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Facebook to hire 10,000 in EU to help build the ‘Metaverse’

On October 17th, Nick Clegg, VP Global Affairs, and Javier Olivan, VP Central Products, announced in a statement a plan to create 10,000 new high-skilled jobs within the European Union (EU) over the next five years in order to build “the next computing platform”. This plan is also a way for Facebook to put down more roots in Europe.

This plan is in line with Mark Zuckerberg's announcement on 22 July of his intention to transform Facebook from a social media network into a “metaverse company” in the next five years.

The Metaverse is a collective virtual shared space, created by the convergence of virtually enhanced physical reality and physically persistent virtual space, including the sum of all virtual worlds, augmented reality, and the internet. The word "metaverse" is made up of the prefix "meta" (meaning beyond) and the stem "verse" (a backformation from "universe"); the term is typically used to describe the concept of a future internet, made up of persistent, shared, 3D virtual spaces linked into a perceived virtual universe.

“Closer to the experience of interacting in person”

“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”, Clegg and Olivan explained in their statement. “No one company will own and operate the metaverse. Like the internet, its key feature will be its openness and interoperability”, they continued. “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.”

Facebook has invested heavily in virtual reality and augmented reality, developing hardware such as its Oculus VR headsets and working on AR glasses and wristband technologies. It has also bought a bevy of VR gaming studios, including BigBox VR. It has about 10,000 employees working on virtual reality, The Information reported in March.

Zuckerberg has said he thinks it makes sense to invest deeply to shape what he bets will be the next big computing platform. "I believe the metaverse will be the successor to the mobile internet, and creating this product group is the next step in our journey to help build it," said Zuckerberg in a Facebook post earlier this year.

On 19 August, Facebook also announced the launch of the Horizon Workrooms virtual reality remote collaboration application, which allows up to 16 people (represented by avatars) to gather in a virtual meeting room to exchange, share documents and make decisions.

A call for the completion of the Digital Single Market

But beyond the development of new technologies, Facebook is also showing its desire to establish a more lasting presence in Europe at a time when GAFAMs are increasingly under scrutiny from Brussels. “This investment is a vote of confidence in the strength of the European tech industry and the potential of European tech talent”, Clegg and Oliva said.

Facebook does not want a break-up of the European digital market but instead calls for a single digital market: “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.”

Metaverse concept origins

The term Metaverse was coined in Neal Stephenson's 1992 science fiction novel “Snow Crash”, where humans, as avatars, interact with each other and software agents, in a three-dimensional space that uses the metaphor of the real world. Stephenson used the term to describe a virtual reality-based successor to the internet. Concepts similar to the Metaverse have appeared under a variety of names in the cyberpunk genre of fiction as far back as 1981 in the novella “True Names”.