As a plethora of decentralised blockchain-based metaverse projects build, Facebook has this week announced it’s plunging a centralised foot into the virtual water, with an initial US$50 million research fund.
In a blog post titled Building the Metaverse Responsibly, the social-media behemoth revealed the launch of its XR Programs and Research Fund – a two-year initiative that will financially back various projects and efforts to explore the future of digital social interactions in metaverse environments.
In case you’re unfamiliar with the term, “metaverse” refers to a shared digital world (think the recent films Ready Player One and Free Guy, or Tron, if you’re old school).
The concept is an interconnected and immersive online space, only limited by imagination, that can be used for gaming, social interactions, work, networking, shopping and much more.
Many metaverse projects could eventually integrate Oculus-style virtual reality tech, for full immersion. It’s a potential revolution (yep, another one) being built under our noses.
Some of the most prominent (and promising) blockchain-based metaverse projects either in development or already functioning in some capacity, include: the OG decentralised world Decentraland (MANA); Australian project Illuvium (ILV); Solana’s buzzy sci-fi world Star Atlas (ATLAS); pixel-tastic The Sandbox (SAND); play-to-earn smash hit Axie Infinity (AXS) and Wilder World (WILD), which has also been creating plenty of social-media noise lately.
“The metaverse won’t be built overnight by a single company,” reads the Facebook announcement. “We’ll collaborate with policymakers, experts and industry partners to bring this to life.
“Its success depends on building robust interoperability across services, so different companies’ experiences can work together.”
The initiative’s initial partners include Women in Immersive Tech, the Organization of American States, and African organisations: Electric South, Africa No Filter, and Imisi3D.
Mark Zuckerberg’s company also plans to collaborate with researchers at leading tech-focused Asian universities, including Seoul National University, The University of Hong Kong, and the National University of Singapore.
“We also need to involve the human rights and civil rights communities from the start to ensure these technologies are built in a way that’s inclusive and empowering,” said Facebook.
As a wholly centralised, extremely powerful, data-controlling entity, however, it’s well documented that Facebook, has many, many critics – especially within crypto circles. And this new announcement has met with a healthy amount of scepticism. For example…
It would certainly come as no surprise if crypto’s metaverse and DAO (decentralised autonomous organisation) builders aren’t sold when Facebook talks about “responsible” development.
As for Kieran Warwick, Sydney-based founder of gaming project Illuvium, he thinks mega, centralised organisations could cause a few waves with metaverse moves.
“I’m 100 per cent a believer in gaming as a whole moving to a decentralised model governed by community,” said Warwick, speaking to Stockhead via Telegram today.
“But crypto-native people tend to live in a bubble. It’s not as complex to work out as people think. Therefore, if a behemoth comes in with more capital and resources, they could actually do serious damage in this space.”
Nevertheless, the social-media giant clearly has at least some self-awareness of its image and seems keen to show it understands the metaverse isn’t something one company can create or monopolise.
“Just like the internet, the metaverse exists whether Facebook is there or not,” reads the blog post. “And it won’t be built overnight. Many of these products will only be fully realized in the next 10-15 years.”