Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg on Thursday announced the embattled parent company’s name is being changed to “Meta” to represent a future beyond just its social media network.
“We’ve learned a lot from struggling with social issues and living under closed platforms, and now it is time to take everything that we’ve learned and help build the next chapter,” Zuckerberg said during an annual developers conference that comes after weeks of devastating press for the company.
The new handle comes as the social media giant tries to fend off one its worst crises yet and pivot to its ambitions for the “metaverse” virtual reality version of the internet that the tech giant sees as the future.
In explaining the rebrand, Zuckerberg said the name “Facebook” just doesn’t encompass “everything we do” anymore. Zuckerberg’s network includes Instagram, Messenger, WhatsApp, its Quest VR headset, its Horizon VR platform and more — all in addition to Facebook.
“Our apps and their brands, they are not changing,” he added, confirming that the Facebook social media network would not change its name.
Zuckerberg said the new name encompassed the company’s virtual-reality vision for the future.
“Today we are seen as a social media company. But in our DNA we are a company that builds technology to connect people,” Zuckerberg said. “Right now, our brand is so tightly linked to one product. But over time, I hope we are seen as a metaverse company.”
Zuckerberg, who is a fan of classics, explained that the word “meta” comes from the Greek word “beyond.”
The website meta.com now redirects to a welcome page on Facebook that outlines the companies vision of the “metaverse.”
“Connection is evolving and so are we,” the landing page declares, explaining that “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.”
What is the metaverse? Think of it as the internet brought to life, or at least rendered in 3D. Zuckerberg has described it as a “virtual environment” you can go inside of — instead of just looking at on a screen. Essentially, it’s 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.
It also will incorporate other aspects of online life such as shopping and social media, according to Victoria Petrock, an analyst who follows emerging technologies.
Zuckerberg says he expects the metaverse to reach a billion people within the next decade. The metaverse, he says, will be a place people will be able to interact, work and create products and content in what he hopes will be a new ecosystem that creates “millions” of jobs for creators.
Skeptics point out that the move also appears to be an attempt to change the subject from the Facebook Papers, a leaked document trove so dubbed by a consortium of news organizations.
Many of these documents, first described by former Facebook employee-turned-whistleblower Frances Haugen, have revealed how Facebook ignored or downplayed internal warnings of the negative and often harmful consequences its social network algorithms created or magnified across the world.
Facebook has been hit by major crises previously, but the current view behind the curtain of the insular company has fueled a frenzy of scathing reports and scrutiny from United States regulators.
“Good faith criticism helps us get better, but my view is that what we are seeing is a coordinated effort to selectively use leaked documents to paint a false picture of our company,” Zuckerberg said in an earnings call on Monday.
The Washington Post last month suggested that Facebook’s interest in the metaverse is “part of a broader push to rehabilitate the company’s reputation with policymakers and reposition Facebook to shape the regulation of next-wave Internet technologies.”
Google rebranded itself as Alphabet in a corporate reconfiguration in 2015, but the online search and ad powerhouse remains its defining unit despite other operations such as Waymo self-driving cars and Verily life sciences.