Meta‘s obsession with monopolizing the new digital frontier of the Metaverse has now attracted the attention of the United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Meta’s history of anti-competitive behavior is well-known. Its monopoly over social media has often been a sore point for denizens of the internet, while its data farming practices have placed users’ safety at risk several times. However, its moves in the Metaverse industry have been seen as a blatant power grab to own the next generation of the internet.
From the moment Facebook’s parent company changed its name to Meta, early Metaverse pioneers have reacted with contempt. The idea of the Metaverse has existed far longer than Mark Zuckerberg’s push to appropriate it, owing its origins to the Neal Stephenson novel Snow Crash published in 1992. This novel depicted a virtual world where people lived their lives in virtual avatars, an idea that has fascinated sci-fi enthusiasts for decades. The Metaverse picked up steam in recent years due to the blockchain industry, where blockchain-based virtual worlds like Decentraland and The Sandbox pioneered the use case of NFTs for Metaverse real estate on a fully decentralized network that no single corporation could control.
According to The Block, the FTC is now suing Meta over its recent attempt to acquire rival Metaverse company Unlimited and its VR fitness app, Supernatural. Meta already has a stranglehold on the public perception of the Metaverse, and the FTC is directly calling out this attempt to monopolize the new internet frontier. This isn’t the first time the FTC has sued the social media titan for monopolization – it did back in 2020 under the same accusation of anti-competitive conduct. Just as Facebook came to dominate Web2, Meta wants to dominate Web3.
Meta’s concept of the Metaverse is an obvious attempt to stay relevant through marketing its VR headsets and expanding the amount of user data it can gather. As Meta’s poorly attended Metaverse concerts proved in January this year, people are either not ready for the Metaverse, don’t care about the Metaverse, or hate the idea of the Metaverse. Many people within the blockchain industry despise Meta for stealing the Metaverse name that was previously used by their subculture. For them, the idea of centralized Facebook NFTs and having to use Zuck Bucks in Meta’s Metaverse goes against what the Metaverse originally stood for, as neither of these things would be stored on a blockchain, and could thus be stolen or frozen by a “Zuckerbot“.
Fortunately, just because Meta owns the intellectual property rights for the root word “Metaverse” doesn’t mean it will take the throne. Graphics card giant Nvidia has a vested interest in a Metaverse that is nonexclusive to Meta, and has been quietly building the foundation for a decentralized VR/AR empire through the Omniverse platform. Omniverse standardizes the way graphics are handled across virtual scenes and worlds, thus providing a decentralized alternative to Meta’s centralized closed-garden world. Meta’s ambitions are likely to hit stumbling blocks due to the sheer computing power and internet upgrades that will be needed to meet its vision, requiring full-body movements to be captured and broadcast to other people during activities like virtual business meetings.
With Meta now facing a lawsuit for its attempts to monopolize the Metaverse, the anger of Metaverse pioneers is now somewhat vindicated. Meta has proven over many years that it will not stop until it holds complete power over the internet, and a few lawsuits and fines are just the cost of doing business for the company. The lawsuit might not only slow down Meta, but also set a precedent to prevent more rival acquisitions.