One of the most common questions by people in the metaverse community has been when Facebook is actually going to release their Metaverse. Unfortunately, this question can only be answered by Facebook at this point so there’s no way for us outside of Facebook to know when they are going to launch or what their finished product will look like. However, there are a few things that we can speculate on based on what we do know about how currently available social VR tools operate and extrapolate from that based on our knowledge about FB’s current capabilities.
Before jumping into our list of the top 10 facts you should know about the upcoming Facebook Metaverse let me preface it by saying I’m not trying to these are bad things nor am I trying to say that Facebook is doomed or can’t succeed in the metaverse market. It’s just that their approach seems much different than many of the companies investing heavily into VR right now which means there are some legitimate concerns about whether it will work well for users even if FB does have all the money in the world.
#1 – The Facebook Metaverse Will Be Mobile First
A couple of months ago, I covered this topic at length so I won’t go super deep here but basically, the main reason why FB would want to initially launch VR on mobile-first is that it requires less hardware compared to desktop VR and reduces distribution costs by allowing people an easy way to access content with nothing more than a smartphone. Zuckerberg also stated during his keynote at Oculus Connect 3 that they are working on new hardware for the consumer version of their VR product.
#2 – The Facebook Metaverse Will Be Centralized Rather Than Decentralized
Except for Second Life, most metaverses built to date have been decentralized meaning that instead of having one central database that everyone’s information is stored in, each user has their own database (i.e. keeping your data on your computer/server instead of someplace like Foursquare). This means there is no single point of failure which also makes it harder for hackers to gain access to the system. However, FB doesn’t currently have “the trust factor” with many people based on its current business model (selling ads to make money), so it makes sense why FB would want to err on the side of caution and design something that is more centralized than decentralized.
#3 – The Facebook Metaverse Will Be Difficult To Integrate Into Unofficial Networks
Since FB will be designing their metaverse platform with only their social network in mind, it means that other social VR networks such as vTime and AltspaceVR won’t be able to integrate into the system unless they do an official partnership with Facebook. In addition, since FB’s developer tools are closed source, it also means there probably won’t be a way for people to build their own third-party/cross-platform chat clients like JanusVR or High Fidelity at this time.
#4 – The Facebook Metaverse Will Be Ad-Based
When you use social VR apps, there is a big chance you will be having conversations with people who aren’t part of your intended audience. For example, in AltspaceVR when I host a vTime room and go on my balcony to take pictures with the GearVR’s camera, I always get random visitors joining me even though they don’t know me, don’t want to talk to me, and probably have no idea who I am or why they’re even here in a strange place with this dude taking pictures. In addition, due to the open nature of decentralized networks like High Fidelity where users can move from server to server without restriction (although still invite-only for rooms and objects), FB will need a way to monetize the metaverse in order to make up for all of the free content they will be giving to users.
#5 – The Facebook Metaverse Will Be Encrypted
You may have heard about how FB Messenger now includes end-to-end encryption which means that no one other than you and who you’re talking to can read your messages, but what happens when those messages contain sensitive data such as passwords, credit cards numbers, etc.? With AI systems becoming increasingly advanced at reading unstructured text (even though we still don’t know exactly how it works), Facebook has probably already thought this through and has a plan on how to deal with situations like this.
#6 – The Facebook Metaverse Will Be Monetized With Cryptocurrency
Partnering with the World Bank and using Blockchain technology to assist developing nations with financial transactions and facilitating remittances (sending money to other countries) is only the beginning of FB’s plan for world domination. The company has been hiring blockchain engineers for unknown reasons, which can probably be linked to Zuckerberg’s announcement at F8 this year about his interest in cryptocurrency and decentralization. What he plans on doing exactly is still a mystery but I’m sure we will find out soon enough.
#7 – The Facebook Metaverse Will Support Poker Applications
For those who are not familiar with poker, it is a card game where you play against other people, bluffing and trying to make people think you have a better hand than you actually do. People who are good at poker know how to read body language, making them very successful at reading other people which will be an important skill in the Facebook metaverse where face-to-face interactions play a key role in social norms.
#8 – The Facebook Metaverse Will Leverage AR/MR
MR = Mixed Reality MR is similar to VR except that it allows for users to still see their surroundings while also interacting with virtual objects or digital content that blend into your environment seamlessly. Augmented Reality (AR) on the other hand means placing 3D objects onto real-life surfaces so they like they’re really there. In the future, I believe FB will leverage both of these technologies to make the metaverse more accessible by allowing people with disabilities and those who can’t afford a VR/AR headset to also enjoy from this from their homes.
#9 – The Facebook Metaverse Will Be Open To Everyone
This may go against one of FB’s core principles but at some point in the future, it would be great if FB could just open up everything and let everyone build on top of it. Even though decentralization is key for true innovation, there are still many benefits to starting off centralized so that you get a lot of users all at once. In addition to being open source so anyone can contribute their ideas and code, perhaps vTime or High Fidelity could even be acquired by FB to help jump-start their metaverse, similar to how Google bought the most popular third-party Android app store in 2005 called Android Market before releasing it publicly as Google Play in 2008.
#10 – The Facebook Metaverse Will Be Social
As FB continues to grow at an unprecedented rate, they will discover that one of their core weaknesses is something called social fatigue which is when people get tired of constantly being on FB all day long and sharing everything with everyone. This problem can be remedied with a metaverse since you’ll never have to leave home to go anywhere unlike today where the physical world requires you to interact with others in order for them to give you something in return (which can range from anything to money or simply their attention).
Frequently Asked Questions
1 – How is the Facebook Metaverse different from Second Life?
The most obvious difference between the two is that FB’s metaverse is a cross-platform service, accessible via your smartphone or computer, whereas SL only exists on computers. But obviously, there are many more differences including accessibility, ease of use, performance, and most importantly adoption. As mentioned above in this article, with over 2 billion monthly active users (and growing), FB will be able to achieve widespread adoption much faster than Second Life ever did. Another thing to keep in mind is that SL was started back in 2003 by Philip Rosendale when VR technologies were still extremely expensive which limited its target audience to tech-savvy people who could afford it. By today’s standards, however, both hardware and software required to power realistic virtual worlds already exist in everyone’s pockets (iPhones). So if you have a smartphone, you already have the means to enter the Facebook metaverse.
2 – How is the Facebook Metaverse different from Decentraland?
The main difference is that Decentraland is an open-source project whereas FB hasn’t announced any plans to open up their metaverse to developers yet. In addition, since many VR headsets, today don’t support XR technologies such as AR/MR/VRA, FB can also integrate VR into their metaverse without having to rely on headset manufacturers releasing software updates that add support for these new features. If a friend of yours who doesn’t own a VR headset wants to visit your home in time, they can do so without needing to buy an expensive VR headset since they can simply use their iPhone.
3 – How is the Facebook Metaverse different from High Fidelity?
Another great question that I received via email. While both projects are also working on creating open-source virtual worlds, their target audience and business models couldn’t be any more different. FB‘s metaverse will obviously be social (similar to vTime) while High Fidelity aims to provide a platform for people who want to make non-social virtual worlds vs. those who want to immerse themselves in ones with lots of interactions with others. Furthermore, Low Fidelity focuses mainly on educational experiences whereas vTime caters towards everyone, especially families.
4 – Will the Facebook Metaverse be open source?
I was actually asked this question on Twitter as well. My answer is that it’s still too early to tell but my guess is that FB won’t make it open source for some time since they will want people to spend as much time as possible inside their metaverse which means more ad revenue from them. It also wouldn’t surprise me if they ever wanted to charge a fee for visiting a vTime home similar to renting a hotel room.
5 – How does the Facebook Metaverse compare with Walt Disney World?
They both have huge barriers of entry, meaning you need lots of money and clout in order to visit either one. But if anyone can afford access, there are many benefits such as the ability to meet others from around the world in a virtual setting. For example, can you imagine going on vacation with your family and meeting other families from all over the world that you can then decide to hang out with later at night? That’s what vTime offers. And if Disney ever wanted to add AR features into their parks, they would probably use Facebook’s platform in order to do so since FB owns Instagram which also has robust AR capabilities.
I believe that the Facebook metaverse will be a huge player in the social VR landscape for years to come. It has everything going for it – from user adoption with over 2 billion users, all the way down to their massive budget and talented team of engineers. Even if FB doesn’t end up creating a metaverse similar to vTime’s, they already have many other products and services such as Instagram and WhatsApp which could also benefit greatly from AR/VR features.