Behind Facebook lies a turbulent month with some unpleasant surprises. So the group prefers to look to the future and try to generate headlines that have nothing to do with whistleblowers, failures or regulation: Over the next five years, Facebook plans to create 10,000 new jobs in the EU to "build the computing platform of the future," chief lobbyist Nick Clegg writes in a blog post.
This refers to the so-called metaverse, the current favorite topic of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and half of Silicon Valley. The term comes from science fiction literature and describes an Internet in which the virtual and real worlds merge. "You can think of the Metaverse as the embodied Internet, where you're not just looking at content, you're inside it," Zuckerberg described it in a recent interview with The Verge.
Facebook wants to combine augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) to allow people to meet and interact with each other as avatars in a digital space. What sounds like a wacky vision of the future has long been a reality. Almost 20 years ago, the virtual parallel universe "Second Life" was considered the next big thing, but the hopes ended up in a niche. Currently, the Roblox platform and the video game Fortnite show how the metaverse could work: Teenagers hang out there together, pop stars give concerts in front of millions of fans, and investors bet many billions of dollars that the time is now.
Zuckerberg is also convinced of this: In the future, Facebook will no longer be seen primarily as a social media operator, but as a metaverse corporation. He believes that this development will already take place in the next five years - precisely the period in which the jobs are to be created. So far, it is not known in which locations Facebook will invest and how much, a spokesman said when asked. Germany, however, is said to be one of the countries and is mentioned several times in the blog entry.
"VR with ads you can't click away".
In its announcement, Facebook also stressed the Metaverse is "not something that any one company will own or operate alone." It said the new platform should be as open and interoperable as the Internet. That's a bold announcement for a corporation that has done more than almost anyone else to transform the once open web into a collection of closed platforms and ecosystems. Unlike Apple and Google, however, Facebook does not own a mobile operating system, so Zuckerberg is pinning his hopes on the Metaverse.
Facebook's affirmation is likely intended to allay concerns from politicians and antitrust authorities who don't want to repeat their old mistakes: For decades, states have watched helplessly as a handful of corporations turned the Internet into a lucrative advertising marketplace. Now they have a new chance to think about sensible regulation before the prediction of author Wendy Liu comes true, who explains the metaverse this way: "Virtual reality with ads you can't click away."
So it's a good thing that Facebook now wants to invest in Europe. In the U.S., Democrats and Republicans agree only that they detest Facebook; beyond that, there is hardly any common ground for regulation. In contrast, the EU Parliament is working on a fairly concrete package of laws to limit the power of tech platforms. Probably not entirely coincidentally, Amazon, Google and Microsoft also want to invest in Europe alongside Facebook. Until the EU's regulatory plans become reality, the tech companies' lobbyists in Brussels will try to prevent any laws that are too harsh - 10,000 new jobs could be a good argument in this regard.
Photo by Timothy Hales Bennett