Facebook plans to invest $50 million over two years to help build its vision of the metaverse in a responsible and ethical way. Nevertheless, it will take some time to see this concept become reality. In fact, the social network estimates that it will take 10 to 15 years to achieve this vast project.
"Metaverse" seems to be something of a buzzword for Facebook at the moment. This fictional, virtual world -- often billed as the future of the internet -- has become a prime objective for the Menlo Park firm. The American company hopes to lay a first stone in the gargantuan project of building this new universe by investing $50 million over two years. This sum is intended to ensure that such products are developed responsibly, and in partnership with universities. For Facebook, this alternative universe would bring the firm into a new era. With a number of users exceeding any other platform and the sheer amount of content generated, Mark Zuckerberg's firm could create a titan among giants.
While this investment is significant, it's not Facebook's first step into the metaverse. Its glasses in partnership with Ray-Ban are a first concrete commitment in this digital future. In addition, the American firm has already snapped up patents including elements like semiconductors, brain-machine interfaces (or direct neural interfaces) or tools for creating virtual content. Then, there's the enormous team that Facebook is busy building. More than 10,000 employees are currently working on augmented reality or virtual reality tools, many from top American or European universities. Talk about a small army.
Incredible opportunities and ethical questions
Mark Zuckerberg considers that the metaverse could bring extraordinary opportunities to creators, artists or people who want to escape from urban dynamics. At the same time, these virtual spaces could become places where education and recreation would be accessible to all, irrespective of social differences. According to its creator, the metaverse is just about the closest thing you can get to a teleportation device, because the possibilities of changing worlds and universes would be infinite.
While the positive aspects of such a virtual universe are numerous and undeniable, the questions it raises are even more important. Among the main reservations expressed by critics, several questions are recurrent. How will Facebook be able to manage an entire alternative universe when it has difficulty keeping its initial version in check, notably regarding controversial content? How can this elusive universe be governed or controlled? Moreover, the success of such a project depends heavily on great and robust interoperability between Facebook's services and the other actors in the market.
The metaverse is not intended to be a product of the present, and its realization will only take place in the next 10 to 15 years, according to the Facebook CEO. A time that's necessary to effectively design this virtual world, but also to address the moral and ethical questions raised by such a project.