“Metaverse” is a term used to describe a virtual environment that immerses users in an interconnected internet space. Certain companies have utilized metaverse-like features within their apps, especially in social media and online shopping.
“I mean, if you look at Snap today, they have the closest thing to the metaverse,” Thill said. Snapchat has developed an interface which allows users to create their own virtual emoji characters (dubbed Bitmojis), dress them in outfits, and place them on a 3D map on the app.
“You can try on clothes and see how they match right now with these augmented reality lenses,” Thill said. “I mean, Snap is, in my opinion, way ahead of Facebook there. So we’ve got a lot of work to do.”
Facebook has recently ventured into the metaverse, though the program is still in its infancy. The social media company announced Monday that it expected to heavily increase investment in augmented and virtual reality.
“We’ve said Snap is already ahead of them, in our opinion, in terms of these experiences,” Thill said. “So if you want to play the metaverse right now, I think Snap’s a better way to play it. Facebook will get there.”
Thill stressed that Snap was far more popular among younger people than Facebook and even Instagram.
“If you look at where teenagers are spending time, they don’t have their head down on their phone after school on Instagram,” he said. “They have their heads down on Snap because they can see their buddies on the Snap map. They can see all the stories and everything that’s getting posted. They can see the video games, the content. And Facebook really doesn’t have that level of detail.”
Facebook lacks the same depth and level of immersion of Snapchat’s virtual environment, Thill noted. “So if you go into Facebook Shops today, it’s OK. It’s not amazing,” Thill said. “But when you have a richer experience and you’re able to put the pants and the shirt on or put the coat on, and look at, does this match my ski helmet or whatever you’re doing, you can transact. And that is incredible for their commerce business repayments. It’s great for their small business merchants.”
Facebook’s foray into the metaverse is part of a larger push to become more attractive to a younger demographic. Recent data suggests that one of the most pressing issues facing the company is falling youth engagement. According to documents accessed by Bloomberg, Facebook experienced a 16% year-over-year decline in the time spent using the platform among teens from 2020 to 2021. Young adults between 18 and 29 years old spent 5% less time on Facebook during the same period.
Creating a more immersive metaverse may help increase the social media giant’s success with Generation Z consumers, the company hopes. Andrew Bosworth, a longtime Facebook executive, was recently appointed chief technology officer and placed in charge of augmented and virtual reality for the company.
“[We are] excited to get an early look at some of the technologies that will underpin the metaverse,” Bosworth said in a tweet earlier this month regarding Facebook’s attitudes towards work on the metaverse. “We work on several prototype headsets to prove out concepts, this is one of them.”
Ihsaan Fanusie is a writer at Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter @IFanusie.