media into areas like virtual reality (VR). The various social media platforms owned by the social media giant, i.e. Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram would continue to retain their individual names and brand identities under the corporate branding of “Meta”.

 

The metaverse a virtual-reality space in which users can interact, meet and play with a computer-generated environment and other users using virtual reality glasses, smartphone apps and other devices. The word “metaverse” has been coined from the two words “meta” and “universe”. Loosely defined, it is an extensive 3D online world where people interact via various “digital avatars.” The word meta is generally used as an adjective or as a prefix to a name, often indicating a change or a transformation or a great futuristic idea. Example of uses of metaverses, in some limited form, can already be found on platforms like VR Chat or video games like Second Life.

 

Current development on use of metaverse is centred on addressing the technological limitations with modern virtual and augmented reality devices as well as expanding the use of metaverse spaces beyond business to retail applications, entertainment and education. Many digital technology organisations as well as entertainment and social media companies are investing in metaverse-related research and development for future usage.

 

The metaverse in many ways is still a speculative future iteration of the Internet part of shared virtual reality, to be used in social media and other applications. The metaverse in a broader sense may not only refer to virtual worlds operated by social media companies but the entire spectrum of augmented reality across the world wide web.

 

Critics of the metaverse are arguing that as a speculative concept it is overhyped. Same concept is being used as a part of public relation campaigns by organisations having vested interests. Privacy of user’s information and user’s addiction to platforms are concerns within the metaverse, as already found in the current challenges being faced by the social media and video game industries across the world.

 

Mark Zuckerberg’s announcement to change Facebook’s name to Meta has caused a massive uproar in Israel as the word “meta” sounds like the Hebrew word for “dead”. There is also a news that a US-based Meta Company is contemplating to sue Facebook Inc. for Infringing on its it’s company name. Meta was founded by Menon Gribetz, then a student of Colombia University in 2013. Though the company met with some initial success, it had to declare itself as insolvent after its primary lender foreclosed in January 2019. It is doubtful if they have the financial strength to launch a legal battle against Zuckerberg’s company. A Berlin based migraine app developed by Newsenselab M-Sense Magazine has given a backhanded compliment to Facebook who seemingly has been inspired by the logo design of the e-magazine. It is unlikely that Facebook was aware about the existence of that app or its logo and the similarity id the logo design is most likely a creative coincidence which at times happen in the advertising industry.

 

The change in the company name is an extremely clever move by Zuckerberg which can help his company to monopolise “the metaverse” space, though many other companies will be using such technologies and operating in the same space in near future. To a lay internet user, Meta Platforms inc. would appear as the original provider of metaverse technology and therefore would have an edge over many of their future competitors.  Meta Platforms Inc. would not be able to monopolise the metaverse, but the name of the company would surely create an illusion of a monopoly.

 

 

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