Metaverse is the next big thing for Meta – formerly Facebook – and rightly so, because that may be what the future of virtual communication will look like. But for Thea-Mai Baumann, an Australian artist and technologist, it was a nightmare. Baumann’s Instagram handle @metaverse, which she started back in 2012 to promote her creative work, vanished right after Facebook became Meta with a rejuvenated focus on metaverse.
According to The New York Times, Baumann’s Instagram handle – @metaverse – was blocked suddenly on November 2. Instagram began to suggest to Baumann that her handle was blocked because it was “pretending to be someone else” – after around nine years – everytime she would log in using her credentials. And that coincidentally happened right after Meta was announced as Facebook streamlined its focus on metaverse.
Baumann had fewer than 1,000 followers on Instagram through the @metaverse handle when Facebook’s announcement arrived, and right after the Mark Zuckerberg-led company changed its name to Meta, she began receiving messages from strangers offering to buy her Instagram handle. Some even tipped her about how rich she would become if she sold the handle at the right price. But a warning that her handle was going to be snatched turned into a nightmare that Baumann had never wished to see.
“This account is a decade of my life and work. I didn’t want my contribution to the metaverse to be wiped from the internet,” she told NYT. “That happens to women in tech, to women of color in tech, all the time,” added Baumann, who has Vietnamese heritage.
Baumann did her best to gain back control of her account. She tried to reverify it with Instagram but her requests did not elicit any responses, and that is how weeks passed. She even consulted an intellectual property lawyer, but she could only afford a review of Instagram’s terms of service.
Her brand Metaverse Makeovers, which is what her Instagram handle was promoting before the surreptitious takedown, is how Baumann showcases to the world her augmented reality-based creative work. Started in 2012, Metaverse Makeovers owns an app, which, when placed above one of the intricate real-world fingernail designs created by her team with the help of a phone, would show a “hologram” popping out of it.
Baumann wanted to scale this technology, which arrived when neither Snapchat’s AR platform nor Pokemon Go existed, to clothing and accessories, but she ran out of investment money in 2017. She stuck to the creative arts after that. And her handle @metaverse was how she was promoting her work unless it was snatched – although temporarily.
While the NYT does not say what happened after its report was out, Baumann’s metaverse handle seems to have been reinstated on Instagram. At the time of writing, she gained followers, too. Baumann now has a little under 2,500 followers as opposed to somewhere around 1,000 previously. And Meta still does not own a “metaverse” handle on Instagram.