Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been a leading voice on the hype of the "metaverse," a virtual reality version of the internet that the tech giant sees as the future.
The metaverse, short for "meta-universe," is a digital world where the real and virtual merge into a vision of science fiction and allows people to move between different devices and communicate in a virtual environment.
In practical terms, it refers to augmented and virtual reality products and services.
On Monday, Facebook announced in a blog post it plans to hire 10,000 people in the European Union to build the metaverse.
"The metaverse has the potential to help unlock access to new creative, social, and economic opportunities. And Europeans will be shaping it right from the start," Facebook said in a blog post.
"In the coming years, I expect people will transition from seeing us primarily as a social media company to seeing us as a metaverse company."
"Today, we are announcing a plan to create 10,000 new high-skilled jobs within the European Union (EU) over the next five years".
The social media giant also said investing in the EU offered many advantages, including access to a large consumer market, first-class universities, and high-quality talent.
What is the metaverse?
The term designates a cyberspace parallel to physical reality where a community of people can interact in the form of avatars. The concept was coined by author Neal Stephenson in the 1992 science fiction novel "Snow Crash". It refers to the merging of physical, augmented, and virtual reality in a shared online space.
Some video game communities have already created embryos of meta-universes, such as Roblox (a platform that includes myriads of games created by children and teenagers) or Fortnite (a shooter and survival game that boasts 350 million players).
In April, five virtual concerts by rapper Travis Scott, who appeared as an avatar in Fortnite, were followed by more than 12 million gamers.
Gradually, screens, holograms, VR headsets and augmented reality glasses will allow fluid "movements" of virtual universes in physical places, a process Zuckerberg likened to "teleportations".
'The ultimate social technology'
Facebook has previously announced it would create a product team to work specifically on metaverse-related projects.
"In the coming years, I expect people will transition from seeing us primarily as a social media company to seeing us as a metaverse company," Zuckerberg said in July.
"In many ways the metaverse is the ultimate expression of social technology".
Facebook, the world's largest social network, has invested heavily in virtual reality and augmented reality, acquiring hardware such as the Oculus VR headset and working on AR glasses and wristband technologies.
It has also purchased a bevy of VR gaming studios, including BigBox VR. It has about 10,000 employees working on virtual reality, The Information reported in March.
Zuckerberg has said he thinks it makes sense to invest deeply to shape what he bets will be the next big computing platform.
"I believe the 'metaverse' will be the successor to the mobile internet, and creating this product group is the next step in our journey to help build it," he said in a Facebook post in July.
He told The Verge in July: "If we do this well, I think over the next five years or so ... we will effectively transition from people seeing us as primarily being a social media company to being a 'metaverse' company".