Oakland, California. – Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said his company is renaming itself Meta in order to realize its vision of virtual reality for the future – what Zuckerberg calls the “metaverse.”
Skeptics point out that this also looks like an attempt to change the subject from the Facebook Papers, a leaked document dubbed by a consortium of news organizations including the Associated Press. Many of these documents, first described by former Facebook employee and now whistleblower, Francis Haugen, showed how Facebook ignored or downplayed internal warnings about the negative and often disastrous consequences that its algorithms had inflicted around the world.
The Facebook app, as well as Instagram, WhatsApp, and Messenger, aren’t going anywhere; no one will change their names. The corporate structure of the company will not change either. But on December 1, its shares will begin trading under the new MVRS ticker.
“Facebook is the world’s social media platform and they are accused of creating something harmful to people and society,” said marketing consultant Laura Reese. She compared Meta’s name to when BP was renamed Beyond Petroleum to avoid criticism for harming the environment. “They can’t leave the social network with a new company name and talk about the future metaverse.”
What is the metaverse? Think of it as a busy internet or at least 3D rendering. Zuckerberg described it as a “virtual environment” that you can enter rather than just look at a screen. Basically, it is a world of endless interconnected virtual communities where people can meet, work and play using virtual reality headsets, augmented reality glasses, smartphone apps or other devices.
According to Victoria Petrok, an analyst who monitors new technologies, it will also include other aspects of online life such as shopping and social media.
Other tech companies like Microsoft, chip maker Nvidia and Fortnite maker Epic Games have laid out their own vision of how the metaverse will work.
“This is cool,” said Richard Kerris, vice president of the Nvidia Omniverse platform, after a reporter announced the change to Facebook’s name. “We think there will be many companies creating virtual worlds and environments in the metaverse, just as many companies are doing things on the world wide web.”
Zuckerberg says he expects the metaverse to reach a billion people over the next decade. It will be a place where people can interact, work, and create products and content in a new ecosystem that he hopes will create millions of jobs for creators.
The announcement comes amid Facebook’s existential crisis. It is undergoing heightened legislative and regulatory scrutiny in many parts of the world after being exposed in Facebook posts.
Some of Facebook’s biggest critics weren’t impressed. The Supervisory Board of Real Facebook, the company’s oversight group, has announced that it will retain its own name.
“The name change does not change reality: Facebook is destroying our democracy and is the leading disseminator of misinformation and hatred in the world,” the group said in a statement. “Their mindless name change should not distract from the investigation, regulation and real independent oversight needed to hold Facebook accountable.”
Explaining the rebranding, Zuckerberg said the name “Facebook” simply no longer encompasses everything the company does. In addition to his main social network, which now includes Instagram, Messenger, his Quest VR headset, the Horizon VR platform, and more.
“Today we are considered a social media company,” Zuckerberg said. “But in our DNA, we are a company that creates technology to connect people.”
A corporate rebranding will not solve the countless problems Facebook has found in thousands of internal documents over the past weeks. That probably won’t even get people to stop calling social media giant Facebook – or “social media giant,” for that matter.
But this does not stop Zuckerberg, who, apparently, is eager to move on to the next important business, as crisis after crisis grows in the company he created.
While largely dismissing the revelations from the Facebook Papers as unfair criticism, Zuckerberg has focused on creating a virtual environment that you can enter into rather than just gazing at a screen.
Just as smartphones have replaced desktop computers, Zuckerberg is betting that the metaverse will be the next way humans interact with computers – and with each other. If Instagram and messaging were Facebook’s forays into mobile evolution, Meta is banking on the metaverse. And what better than a name change to show how serious he is?
A metaverse fundraiser, the Roundhill Ball Metaverse ETF, already started trading on the New York Stock Exchange using the META ticker earlier this year, possibly prompting Facebook to opt for MVRS instead.
“I think my phone is melting,” creator, metaverse enthusiast Matthew Ball wrote on Thursday after Zuckerberg’s announcement. In an interview, he said he welcomes the Facebook metaverse, noting that the company was already one of the top-ranked companies in his index.
“It doesn’t bother me at all,” he said.