Is Meta the Right Company to Build the Metaverse?

It’s been a few days now since Facebook announced their rebrand as Meta, and I’ve had some time to digest the news.

On the one hand, I think it’s a smart move for the company overall. Traditional social networking is starting to feel dated, and it makes sense for the company to pivot to the next frontier of the Internet.

In the same way that Google created Android as a way to get ahead of the smartphone revolution and not cede control of the new computing platform to Apple, it makes sense for Facebook to enter the AR/VR arena, since it has the potential to be the computing platform that disrupts the smartphone.

Every FAANG (or is MANGA?) company is working on a headset, and Oculus already has a sizable share of the headset market, so it makes sense for Facebook to invest more in this arena.

And yet…

And yet the announcement left a bad taste in my mouth. And many others involved in the metaverse space, if the commentary on Twitter was any indication.

For me the biggest issue is that Facebook/Meta has always been about closed systems, and the promise of the Metaverse is an open and free space, not one that’s controlled by a data-hungry corporation that just wants to sell advertising.

The promise of the Internet has always been one of freedom, where anyone from anywhere in the world can participate and create whatever they want. And yet Web 2.0 largely resulted in more and more of the network hidden away behind walled gardens, with power (and revenue) increasingly consolidated in the hands of a small number of corporations.

Once companies like Facebook were the plucky startups, challenging the big corporations and the established order. Now it is one of the most powerful and controversial companies on the planet, throwing thousands of workers and billions of dollars in an attempt to dominate the Metaverse.

And to do all that while appropriating the name “metaverse” is galling. It’s like if Microsoft had rebranded themselves as “Internet” in the early 2000s, and promised to create an open internet platform for everyone. It defies credulity.

Fortunately, there are alternatives, especially in the crypto space. The Sandbox and Decentraland are just two examples of decentralized visions of the metaverse, powered by the blockchain and NFTs, and there are many others.

With so many players in the space, it’s still too early to which platforms will gain the most adoption and achieve mass adoption of a virtual reality technology. But I’m rooting for the open and decentralized solutions, and not something created by the Meta behemoth to vacuum up ad dollars.

The Internet was made to be free, decentralized and open– let’s not repeat the mistakes of the past with its next iteration.

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