Metaverse not a concern, does not need regulation yet, says EU antitrust chief

Is Zuckerberg on a wild goose chase or a genius who can see the future?
Ameya Paleja
Metaverse promises a digital world for work and play
Metaverse promises a digital world for work and play


Margrethe Vestager, the European Commissioner for Competition, believes that the metaverse has not triggered any concerns so far and does not require any regulation yet, Reuters reported. Vestager comments were made ahead of a presentation she will make to competition regulators next week.

Metaverse is the term used to define a digital virtual world accessed via the internet. The term made headlines when Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg made it the central theme of a corporate rebranding exercise two years ago and later spent billions of dollars building up this virtual world that everybody would visit for work, socializing, and entertainment.

Zuckerberg's initial push toward building the metaverse also sent other businesses, such as banks, fashion outlets, and even celebrities, into the rush to secure their virtual addresses in this brand-new world. Digital real estate prices went through the roof around this period, which coincided with the pandemic years that saw a push toward digital lives.

Two years later, though, the world is returning to the pre-pandemic normal, and there isn't much talk about the metaverse. According to Vestager, it is not an area that needs to be regulated.

Regulation in the digital world

Digital technology has given us multiple products or services that call for greater regulation. Right from when Microsoft packed a web browser for free to the floating of new cryptocurrencies that could potentially shake up the world's financial systems, lawmakers are always on the lookout for when they need to step in and draw the line.

The rapid roll-out of artificial intelligence (AI) models earlier this year also drew much attention. Still, as happens with technology, the waves die down after making a large splash but little impact on ground realities.

Metaverse, too, went through a similar cycle, where businesses were keen to ensure that remained occupied a prominent place in this new world and remained relevant. But it is now in a phase where there aren't concerns about any company dominating the market.

Did Zuckerberg get it wrong then?

Interesting Engineering has previously reported how Zuckerberg's Meta spent billions of dollars on building the metaverse without anything spectacular to showcase. It wasn't just Meta alone that was eyeing growth in this area.

Metaverse not a concern, does not need regulation yet, says EU antitrust chief
Image representing Meta's vision of the metaverse

Apple's recently unveiled Vision Pro mixed reality headset is also a step in this direction, although the company is not explicitly calling it for the metaverse. For a brief period, Microsoft was also looking at its Teams offering as a possible metaverse solution before the hype around the metaverse ended.

Meta itself isn't talking much about the metaverse these days, rolling out a look-alike text-based social media platform, which could not be further away from the digital world it was promising a few years ago.

Vestager does not think there are any competition concerns now that must be addressed. However, her upcoming presentation will focus on the industry dynamics instead.

Even though the term metaverse might be a dud, for now, innovations that could one day power the virtual world are afoot, and it is there that the regulation is needed. Verstager told reporters that legislation drafted to check the dominance of Big Tech in recent years could also be applied to the metaverse in the future.

The lawmakers did not have to jump in to regulate the metaverse for now, but other concerns needed work and implementation.

Perhaps, in a few years, when technologies eventually improve, Meta could once again drum the beat of the metaverse, and Zuckerberg be called a genius for envisioning it so early. Or he might gobble up all the social media platforms ever to exist and be the guy advertisers flock to for data on people.

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