As part of its bid to create a virtual world, Facebook plans to hire 10,000 workers within the European Union (EU) over the next five years to help build its “Metaverse” project, incorporating VR and AR to create a digital world.
In a blog post, the company said it was at the start of a journey to help build the next computing platform. “Working with others, we’re developing what is often referred to as the metaverse — a new phase of interconnected virtual experiences using technologies like virtual and augmented reality. At its heart is the idea that by creating a greater sense of ‘virtual presence’, interacting online can become much closer to the experience of interacting in person. The metaverse has the potential to help unlock access to new creative, social and economic opportunities. And Europeans will be shaping it right from the start.”
“No one company will own and operate the metaverse. Like the internet, its key feature will be its openness and interoperability. Bringing this to life will take collaboration and cooperation across companies, developers, creators and policymakers. For Facebook, it will also require continued investment in product and tech talent, as well as growth across the business,” read the post by Nick Clegg, VP Global Affairs, and Javier Olivan, VP Central Products.
The post added that the EU had a number of advantages including a large consumer market, first class university, and top-quality talent.
“Beyond emerging tech talent, the EU also has an important role to play in shaping the new rules of the internet. European policymakers are leading the way in helping to embed European values like free expression, privacy, transparency and the rights of individuals into the day-to-day workings of the internet. Facebook shares these values and we have taken considerable action over the years to uphold them. We hope to see the completion of the Digital Single Market to support Europe’s existing advantages, as well as stability on international data flows, which are essential to a flourishing digital economy.”
Facebook has already committed $50 million for building the metaverse, and is testing a new remote work app where users of Oculus Quest 2 headsets could hold meetings as avatar versions of themselves, Reuters reported.
In 2016, Facebook started giving employees at Oculus, the virtual-reality company the social media giant acquired for $2.3 billion in 2014, the Ready Player One science fiction novel by Ernest Cline. The plot details a dystopian world where most of humanity plays a virtual reality video game. The book proved inspirational for Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who went on to promote Facebook’s own vision of a VR “metaverse”.
During an earnings call in July, Zuckerberg said the metaverse could be thought of as an “embodied internet that you’re inside of rather than just looking at”.
The Ready Player One reference carries poignance: The fictional world in the book featured a “OASIS credit” coin that became one of the world’s most stable currencies in an era of fiscal uncertainty. Likewise, Facebook’s plans for its Diem permission-less payment system built on blockchain technology could end up spanning the whole world. And like OASIS credit, Facebook aims to make Diem a stable currency (it plans it as a “stablecoin” -- a cryptocurrency designed so that its value does not fluctuate, either by having its price pegged to a commodity or currency or by having the supply regualted by an algorithm).
In August, Facebook launched its first product under the metaverse, the Horizon Workrooms VR workplace.
Facebook is not the first to explore this space. The popular Second Life metaverse has been running since 2003 and had nearly a million active users in 2020.