By E K Benj & Samantha Murphy Kelly, Updated at 2304 EAT – Thu October 28, 2021
Facebook is changing its company name as it shifts its focus to the “metaverse” and confronts wide-ranging scrutiny of the real-world harms from its various platforms after a whistleblower leaked hundreds of internal documents.
Founder Mark Zuckerberg said Thursday that Facebook will change its corporate name to Meta, effectively demoting Facebook’s namesake service to being just one of the company’s subsidiaries, alongside Instagram and WhatsApp, rather than the overarching brand.
The company formerly known as Facebook also said in a press release that it plans to begin trading under the stock ticker “MVRS” on December 1.
A rebranding could be part of an effort to overhaul Facebook’s reputation and turn the page following a series of PR nightmares, including misinformation on its platforms, content moderation failures and revelations about the negative effect its products have on some users’ mental health.
The name change, which was announced by Zuckerberg during the company’s virtual reality and augmented reality conference Facebook Connect, aligns with its growing focus on the metaverse, which refers to efforts to combine virtual and augmented reality technologies in a new online realm. Why Silicon Valley is betting on making this dystopian sci-fi idea a reality
“I’ve been thinking a lot about our identity as we begin this next chapter. Facebook is one of the most used products in the history of the world,” Zuckerberg said on Thursday. “It is an iconic social media brand, but increasingly it just doesn’t encompass everything that we do.
“Today we’re seen as a social media company,” he added, “but in our DNA, we are a company that builds technology to connect people. And the metaverse is the next frontier just like social networking was when we got started.”
Zuckerberg, who said he loved studying classics in school, said the name was inspired by the Greek word meta, which means “beyond.” “For me, it symbolizes that there is always more to build.”
Facebook did not announce any executive changes on Thursday. But on Zuckerberg’s personal Facebook page, his job title was changed to: “Founder and CEO at Meta.”
When asked by The Verge if he would remain CEO at Facebook in the next 5 years, he said: “Probably. I don’t have a specific date how long I want to be doing this for. I guess what I could say is I’m very excited about the next chapter of what we’re doing.”
Zuckerberg kicked off the big product event by teasing a series of new social, gaming and workplace concepts for the metaverse — and by acknowledging the optics of focusing on such products amid renewed scrutiny of the company.
“I know that some people will say that this isn’t a time to focus on the future, and I want to acknowledge that there are important issues to work on in the present. There always will be,” Zuckerberg said. “So for many people, I’m just not sure there ever will be a good time to focus on the future. But I also know that there are a lot of you who feel the same way that I do.”
“We live for what we’re building,” Zuckerberg added. “And while we make mistakes, we keep learning and building and moving forward.”
Facebook showed a series of concept videos that highlighted its vision for metaverse, such as sending a holographic image of yourself to a concert with a friend attending in real life, sitting around virtual meeting tables with remote colleagues or playing immersive games with friends. Facebook recently said it would hire 10,000 people in Europe to build out the concept.
Zuckerberg also announced Messenger calling is coming to VR, plans to operate a virtual marketplace where developers can sell virtual goods and a new home screen in Oculus Quest to make chatting and games in the virtual world more social.
“Your devices won’t be the focal point of your attention anymore,” he said. “We’re starting to see a lot of these technologies coming together in the next five or 10 years. A lot of this is going to be mainstream and a lot of us will be creating and inhabiting worlds that are just as detailed and convincing as this one, on a daily basis.”
A number of major companies have changed established brands over the years. Kentucky Fried Chicken shortened its name to KFC, Japanese car brand Datsun became Nissan. Some high-profile name changes have followed scandal or controversy. Philip Morris, the maker of Marlboro, changed its name to Altria, for example, and ValuJet became AirTran after one of its planes crashed in 1996.
Other name changes are intended to reflect the company’s broader ambitions. Snapchat rebranded as Snap in 2016 to reflect its foray into hardware and Google restructured the company with a new name, Alphabet, and plans to grow a variety of business divisions.