The social media platform meta, which has been chastised for spreading disinformation and other concerns, said the change was part of its bet on the metaverse, a new digital frontier.
SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. — Over the last two decades, Facebook has been synonymous with some of the most identifiable branding in the world: a large blue and white letter F.
That is no longer the case. On Thursday, the social networking giant took a clear step toward a makeover, rebranding itself as Meta and de-emphasizing Facebook’s name. The update was accompanied by a new company logo that was fashioned in the shape of an infinity symbol that was slightly off-kilter. Facebook’s other programs, such as Instagram and WhatsApp, will continue to exist, but under the Meta banner.
The move exemplifies how Facebook’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, intends to refocus his Silicon Valley firm on what he sees as the next digital frontier: the integration of diverse digital realms into something termed the metaverse. At the same time, changing Facebook may help the firm remove itself from the current social networking concerns, such as how it is used to disseminate hate speech and disinformation.
Mr. Zuckerberg said during a virtual gathering on Thursday to highlight Facebook’s technical bets on the future, “I’ve been thinking a lot about our identity” with this new chapter. “I’d like to think of us as a metaverse corporation in the future.”
Mr. Zuckerberg signaled with the change that his company was moving beyond today’s social networking, which has been the foundation of Facebook since its inception 17 years ago. He claimed that having Facebook as the company name was no longer viable because the company now owned several apps and was primarily about connecting people.
Mr. Zuckerberg noted that this was especially true given Facebook’s commitment to creating a composite universe that combines online, virtual, and augmented worlds for people to easily navigate. He believes that the metaverse, as he refers to it, will be the next major social platform, with multiple tech companies working on it over the next ten years.
Facebook divided its virtual reality and augmented reality businesses into a subsidiary known as Facebook Reality Labs on Monday, signaling its aim to be a major participant.
However, because the concept is theoretical, it will take time for Facebook to evolve into a metaverse firm. Facebook and its sister applications are still huge businesses, producing over $86 billion in annual sales and serving over 3.5 billion people across the world.
The timing of the name change is advantageous in two ways. In recent weeks, Facebook has been under some of the most severe scrutinies it has ever faced. Lawmakers and the public have chastised the firm’s Instagram photo-sharing app for allegedly harming the self-esteem of certain youngsters, and the corporation has been questioned for its role in spreading misinformation and inflaming racial tensions with incendiary content.
After Frances Haugen, a former Facebook employee leaked confidential documents revealing how much the business knew about the negative consequences of its actions, the outrage reached a fever pitch. The Wall Street Journal and other media outlets, including The New York Times, initially revealed findings from Ms. Haugen’s records.
A spate of congressional hearings, as well as legal and regulatory scrutiny, have resulted from the allegations. Ms. Haugen addressed British legislators in Parliament on Monday, urging them to regulate Facebook. Because governments and legislative bodies have begun probes into Facebook’s operations, Facebook ordered its staff on Tuesday to “preserve internal documents and communications from 2016” that are relevant to its companies.
Corporate rebranding is uncommon, but it has happened before. They’ve mostly been employed to indicate a firm’s structural rearrangement or to separate a corporation from a negative reputation.
Google restructured itself under a new parent company, Alphabet, in 2015, separating itself into distinct organizations to better distinguish its internet search business from its moonshot ambitions in other fields. Netflix announced intentions to split its video company into two halves in 2011, rebranding its DVD-by-mail division Qwikster for a while.
Following last week’s story by The Verge that Facebook might alter its name, social media was flooded with less flattering analogies. Some recalled how Philip Morris, the tobacco behemoth, changed its name to Altria Group in 2001 following years of bad press about the health costs and impacts of cigarettes on the general public in the United States.
The similarities, according to Nicholas Clegg, Facebook’s vice president of global policy and communications, are “very inaccurate.”
The change in Facebook’s name is mostly cosmetic. Beginning on December 1, it will trade under the ticker MVRS. Some of the company’s virtual-reality products will also be rebranded as Meta, moving away from the original brand name of Oculus.
There were no executive changes disclosed, and the corporation was not reformed. Mr. Zuckerberg is still the company’s CEO and Chairman. He has a veto over any changes that could have an impact on the company’s future.
“Until Mark Zuckerberg relinquishes some power and yields to functional corporate governance, it will remain Zuckerberg Inc.,” said Jennifer Grygiel, an associate professor and social media researcher at Syracuse University.
Facebook has been building up to the metaverse revelation for months. Its newest virtual-reality headset, the Oculus Quest 2, was unveiled last year. It introduced Horizon Workrooms, a virtual conference space where users wearing virtual-reality headsets can congregate as though they were at an in-person work gathering, in August. In September, it unveiled a new range of video-recording eyewear with Ray-Ban.
Those items are all parts of the metaverse, which Mr. Zuckerberg admitted sounded like “science fiction” on Thursday.
Facebook’s chief technology officer, Andrew Bosworth, has also stated that the metaverse will require significant technological advancements and that the firm is working on new virtual reality and augmented reality hardware that is smaller, less expensive, and more immersive.
Nonetheless, Mr. Zuckerberg hailed the concept as “the successor to the mobile internet” on Thursday, claiming that mobile devices will no longer be the center point. He also stated that the metaverse’s building blocks were already available. In a demonstration, he exhibited a digital avatar of himself that could travel to various digital realms while conversing with friends and family from anywhere on the planet.
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“You’ll feel like you’re there with other people,” he predicted. “You won’t be confined to a single planet or platform.”
Mr. Zuckerberg stated that building the metaverse would necessitate collaboration among many technology businesses, new kinds of governance, and other features that would not be available in the near future. However, he outlined various scenarios in which the metaverse could be useful, including video games, fitness, and job.
Mr. Zuckerberg demonstrated Horizon Workrooms, a virtual conference room product that allows colleagues to collaborate remotely on projects that they might have previously completed in the office. He promoted a number of immersive video games. He also exhibited Horizon Worlds, a virtual reality-based social network that allows friends and family to engage.
Part of the formula for success will be attracting people to create additional metaverse-compatible apps and programs. Users are more inclined to join new computing ecosystems if there are programs and software for them to utilize, similar to the mobile app industry.
As a response, Mr. Zuckerberg stated that he would continue to provide low-cost or no-cost services to developers and that he would invest in attracting additional developers through creator funds and other cash injections. Facebook has set aside $150 million for developers who create new types of immersive learning apps and programs, among other things.
He stated, “We are absolutely committed to this.” “This is the next step in our project.”