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Facebook is changing its name to Meta and here’s why

With Facebook changing the name of its parent company to Meta, let’s talk about why and whether now’s the best time.

“The metaverse is the next evolution of social connection. Our company’s vision is to help bring the metaverse to life, so we are changing our name to reflect our commitment to this future,” Facebook announced on Thursday while changing the name of its parent company to Meta.

“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,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said.

The rebranding comes at a time when the Facebook name is tainted with controversies following recent revelations made first by the Wall Street Journal and now by a consortium of publications based on leaked company documents shared by whistleblower Frances Haugen. The stories that continue to come out of these documents largely revolve around how Facebook knew the harms exacerbated by its various platforms but ignored warnings raised by its employees and did little to fix itself.

What is the metaverse?

According to Facebook:

The “metaverse” is a set of virtual spaces where you can create and explore with other people who aren’t in the same physical space as you. You’ll be able to hang out with friends, work, play, learn, shop, create and more. It’s not necessarily about spending more time online — it’s about making the time you do spend online more meaningful.

The metaverse isn’t a single product one company can build alone. Just like the internet, the metaverse exists whether Facebook is there or not. And it won’t be built overnight. Many of these products will only be fully realized in the next 10-15 years. While that’s frustrating for those of us eager to dive right in, it gives us time to ask the difficult questions about how they should be built.

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Here’s an explainer video shared by Facebook:

 

“The defining quality of the metaverse will be a feeling of presence — like you are right there with another person or in another place. Feeling truly present with another person is the ultimate dream of social technology. That is why we are focused on building this,” Zuckerberg wrote in his Founder’s Letter, 2021 where he goes into detail about the name change and Facebook’s future.

For a more in-depth, technical explainer on what is a metaverse, what sort of experiences does it provide, and when will it be ready, read our Into The Metaverse — A Primer On The Future State Of The Internet

Is this the best time?

While Facebook would’ve hoped to announce the rebranding under better circumstances, it, unfortunately, comes at a time when the platform is under intense scrutiny following recent revelations. However, Zuckerberg feels this should not stop the company’s rebranding exercise:

With all the scrutiny and public debate, some of you might be wondering why we’re doing this right now. The answer is that I believe that we’re put on this earth to create. I believe that technology can make our lives better. And I believe the future won’t be built on its own.

“I know that some people will say this isn’t a time to focus on the future. I want to acknowledge that there are important issues to work on in the present. There always will be. […] But I also know that there are a lot of you who feel the same way I do. We live for what we’re building, and while we make mistakes, we’ll keep learning and building and moving forward,” Zuckerberg added.

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What is changing?

The company changed its Twitter handle to @Meta and redirects visitors from meta.com to a welcome page on Facebook. Meta will also start trading under the new stock ticker MVRS from December 1. The sign outside the company’s headquarters in Menlo Park, California now features the new Meta logo, replacing Facebook’s thumbs-up “Like” logo. A notable exception to this comprehensive rebranding exercise is the Meta handle on Instagram, which appears to belong to a motorcycle magazine.

Along with the rebranding, the company also announced new tools to help developers build for the metaverse and a $150-million investment in immersive learning to train creators. The annual Connect conference in which the rebranding was announced was also largely focused on “what experiences in the metaverse could feel like over the next decade — from social connection, to entertainment, gaming, fitness, work, education and commerce.”

Zuckerberg also indicated that the company’s products and services might not be as interlinked as they are right now: “From now on, we will be metaverse-first, not Facebook-first. That means that over time you won’t need a Facebook account to use our other services.”

The rebranding, however, is not expected to change much operationally:

Our corporate structure is not changing, however, how we report on our financials will. Starting with our results for the fourth quarter of 2021, we plan to report on two operating segments: Family of Apps and Reality Labs. [..]  Today’s announcement does not affect how we use or share data. – Facebook

Meta’s many products—Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp—will continue to have their own names.

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