The name change comes as the world’s largest social media company battles criticisms from lawmakers and regulators over its market power, algorithmic decisions and the policing of abuses on its services. CEO Mark Zuckerberg, speaking at the company’s live-streamed virtual and augmented reality conference, said the new name reflected its work investing in the metaverse, rather than its namesake social media service, which will continue to be called Facebook. The metaverse is a term coined in the dystopian novel “Snow Crash” three decades ago and now attracting buzz in Silicon Valley. It refers broadly to the idea of a shared virtual realm which can be accessed by people using different devices.
The Facebook company has changed its name to Meta, but the social networking app Facebook will keep its name. It has also adopted a new logo. The name change is to bring the company’s “apps and technologies under one new company brand”, it said in a statement.
Since Facebook launched in 2004, the company has purchased social media apps Instagram and WhatsApp. It has also invested in other technologies including digital wallet Novi, video-calling device Portal and virtual reality system Oculus. A big part of the rebrand is also to focus Meta on bringing the “metaverse” to life. But sceptics have suggested this is just an attempt to move attention away from the so-called Facebook papers. The company, which has invested heavily in augmented and virtual reality, said the change would bring together its different apps and technologies under one new brand. It said it would not change its corporate structure. The tech giant, which reports about 2.9 billion monthly users, has faced increasing scrutiny in recent years from global lawmakers and regulators. Facebook said this week that its hardware division Facebook Reality Labs, which is responsible for AR and VR efforts, would become a separate reporting unit and that its investment in it would reduce this year’s total operating profit by about $10 billion.
This year, the company created a product team in this unit focused on the metaverse and it recently announced plans to hire 10,000 employees in Europe over the next five years to work on the effort. In an interview with tech publication the Information, Zuckerberg said he has not considered stepping down as CEO, and has not thought “very seriously yet” about spinning off this unit. The division will now be called Reality Labs, its head Andrew “Boz” Bosworth said on Thursday. The company will also stop using the Oculus branding for its VR headsets, instead calling them “Meta” products. The name change, the plan for which was first reported by the Verge, is a significant rebrand for Facebook, but not its first. In 2019 it launched a new logo to create a distinction between the company and its social app.
The company’s reputation has taken multiple hits in recent years, including over its handling of user data and its policing of abuses such as health misinformation, violent rhetoric and hate speech. The US Federal Trade Commission has also filed an antitrust lawsuit alleging anticompetitive practices. 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,” said Mike Proulx, research director at market research firm Forrester.
Zuckerberg also showed video demos of what the metaverse could look like, with people connecting as avatars and being transported to digital versions of various places and time periods. He said that the metaverse would need to be built with safety and privacy in mind.