Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in June that the social media giant is on a path to become “a metaverse company.” Now the firm is putting its money where its mouth is, revealing plans to spend $50 million over the next two years to help bring the metaverse to life.
Today, Facebook announced the XR Programs and Research Fund, a two-year initiative to fund both its own projects and external research as the firm explores the future of online social interactions. It’s a “starting point” for Facebook, per the announcement, as it attempts to co-create the future online metaverse.
What is the metaverse? It’s a term that we hear often in the crypto industry, especially as decentralized projects attempt to create future online worlds and experiences free from the oversight and control of centralized entities—like Facebook, for example.
Essentially, the metaverse refers to shared online spaces in which users—represented by 3D avatars—coexist and interact together. It has been represented in such media as “Snow Crash” and “Ready Player One,” and Ethereum-based metaverse worlds such as Decentraland (shown above) and CryptoVoxels already exist. Upcoming game The Sandbox is another prominent example.
Along with opening the door to new social and gaming experiences, metaverse advocates believe that it will also help change the nature of work, and afford new digital economic opportunities to users around the world. It’s similar in a sense to how DAOs, or decentralized autonomous organizations, are being built to disrupt traditional companies.
It’s heady, potentially revolutionary stuff—which is why some metaverse builders bristle at the prospect of Facebook trying to lead the charge in metaverse development. Apparently aware of criticism of its track record on user privacy and cultivating misinformation, Facebook said today that it will build metaverse products “responsibly” via this initiative.
“We’ll work with experts in government, industry, and academia to think through issues and opportunities in the metaverse,” reads the official post. “For instance, its success depends on building robust interoperability across services, so different companies’ experiences can work together. We also need to involve the human rights and civil rights communities from the start to ensure these technologies are built in a way that’s inclusive and empowering.”
Facebook’s initial partners in the $50 million initiative include the Organization of American States, Women in Immersive Tech, and African organizations Electric South, Africa No Filter, and Imisi3D. The firm will also consult with researchers at Seoul National University, The University of Hong Kong, and the National University of Singapore on these efforts.
However these early efforts take shape, Facebook has already signaled that it doesn’t intend to single-handedly create or oversee the eventual metaverse. And this will probably only be the beginning of a long-term process.
“The metaverse isn’t a single product one company can build alone,” the firm writes. “Just like the internet, the metaverse exists whether Facebook is there or not. And it won’t be built overnight. Many of these products will only be fully realized in the next 10-15 years.”
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