Facebook changes the name of the company to ‘Meta’. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced this on Thursday at the Facebook Connect event. The name change should emphasize the development of ‘metaverse’, an online universe that, according to Zuckerburg, has real “privacy standards”.
Meta will be the umbrella name of the company behind WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook. According to experts, the new name should also distract from all kinds of privacy problems with which the name Facebook is currently under fire.
According to Facebook, the new guidelines mean that the company will introduce parental controls and privacy standards. However, it is unknown how high these standards will be. Since they were practically absent from Facebook, it remains to be seen whether Meta will handle this data properly.
In recent years, there has been a lot of criticism of Facebook. Nick Clegg, the so-called Government Affairs Chief of Facebook, says Meta will be more transparent about what data it collects from users. The company is also said to be in talks with various human rights organizations. With which organizations exactly, he did not say.
What is the Metaverse?
Metaverse is a virtual 3D environment, which by the way does not yet exist. The word comes from a science fiction book: Snowcrash from 1992. It will consist of several virtual public spaces, game zones and personal spaces. The latter “home spaces” should allow users to personalize and use them for work. So you can reveal it to others or keep it ‘completely private’. It is seen as the next version of the internet.
The Metaverse must also contain ‘full worlds’. Facebook thinks the Metaverse could improve school history lessons, for example: imagine being virtually there when the Forum is built in ancient Rome.
People will move between the physical and virtual world, according to Zuckerberg. However, in the virtual world, you are not tied to one body. Just like you have a professional profile picture on LinkedIn, you can use a realistic avatar in your virtual work. In your ‘home space’ you can choose a funny avatar.
The Metaverse as mixed reality
Even though the company is already called Meta, this doesn’t mean the Metaverse is coming yet. Zuckerberg himself says it will become mainstream in the next five to ten years.
This is not only because building all the software takes a lot of time. The hardware also has to be developed. In the presentation, for example, we saw everyone wearing virtual glasses. These kinds of gadgets are needed to combine the digital world and the physical world.
For example, the company is teasing a mixed reality headset called Project Cambria. This headset offers a high-resolution video pass-through that allows you to see the physical world with added virtual elements. Project Cambria will also scan your person so that you are accurately represented in this physical world. How this collection of your external characteristics goes hand in hand with guaranteeing privacy remains to be seen.
Privacy in Meta
Given Facebook’s privacy issues, Zuckerberg briefly focused on ways users could ensure their privacy. “You will decide when you want to be with other people, when you want to block someone from accessing your space or when you want to take a break and teleport into a private bubble to be alone,” the CEO says. Exactly how this would work is still unclear.
Now if someone is being harassed on Twitter, this account can be blocked. However, what can you do if you are in a public virtual space with a ‘troll’, such as a virtual concert?
Meta also says little about guaranteeing your privacy vis-à-vis the company itself. Clegg only emphasizes that it will take years before the Metaverse is realized and that legislators can therefore grow with it. Whether legislators can do this, however, is debatable.
Incidentally, Facebook, or rather Meta, is not the only company involved in the development of Metaverse.
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