With reports that Facebook Inc. is expected to rebrand as a metaverse company, the not-so-novel term has made its way into headlines around the world.
Technology news website The Verge reported Tuesday that the company, known for its social network and messaging platforms, will announce a new company name to better reflect its ambitions to build the metaverse.
“Facebook has plenty of reasons to want us to look at something else,” said Beth Coleman, a professor at the University of Toronto’s Institute of Communications, Culture, Information and Technology.
But beyond Facebook’s legal challenges, experts say the metaverse could be the next frontier of the social web where companies create new platforms to hook users.
What is the metaverse?
Like many modern technologies, the idea has roots in science fiction. Neal Stephenson’s novel Snow Crash first mentioned the metaverse in 1992, describing it as a shared, virtual space where users can interact.
It isn’t a platform or experience owned by one single company. While it’s often used to describe digital worlds in which users can communicate, play and do business with others, the idea is much broader.
“It’s this kind of catch-all term for anything that seems like it’s something that comes after the mobile internet, which was the thing that came after the desktop internet,” said Adi Robertson, senior reporter for The Verge.
Ramona Pringle, an associate professor at the Ryerson University RTA School of Media, says it’s an idea decades in the making. Virtual spaces inhabited by digital avatars — popularized by the virtual world of Second Life in the 2000s — promised to “take over our lives” long before social networks had users glued to their phones all day long.
The metaverse as it’s now described would be an evolution from that original idea combined with social networking as we know it today, she says.
Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technology is expected to a driving force for the virtual worlds by creating immersive experiences for users, and could further blur the lines between real and digital life.
WATCH | Tech reporter says Facebook is on the verge of a massive rebrand:
What will users do there?
Facebook’s vision of the metaverse isn’t too far off from Stephenson’s sci-fi concept.
The company describes it as a “set of virtual spaces where you can create and explore with other people who aren’t in the same physical space as you.”
But the metaverse will go beyond providing space to chat with new and old avatar-based friends. In the video game worlds of Roblox and Fortnite, early entrants to the metaverse popular among younger players, pop stars have held live concerts and digital goods are traded for in-game currency, for example.
“There’s this desire to be more immersive and … an active participant in these virtual experiences because we realize that we’re just going to have to spend a lot more time there and we’re OK with that,” said Annie Zhang, host of the podcast Hello Metaverse and a senior product designer at Roblox.
Zhang predicts a future with economies that transcend the real world — an idea that began years ago in Second Life.
She says content creators could use virtual platforms to sell and release new music or videos, freeing some from the constraints of algorithms they say devalue their work.
Others may turn to virtual worlds to buy and sell “land” or other goods using cryptocurrency and non-fungible tokens (NTF), said Zhang. That’s already happening in Decentraland, a platform that uses the Ethereum blockchain.
“It’s a product of people not feeling like one they have control or an understanding of systems that they have to participate in,” she said, noting concerns that younger generations will struggle to own property in the real world as one example.
Currently, platforms like Roblox and Fortnite operate as walled gardens, run by the companies that own them. Some imagine a future within the metaverse where users could wander between worlds with a single avatar, carrying goods they’ve created or own from one platform to another.
Why is Facebook getting in on this?
Interest in building the metaverse is likely driven by financial goals and collecting user data for marketing, Pringle says. She expects companies will advertise on metaverse platforms, bringing in revenue for the companies that host them.
That could make the metaverse “a very compelling, very sticky and very immersive medium for ads” with users “still being targeted by people who want to sell us either products or ideologies,” Pringle said.
A shift toward the metaverse also serves as a rebuke of social media. For users unhappy about how social networks are “splintering society” or impacting users’ mental health, companies are promoting their investments into new kinds of experiences as a way forward, Pringle said.
Though Facebook’s push into the metaverse comes at the same time it’s under fire, Coleman notes that the company has been laying the groundwork for years.
Facebook purchased Oculus, a startup that builds VR headsets, back in 2014.
After years of what she calls “mediocre” virtual worlds built by various companies, Coleman says the success of the metaverse will ultimately depend on what company releases the “killer app” that users flock to.
Given Facebook Inc.’s success connecting people online — it boasts more than 2.85 billion monthly users on Facebook alone — it could be the company to do just that, she adds.
“If you were going to bet on a horse in terms of who is going to make this important to not just a population, but globally, you’d say that Facebook has a pretty damn good track record.”
Written by Jason Vermes with files from Sameer Chhabra and Reuters.
Tentative deal between union workers and beef producer Cargill struck | CTV News – CTV News Calgary
With less than a week to go before workers were set to go on strike at Cargill’s High River, Alta. beef processing plant, the company says a tentative deal has been reached.
The company announced the development on Wednesday and says it is “encouraged by the outcome” of recent talks.
“After a long day of collaborative discussion, we reached an agreement on an offer that the bargaining committee will recommend to its members. The offer is comprehensive and fair and includes retroactive pay, signing bonuses, a 21 per cent wage increase over the life of the contract and improved health benefits,” Cargill wrote in a statement to CTV News via email.
The company adds it also “remains optimistic” a deal can be finalized before the strike deadline.
“(We) encourage employees to vote on this offer which recognizes the important role they play in Cargill’s work to nourish the world in a safe, responsible and sustainable way. While we navigate this negotiation, we continue to focus on fulfilling food manufacturer, retail and food service customer orders while keeping markets moving for farmers and ranchers,” it wrote.
The United Food and Commercial Workers’ Union (UFCW) Local 401 was expected to go on strike on Dec. 6.
It rejected the most recent attempt at a deal on Nov. 25 by a 98 per cent margin.
According to a statement from UFCW Local 401, the negotiating team engaged in “a marathon day” of talks with the company on Tuesday.
“Late in the evening, our bargaining committee concluded that they were in receipt of a fair offer and that they were prepared to present that offer to their coworkers with a recommendation of acceptance,” it wrote in a statement.
The union says the tentative deal will “significantly improve” the lives of Cargill workers and will be the ‘best food processing contract in Canada.”
Highlights from the deal include:
- $4,200 in retroactive pay for many employees;
- $1,000 signing bonus;
- $1,000 COVID-19 bonus;
- More than $6,000 total bonuses for workers three weeks before Christmas;
- $5 wage increase for many employees;
- Improved health benefits; and
- Provisions to facilitate a new culture of health, safety, dignity and respect in the workplace
While UFCW Local 401 president Thomas Hesse calls the deal “fair,” he will support workers on the picket line if they decide to reject the proposal.
“If they do accept it, I’ll work with them every day to make Cargill a better workplace,” Hesse said in a statement. “I will do as our members ask me to do.
“I respect all of the emotions that they feel and the suffering that they have experienced.”
Employees are expected the vote on the new deal between Dec. 2 and 4.
Afterpay delays vote on $29 billion buyout as Square awaits Spain’s nod
Afterpay Ltd will delay a shareholder meet to approve Square Inc’s $29-billion buyout of the Australian buy now, pay later leader, as the Jack Dorsey-led payment company awaits regulatory nod in Spain.
The investor meet was set for Dec. 6, but Afterpay said it would likely take place next year as Square, which has rebranded itself to Block Inc, is likely to get an approval from the Bank of Spain only in mid-January.
The delay is unlikely to impact the completion of Australia‘s biggest deal, which is set for the first quarter of 2022, Afterpay said.
“We continue to believe the risks of the transaction closing are minimal,” RBC Capital Markets analyst Chami Ratnapala said in a brief client note.
Meanwhile, Twitter Inc co-founder Dorsey is expected to focus on Square after stepping down as chief executive of the social media platform as it looks to expand beyond its payment business and into new technologies like blockchain.
Afterpay shares fell more than 6%, far underperforming the broader Australian market, tracking Square’s 6.6% drop overnight in U.S. market on worries over the Omicron variant.
(Reporting by Nikhil Kurian, Sameer Manekar and Indranil Sarkar in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva, Rashmi Aich and Arun Koyyur)
Canada Goose under fresh fire in China over no-return policies
China’s top consumer protection organisation has warned Canada Goose Holdings Inc against “bullying” customers in China with its return policies, just three months after the winterwear brand was fined for false advertising.
The premium down jacket manufacturer has been a hot topic on Chinese social media in recent days over its handling of a case involving a customer who wanted a refund of her purchases amounting to 11,400 yuan ($1,790.17) after finding quality issues.
She said she was told by Canada Goose that all products sold at its retail stores in mainland China were strictly non-refundable, according to her account which went viral online.
State-backed media such as the Global Times newspaper later cited Canada Goose as denying that it had a no-refund policy and that all products sold at its retail stores in mainland China were refundable in line with Chinese laws. The company did not respond to Reuters’ request for comment.
That has not failed to quell criticism of the brand.
“No brand has any privileges in front of consumers,” the government-backed China Consumer Association (CCA) said in an opinion piece posted on its website on Thursday morning.
“If you don’t do what you say, regard yourself as a big brand, behave arrogantly and in a superior way, adopt discriminatory policies, be condescending and bully customers, you will for sure lose the trust of consumers and be abandoned by the market,” the CCA said.
Representatives of the brand were summoned for talks on Wednesday by the Shanghai Consumer Council to explain its refund policy in China.
The dressing down of Canada Goose comes as tension between China and Western countries has fuelled patriotism and driven some shoppers to turn to home-grown labels.
Canada Goose was also fined 450,000 yuan in September in China for “misleading” consumers in its ads.
($1 = 6.3681 Chinese yuan renminbi)
(Reporting by Sophie Yu, Brenda Goh; Editing by Kim Coghill)
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