LONDON, Nov 1 (Reuters) – Early adopters of the virtual worlds known as the metaverse have criticized Facebook’s rebranding as an attempt to capitalize on growing hype over a concept that was not I think.
The term metaverse has become a tech buzzword this year, with companies and investors eager to be a part of the next big thing. But users have been hanging out for years in these dark but fast-growing virtual worlds.
“Basically, they are trying to build what a lot of us have been building for years, but brand it as their own,” said Ryan Kappel, an American who has been hosting meetups in different metaverses for more than two years.
Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Facebook’s name change to Meta Platforms and details about its plan to build its own immersive digital world, announced Thursday, comes as the company battles criticism from lawmakers and regulators over its market power, algorithmic decisions and control of abuses in its services.
In virtual worlds, users can walk around as an avatar, meet friends, and play games. Some that are based on blockchain also allow users to speculate on virtual real estate.
“I think Facebook has made this name change early to secure the new brand legally as soon as possible as more brands become interested,” said a UK-based cryptocurrency investor known as Pranksy, who said he first bought real estate. roots in the virtual world in early 2020.
Artur Sychov, who founded the Somnium Space metaverse in 2017, said Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s rebranding announcement felt “rushed … like they were trying to insert themselves into the metaverse narrative that’s happening right now.”
Sychov spends up to five hours a day at Somnium Space along with 1,000 to 2,000 other daily users.
Dave Carr, communications lead for the organization that runs the virtual world Decentraland, said Facebook’s move could meet resistance from users in the metaverse who are wary of its control over content.
“People who want to determine the future of the virtual worlds they inhabit, maintain ownership of their creative output, and move freely between them will choose the decentralized version,” he said, describing Decentraland’s metaverse environment as decentralized and Facebook’s plan as probably centralized.
Decentraland, founded in 2017 with around 7,000 daily users now, sees itself as an alternative to traditional social media platforms that sell user data and control the content users see.
Many existing metaverse platforms are based on blockchain technology which makes central control impossible. Blockchain is the distributed ledger architecture that underlies cryptocurrencies. In these virtual worlds, people use cryptocurrencies to buy land and other digital objects in the form of non-fungible tokens (NFTs).
However, the reaction from early adopters of the metaverse was not entirely negative. Some said that Facebook’s entry could generate interest in the concept of virtual worlds in general, attract more users and support the development of multiple virtual worlds.
Tristan Littlefield, co-founder of the NFT company nft42 and a metaverse user since 2018, said his first reaction to Facebook’s announcement was negative because he doesn’t like the sale of user data.
But “to have a giant like Facebook come in and just throw billions of dollars … could be a positive” because of the new people it would bring into the space, he said.