Facebook is planning to hire 10,000 people in the EU to develop a so-called “metaverse,” it announced on Monday. This is an online world where people can game, work and communicate in a virtual environment, often using VR headsets.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been a leading voice on the metaverse concept. The announcement comes as Facebook deals with the fallout of a damaging scandal and faces increased calls for regulation to curb its influence.
“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,” Facebook said in a blog post.
The new jobs being created over the next five years will include “highly specialized engineers,” the company said. Facebook has made building the metaverse one of its major priorities.
Investing in the EU offered many advantages, including access to a large consumer market, first-class universities and high-quality talent, Facebook said in its metaverse announcement.
Facebook says metaverse will not be built overnight
Despite its history of buying up rivals, Facebook claims the metaverse “won’t be built overnight by a single company” and has promised to collaborate. It recently invested $50 million in funding non-profit groups to help “build the metaverse responsibly.”
But Facebook thinks the true metaverse idea will take another 10 to 15 years to be completed. Unlike current Virtual Reality (VR) projects, mostly used for gaming, the metaverse virtual world could be used for practically anything: Work, play, concerts, cinema trips – or just hanging out.
Being still just an idea, there’s no single agreed definition of the metaverse. However, there is a huge amount of excitement about the metaverse among wealthy investors and big tech firms. No-one wants to be left behind if it turns out to be the future of the internet.
Facebook invested heavily in virtual reality through its Oculus headsets. It made them cheaper than rivals – perhaps even at a loss, according to some analysts. It’s also building VR apps for social hangouts and for the workplace, including ones that interact with the real world.
Virtual Reality is the future
The tech giant has been experimenting with a VR meetings app called Workplace, and a social space called Horizons, both of which use their virtual avatar systems. Metaverse is Facebook’s most promising project.
Some critics say this latest metaverse announcement is designed to re-establish the company’s reputation. It is meant to divert attention, they say, after a series of damaging Facebook scandals in recent months.
This included revelations from whistleblower Frances Haugen, who worked as a product manager on the civic integrity team at Facebook. According to her, Facebook sacrifices its news integrity to profiteering.
Internal research by Facebook found that Instagram, which it owns, was affecting the mental health of teenagers. But Facebook did not share its findings when they suggested that the platform was a “toxic” place for many youngsters.