Why You Shouldn’t Join the Metaverse Just Yet


Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

In the metaverse, you can sit at your desk and give a presentation to people around the planet face to face, then go meet some friends to play cards in a space station in zero gravity, or at least you will be able to… eventually… maybe. Meta’s metaverse is mostly corporate jargon from a company aiming to accumulate investors and drum up support. Until they prove themselves, you shouldn’t join the metaverse.

To start, many people don’t know exactly what the metaverse that Meta (formerly Facebook) is trying to create actually is. Meta doesn’t even know exactly what they’re trying to create. The metaverse as it stands today is just a tech buzzword for the potential future of the internet that is based in virtual reality. The term originated from the 1992 book called Snow Crash in which people spend their life on an infinite road in virtual reality. The metaverse today is defined as a computer-generated environment that people can interact with along with other users. This definition encompasses things like massive multiplayer online video games and the platform Second Life, which are often seen as separate from what Meta and other new companies are trying to create. It’s better to think of the metaverse as something closer to an internet based in virtual reality with digital ownership components that people spend significant time in. Meta has made it clear they want to get in on the ground floor of this new reality by buying the virtual reality hardware company Oculus as well as shifting many of their financial resources to the metaverse.

Meta is not the right player to develop the metaverse. Many people speculate that Facebook changed its name to Meta to escape their most recent controversy. Meta was accused of hiding data that suggested that their platform was causing violence through the spread of misinformation and hate speech as well as causing harm to young people using their services. In face of this, Meta shifted their branding to focus on the metaverse as to distract from their shortcomings. And while many might say this is a one-off event, it is only the most recent event in Facebook’s history of shifting focus from controversy. Meta has also been targeted for their seemingly excessive collection of user data. There is no reason to believe this trend will end with the creation of the metaverse. We have seen the damage they’ve caused with comparatively simple social media platforms; it is very dangerous to allow them to build the foundation for the metaverse, a system that could change the course of history. 

The metaverse today barely exists and the infrastructure surrounding it is nowhere near complete enough for widespread adoption. For “the metaverse” to truly live up to its name, it needs massive adoption and the world just isn’t ready for that. Sales of virtual and augmented reality hardware are up globally, but it still doesn’t compare to devices like conventional computers or smartphones. According to experts, the main limitations for VR adoption are wearability and price. The Oculus Quest 2, the primary VR headset for Meta’s metaverse, is being sold for $300 currently. For most people, this is out of reach for a technology still in its infancy. Many experts also cite content offering and user experience as limiters to adoption. As it stands, there isn’t very much to do in VR: the stuff that currently exists is hard to interact with and doesn’t look half as good as what can be made on traditional computer screens. Mass adoption of the metaverse is impossible today in its current state. And while this technology will get better in time, it would probably be best to leave this technological development to more experienced companies like Sony or HTC, than one known for social media.

All of this is made visible in Meta’s Horizon Worlds, a virtual reality social space exclusively for the Oculus VR system. Judging by the fact that you probably didn’t know this existed, it is not yet the worldwide phenomenon that it is intended to be. Most of the things to do in Horizon Worlds are user-generated, so it will take years for there to be a decent amount of content in the world. Finally, even though it is out of the beta testing phase, there is still a long way to go for the technology before it is the worldwide social environment it supposedly could be. For example, only 20 people can be in a “room” at a time. 

Meta (Facebook) has always been trying desperately to step out of their role as an app developer and move into a larger tech company in charge of their own ecosystem, and the metaverse is the most recent example of this. The metaverse is coming in some way or another, no matter what anyone says, because Meta wants to be the leader in this area like Microsoft was in the world of personal computing. Due to Meta’s track record of user data mismanagement and their lack of advanced technology, they are the worst people to fill the void in the metaverse’s development. Right now is just not the right time to join Meta’s metaverse.