The New (upcoming) World Built by Facebook

Mark Zuckerberg presenting Facebook Horizon virtual world

Mark Zuckerberg presenting Facebook Horizon virtual world

When Facebook acquired Oculus, a virtual reality headset maker, for $2 billion the MIT Technology Review highlighted that Facebook acquired virtual reality startup because it believed that virtual reality could be the next big thing after mobile. Fast forward 3 years later, some business publications pointed out that Oculus was a headache for Facebook and that it was not paying off. Yesterday, Facebook finally revealed why this technology is worthwhile for the social network giant. 

The social network giant revealed a plan to build a virtual world, called Facebook Horizon, that will be accessible via the Oculus Rift headsets. As interest in Facebook is waning, Facebook Horizon could become the saviour of the social network giant. Facebook Horizon is a virtual reality sandbox universe where you can build your own environments and games, play and socialize with friends or just explore the user-generated landscapes. Facebook Horizon will enable virtual presence for human beings to do exactly what they do in real life in the virtual world. A human being will have a version of himself/herself or an avatar in a virtual world. Facebook Horizon is planned to be launched in 2020 initially in closed beta (meaning only for a select few users). Through Facebook Horizon, Facebook will truly become a hardware and social network company which is rare in the social network business eco-system. It will mean that to participate in the Facebook virtual  world you will need a headset designed by Facebook.

In this virtual world people will choose how they look and what they wear from an expansive and inclusive set of avatar tools which will be created by Facebook. This is huge for Facebook bottomline. It will be a world with virtual billboards for brands, Facebook-run shops for playing and living in the virtual world, third-party malls full of branded products.  The value of Facebook Horizon cannot be underestimated. It will enable Facebook to have another revenue source beyond just advertising. 

Facebook has invited early adopters to signup to form part of early citizens of  its virtual world. Before signing up, interested ones are informed about rules of becoming  citizens on this virtual world. Through Facebook Horizon, Facebook is reinventing social networks. In the past Facebook has committed acts that impacts on its trust. As future citizens of this new virtual world decide to become citizens it will be important to make informed decisions before getting into a situation that cannot be corrected.

If Mark Zuckerberg ever harbored dreams of world dominion, Facebook Horizon is a perfect platform to fulfill those dreams. If users were fooled in the past to join the giant social network, this time around there’s an opportunity to reflect.

The Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes wrote an essay for The New York Times in which he suggested that  Mark Zuckerberg is a “good, kind person” but one whose “power is unprecedented” and whose “influence is staggering, far beyond that of anyone else in the private sector or in government.” The Facebook Horizon will take that power to levels we’ve never seen before. As Facebook Horizon is styled after Second Life platform which has been around for the last 13 years, it will be important to learn from the mistakes committed with Second Life platform which at some point had as many as 900,000 users on its own virtual world. The platform grew to have its own in world economy which led to a series of legal and regulatory challenges.

The Facebook virtual world will probably grow more than the Second Life platform,if it does, we should brace ourselves for new challenges and opportunities that will come with the new virtual world.

Kay Ann