Early adopters of the virtual worlds known as the metaverse criticized Facebook’s rebranding as an attempt to capitalize on the growing buzz over a concept it didn’t create.
The term metaverse has become a buzzword in technology this year, with companies and investors eager to be a part of the next big thing. But users have been spending time in these dark but fast-growing virtual worlds for years.
“Basically, they’re trying to build what a lot of us have been building for years, but they brand it as their own,” said Ryan Kappel, an American who for more than two years has organized meetups in different metaverses.
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 in virtual real estate.
“I think Facebook has done this name change early to legally secure the new brand as soon as possible as more brands get interested,” said a UK-based cryptocurrency investor known as Pranksy, who said he first bought real estate. roots in the virtual world at the beginning of 2020.
Artur Sychov, who founded the metaverse Somnium Space in 2017, said Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s rebranding announcement felt “rushed… like they’re trying to insert themselves into the metaverse narrative that’s happening in this moment”.
Sychov spends up to five hours a day in Somnium Space along with 1,000 to 2,000 other daily users.
Dave Carr, communications leader for the organization that runs the virtual world Decentraland, said Facebook’s move could meet with resistance from users in the metaverse who mistrust 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 decentralized. 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 cryptocurrency to buy land and other digital items 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 NFT company nft42 and a user of the metaverse since 2018, said his first reaction to Facebook’s announcement was negative because he doesn’t like the sale of user data.
But “having a giant like Facebook come in and just dump billions of dollars … could be a positive” because of the new people it would bring into the space, he said.