Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg announced on Thursday that the social media giant will be renamed ‘Meta’ to mark an initiation into the “metaverse” that will seek to bring together real and virtual worlds. 

Zuckerberg’s statement came as a remarkable pivot in
messaging for the social-media giant, especially because the implications of
metaverse on digital life remain to be sufficiently explained.

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So, what is the “metaverse”?

Metaverse has been a buzzword in the Silicon Valley
for quite some time now. The pursuit of the metaverse has become an obsession
for anyone trying to predict and profit form what technology has to offer over
the next decade.

The metaverse, according to Zuckerberg, is “a
virtual environment where you can be present with people in digital spaces.” It’s
an “embodied Internet that you’re inside rather than just looking at. We
believe that this is going to be a successor to the mobile Internet.”

The word “metaverse” has literary origins. In Neal
Stephenson’s 1992 novel “Snow Crash”, the protagonist immerses himself in
metaverse — “a computer-generated universe that is computer is drawing onto his
goggles and pumping into his earphones”.

What will the metaverse mean for us?

Zuckerberg says that in the metaverse “you’re
basically going to be able to do everything you can on the Internet today as
well as some things that don’t make sense, like dancing”.

In the future, we may walk through Facebook instead
of scrolling through it, wear clothes on social media platforms and even own

Further, in South Korea, for example, there is a “metaverse
alliance” working on persuading government and companies to collaborate and set
up a national virtual reality (VR) platform. A big part of this is finding ways
to blend smartphones, 5G networks, augmented reality, virtual currencies and
social networks.

Are there reasons to be apprehensive of the metaverse?

The promise of metaverse notwithstanding, there
are several aspects of the meeting of the digital and physical world that could
fairly cause one to be apprehensive. Even now, our government systems,
processes and laws protecting us from criminal activity on the internet is
vastly inadequate.

Developing countries, especially democracies like India
which pool in the largest amount of data possible, lack robust data protection
legislation. Moreover, a coming together of the digital and physical within
existing social media frameworks will give a few social media companies, who
have no democratic oversight supervising them, virtual monopoly over
determining terms of deciding on principles and community codes for its