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Facebook changed its corporate name to Meta today. Facebook.com is still Facebook.com, though. This is a move to embrace the metaverse, which is a concept that many tech-industry executives and investors view as the future of the internet. But it also feels like a poorly timed attempt to capitalize on a buzzword that has already lost much of its meaning.
Aspirationally, the metaverse is an alternate reality that lives online. Functionally, however, the metaverse is a platform or series of platforms that share interoperable code to enable individuals to carry their online identities and (more importantly) their purchases from one experience to the next.
This concept is popular with investors, which is one reason why Facebook is planting its flag so firmly into the space. Well, that and because Facebook has poisoned its name with regular scandals.
But metaverse isn’t a buzzword because it is the future. It’s popular because it is already making money in the present.
The temptation for many industry observers is to point to VR apps as the obvious future of the metaverse. Meanwhile, massive connected platforms like Roblox are building giant, connected worlds. For a new generation of internet users, Roblox already provides many of the key elements that metaverse latecomers like Zuckerberg are still trying to figure out.
Roblox enables you to carry your character and digital wallet from one game to the next. Your cosmetics carry over, so you can always express yourself through your purchases. And the platform has no shortage of content because Roblox already has a robust user-generated-content system that is regularly producing new hit experiences.
Meta is already an outdated name
What is especially odd about Facebook’s new name is that it already feels old. While investors and executives love to throw around “metaverse” in earnings calls and conference panels, the public seems generally less excited.
That lack of enthusiasm is likely do to an absence of vision. People don’t care how they fit into some tech executive’s online petting zoo. They care about what the technology does for their specific needs. For adults, how do these tools enable new opportunities for commerce? Wider audiences, meanwhile, look to platforms to empower their social connections.
And those communities are finding answers to those needs on platforms like Roblox, Fortnite, and VRChat without ever even learning the term “metaverse” in the first place. Professionals who make content for Roblox have begun saying the term more frequently, but that’s only because it increases attractiveness to investors.
By the time Meta figures out its metaverse business model, few people will use that word to describe any of this. It’ll sound strange in the same way “World Wide Web” does today.
Meta would be like Microsoft changing its name to The Web in 1999 — only, somehow, even worse.
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