Rising from humble beginnings to become the most important social media platform on the planet, and even a David Fincher masterpiece thrown in, the power of Facebook is undeniable. The world’s most popular connection service has traversed the new wave of the internet, transcending generations and bringing users together in ways never seen before. But it hasn’t come without controversy. In fact, the very inception of Facebook was fraught with contention and in recent months, the criticism has ramped up.
Facebook, the business has been under fire for weeks after a raft of leaked internal documents shed light on its struggles to prevent real-world harm, including issues as wide-ranging as political unrest to teen suicide. With so much talk about Facebook right now, and not much of it positive, CEO and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg is cutting ties. During Facebook’s annual Connect conference, Zuckerberg confirmed that Facebook is officially rebranding to Meta.
“I’m proud of what we’ve built so far, and I’m excited about what comes next — as we move beyond what’s possible today, beyond the constraints of screens, beyond the limits of distance and physics, and towards a future where everyone can be present with each other, create new opportunities and experience new things. It is a future that is beyond any one company and that will be made by all of us,” Zuckerberg said.
So, what does it all mean? According to the tech titan, Meta is one aspect of a wider Metaverse, a social, 3D virtual space where you can share immersive experiences with other people and ‘do things together you couldn’t do in the physical world’. The new initiative is set to bring together the business’ apps and technologies under one new company brand. At present, massive global apps and technologies Instagram, WhatsApp, Messenger and Oculus are under the Facebook banner, all of which will remain in their current forms.
Also noteworthy, the brand plans to achieve this through enhanced AR and VR technologies and a $150-million investment in immersive learning to ‘train the next generation of creators’.
Meta’s VR focus kicks off with the release of Quest 2. In responses to VR getting more social, Meta is tapping fitness, while continuing to invest in the developer community to help them build and monetise their applications through new tools and features. Further to that, Meta is investing in the core technology and work needed to bring fully-featured AR glasses to market.
“Right now, our brand is so tightly linked to one product that it can’t possibly represent everything that we’re doing today, let alone in the future,” Zuckerberg said. “Over time, I hope that we are seen as a metaverse company, and I want to anchor our work and identity on what we’re building toward.”
Importantly, Zuckerberg confirmed that the corporate structure was not changing, but how it reports financials will. Under the new branding, Meta will report on two operating segments: Family of Apps and Reality Labs. The tech giant also revealed intentions to start trading under the new stock ticker it has reserved, Meta, on December 1.
The rollout may come as a shock for some, but to others, it marks the renewal of a major corporation grappling with an image issue. The company’s reputation has suffered multiple blows in recent years over its handling of user data and its policing of misinformation and hate speech, ultimately leading to the US Federal Trade Commission filing an antitrust lawsuit accusing it of anticompetitive practices.
While a name change could be seen as a fresh start, not everyone is buying it. Mike Proulx, research director at market research firm Forrester suggested it was a coy move that highlights the company’s need to move forward.
“While it’ll help alleviate confusion by distinguishing Facebook’s parent company from its founding app, a name change doesn’t suddenly erase the systemic issues plaguing the company,” Proulx told The Financial Post.
For Australians, the rollout will reportedly kickstart a new generation of technology integration, with Will Easton, managing director, Australia and New Zealand revealing the brand will work alongside key legislators and experts to ensure a smooth transition.
“The metaverse is the next evolution in online social technology and will help us connect in ways not yet possible today. While nothing beats being together in person, recent months have highlighted how, when that’s not possible or practical, the digital world can still help us feel connected. The metaverse will help us get closer to feeling that in-person presence through sharing a space rather than a screen,” Easton said.
“Facebook isn’t going to build, own or run the metaverse on its own, we will be collaborating at every stage with policymakers, experts and industry partners. There are already a wealth of Australian companies and creators working in this space, including fashion designers, gaming and VR experience creators, academics and marketers experimenting with new immersive formats. Australia has an opportunity to be on the forefront of this technology even at this early stage of its development.”
Faebook changing its name to Meta might sound like a huge announcement, but for the most part, it’s simply a formalisation of an already-turning cog. For years, Facebook has doubled down on its quest for future technology growth and according to Justin Angle, marketing expert from the University of Montana, unveiling the Metaverse simply helps to alter the narrative. And that’s good news for Meta.
“There will be a whole news cycle about the new name: Is it a good name, is it a bad name?” he told WIRED. “It feels a bit silly or uncomfortable to say, which could be good for keeping Meta out of the news.”