The app you use will still be called Facebook
Facebook’s new corporate name is Meta, CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced on Thursday, in an apparent effort to recast the company’s public image from battered social network to tech innovator focused on building the next generation of online interaction, known as the “metaverse.”
The Facebook app used by almost 3 billion people around the world every month will keep its name. But speaking at the company’s Connect virtual reality conference, Zuckerberg said it’s time to overhaul the corporation’s identity to reflect its broader ambitions.
“It is time for us to adopt a new company brand to encompass everything that we do,” he said. “From now on, we’re going to be metaverse first, not Facebook first.”
Seventeen years after Zuckerberg founded Facebook in his Harvard University dorm room, the company’s brand has been badly dented by a succession of crises, from Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election to the Cambridge Analytica data privacy scandal, which became public in 2018, to last month’s damaging revelations from former Facebook employee turned whistleblower Frances Haugen.
But even as the company has been pummeled by a wave of critical news coverage about its platforms’ harms, based on Haugen’s trove of internal documents, Zuckerberg has unapologetically kept his focus on the metaverse, describing it on Thursday as the company’s new “North Star.”
He says the metaverse is the next big computing platform to which people’s attention — and dollars — will shift in the coming years. And he wants the newly christened Meta to play a prime role in creating it and turning it into big business.
“Building our social media apps will always be an important focus for us. But 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.
So just what is the metaverse anyway?
Zuckerberg announced the new name, Meta, in a glitzy video presentation that served as an explainer about the metaverse, a futuristic and vaguely defined concept that has become a Silicon Valley buzzword in recent years.
The term “metaverse” was coined by science fiction writer Neal Stephenson in his 1992 novel, Snow Crash. Enthusiasts use it to refer to immersive virtual spaces where people can play games, attend concerts, meet with colleagues and buy all kinds of digital goods and services.
Facebook demonstrated many of those experiences in Thursday’s slickly produced video, showing Zuckerberg riding a virtual reality electric hydrofoil (in a nod to his real-life hobby), fencing with a hologram and walking through a 3D rendering of his “home space.”
This week, Facebook told investors its spending on virtual reality and other next-generation products and services will take a $10 billion bite out of its overall operating profit this year. It also announced plans to hire 10,000 workers in Europe over the next five years to build the metaverse.
On Thursday, Zuckerberg said he expects to invest “many billions of dollars for years to come,” painting a vision of the future where a billion people will use the metaverse and it will generate hundreds of billions of dollars in digital commerce — while acknowledging it remains “a long way off.”
“We are fully committed to this,” Zuckerberg said. “It is the next chapter of our work and, we believe, for the internet overall.”
In a nod to Facebook’s long run of crises, Zuckerberg devoted part of the presentation to emphasizing that the company will center privacy and safety as it builds its new virtual services and hardware.
“Privacy standards will be built into the metaverse from Day 1,” he said. “One of the lessons I’ve internalized from the last five years is we need to emphasize these principles from the start.”
With inputs from NPR
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by Kashmir Today staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)