Why I will never use Zuckerberg's metaverse

It sounds like a nightmare from Black Mirror or a bad Netflix or Amazon Prime movie.
Written by Jason Perlow, Senior Contributing Writer

Mark Zuckerberg recently announced that Facebook would be changing the name of its parent company to Meta.

The timing seems particularly auspicious considering that this is happening under the heels of a huge whistleblower exposure of thousands of pages of leaked information -- which is now called the Facebook Papers -- to the Washington Post and multiple other news sources. Very few times in history have we seen a leak this big and coordinated coverage occur at multiple newspapers and media outlets at once, so the magnitude of this is immense.

See AlsoMore violent events driven by social media are bound to happen, says Facebook whistleblower.

Rebranding will not remove the stain

The immediate reaction has been that this name change is Facebook's attempt to repair brand damage. However, I don't know if the American public is gullible enough to accept a simple name change as redress for the company's vast ethical transgressions. Companies have changed their names after major scandals before: Are you old enough to remember ValuJet? They became AirTran. Andersen Consulting became Accenture. WorldCom became MCI. Blackwater became Xe, and then Academi, and now Constellis. Philip Morris became Altria

Most people who have lived through all these scandals still remember this stuff. And I think Facebook's notoriety will leave any name change with a permanent stain.

The meta-what?

But let's talk about this entire "Metaverse" thing because I think there is more to this simple name change than an attempt to wash away reputational damage. I will admit that I had to Google "What is the Metaverse" and was half expecting Laurence Fishburne wearing dark sunglasses and a black leather trenchcoat, to knock on my front door and offer me a pill. 

Effectively, Metaverse is the new name for virtual reality, such as the type that the company develops as its Oculus headset and games -- which will now have Meta branding, not Facebook branding. But in particular, the term hones in on the idea of connected virtual worlds, in the sense that websites are connected to each other through apps and protocols and stuff like that. So Meta hopes to usher in a standards-based virtual reality world, just as the Web is a standards-based internet.

Frankly, I don't have a good experience with AR/VR worlds. Do you remember that Second Life virtual world? I found the entire experience janky and didn't feel real enough. After a while, it got immensely boring. Granted, today's technology will be a lot better, but can you imagine the type of trolls and misinformation that would live in an AR/VR world? Not just some one-off massively multiplayer online role-playing game that runs today with some thematic element like Star Wars or Marvel? Imagine a world run by Zuckerberg and his gang of Silicon Valley snapperheads? 

I don't want to experience that. At all. If I had children, I definitely would be preventing them from using it. Think of how addicting something like Minecraft is, and then add Meta's ethics and business model and practices on top of it. It sounds like a nightmare from Black Mirror or a bad Netflix or Amazon Prime movie.

See alsoEnterprise outlook: Augmented reality & virtual reality during a pandemic.

The VR and AR future does not belong to Meta exclusively

Mind you, the discussion of AR/VR technology and the appropriateness of its use is an entirely different discussion from Meta and its Metaverse. I fully agree that AR and VR technology can be a very powerful tool when applied to specific vertical industries, such as aerospace, medical, military, and law enforcement (for situational awareness training and for use with robotics and drones). And I can potentially see myself as an end-user of a consumer AR or VR product in specific use cases.

However, Meta -- and Zuckerberg -- see the kind of Web-based internet that Facebook and its other platforms run on as outdated. They want to migrate their userbase of billions to something new after they develop their Metaverse and get presumably tens of millions or hundreds of millions of people using it. I think it is a huge gamble to assume that one will be standardized, and two, they will have the lion's share of it. 

The name change isn't just to create an umbrella company in the way Alphabet did. Meta also plans on using the Meta name for its hardware. Oculus, which no longer requires a Facebook login, will have its hardware renamed to Meta, so Oculus Rift becomes Meta Rift. The Verge also reported that the Portal devices would become Meta Portals instead of Facebook Portals. 

Other companies that are much more trusted than Meta are known to be working on VR and AR headsets and related tech, such as Apple and Google -- or excuse me, Alphabet. All of these companies have huge ecosystems, particularly Apple and Google. And I wouldn't put Amazon or Microsoft out of the running on this, either, and I wouldn't assume that any of these will necessarily want to interoperate with Meta's.

I have so far rejected the idea of putting Facebook (and now Meta-branded) hardware in my house no matter how attractive they looked or how well they are priced -- the Oculus Quest 2 is down to under $500 now -- because I flat out do not trust the company. Now the company is presumably going to double down on VR-based hardware. 

I will never own one of their hardware products if I can avoid it. I will be very reluctant to use their VR platform even if say, in the future, we have access to headsets from Apple, Google, Microsoft, or others that can access their Metaverse.

Related coverage:

Editorial standards