For Facebook, things can only get Meta
Facebook’s new name – Meta – aims to reflect the company’s ambition to create an online “metaverse” where people can game, work and communicate in a virtual environment, often using VR headsets.
Facebook’s primary social app, launched by Mark Zuckerberg in 2004 – will continue with its original name, as will subsidiaries including WhatsApp and Instagram, which will all fall under Meta Platforms.
The company said it would better “encompass” what it does, as it broadens its reach beyond social media into areas like virtual reality (VR). The social media giant acquired VR headset maker Oculus in 2014, and this is the next step along its VR journey.
Announcing Meta, Zuckerberg said the existing brand could not “possibly represent everything that we’re doing today, let alone in the future”, and needed to change.
“Over time, I hope that we are seen as a metaverse company and I want to anchor our work and our identity on what we’re building towards,” he told a virtual conference.
“We’re now looking at and reporting on our business as two different segments, one for our family of apps, and one for our work on future platforms.
“And as part of this, it is time for us to adopt a new company brand to encompass everything that we do, to reflect who we are and what we hope to build.”
The move also opens Facebook up to future technology partnerships as it looks at how society might function in the future.
In a Founders’ Letter, Zuckerberg set out his visions, explaining: “The metaverse will not be created by one company. It will be built by creators and developers making new experiences and digital items that are interoperable and unlock a massively larger creative economy than the one constrained by today’s platforms and their policies.”
The concept of a “metaverse” – an entirely digital world with a functioning economy persistent, shared, 3D virtual spaces linked into a perceived virtual universe has often been labelled as the next evolution of the internet, after it was first coined in Neal Stephenson’s 1992 science fiction novel Snow Crash. In the last decade, numerous standards bodies such as the IEEE have worked to develop common standards, interfaces, and communication protocols among virtual environments.
According to Business Insider, Meta is looking to hire up to 10,000 people to build the metaverse, although little detail was given regarding a timeframe for this.
The rebrand comes at a difficult time for Facebook, which has faced criticism over its handling of disinformation, user privacy and user safety. Leaked documents from former employee Frances Haugen accused the company of putting “profits over safety”.
Haugen claimed Facebook sat on research that showed Instagram harmed teenage mental health, and struggled to remove hate speech from its platforms outside the US, something the company has denied.
Facebook is not the first of the big tech giants to announce a rebrand. In 2015, Google rebranded its parent company as Alphabet, with the Google platform retaining its name, and Alphabet overseeing its other units, such as YouTube. Despite this, the company is still widely referred to as Google, highlighting one of the major challenges the newly named “Meta” faces.
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