Let’s talk about Mark Zuckerberg and the metaverse, including interoperability. In a recent declaration, Mr Zuckerberg laid out his five-year plan to make Facebook known as a ‘metaverse company,’ rather than a mobile internet company. We’ve known about Facebook’s motivation to explore the next computing platform for some time, but this is the most public exploration of the CEO’s future vision.
I can draw a lot from the announcement and the subsequent interviews, but there is one important strand I will focus on: unparalleled interoperability within the metaverse. And it might not be attainable.
In summary, Mr Zuckerberg expects some siloing to happen. In a recent interview with the Verge, he notes that he wants to reach as many people as possible, and with wide-reaching access:
- ‘We want to make [social systems] as affordable as possible, we want to make them as unified as possible, and part of that is making sure that things can run everywhere, can run across different platforms, [and] can talk to each other.’ But at the same time, he expects some siloes as different companies will have ‘different visions’ of the future. Which makes sense, as several companies create networks that define their own ways of open access.
- It also makes sense that he wants as open access as possible. Facebook is primarily a social media company, so if they own the advertising space of an open metaverse, then their reach would be unparalleled compared to other advertising companies. Though by that point, Facebook would have also diversified their portfolio into other types of services within the virtual space.
But what worries me is that he calls Matthew Ball’s vision of the metaverse as ‘idealistic’ that it will develop in a particular way. Mr Zuckerberg focuses on how companies may define interoperability in different ways, from decentralisation to universal set standards. But looking deeper, it might indicate that he expects several companies to have power within the metaverse by building the foundations of it, shaping its form and future. It’s more difficult to have checks to power if they build your world brick-by-brick.
The metaverse discussion is nebulous because we can’t define its future. Like others, Facebook sees a stake in the future and wants to play its part, to future-proof the business. But like any building, it must be built on the firm foundations of sound principles, not the shifting sands of corporate interest. So far, Facebook’s goals are good on paper – but I am intrigued about how they might change in five years’ time.
The above might indicate that I dislike Facebook. Not so; I use their services every day and it connects me with my friends and family. But I also know how powerful the company is, and I want it to grow in a direction that helps everyone in society, rather than fragmenting it.