Facebook has announced that it is changing its holding company name to Meta in its biggest corporate shake-up since it was founded 17 years ago.
Mark Zuckerberg, who created the social media site Facebook in a Harvard University dorm room in 2004, said the name change represents the company’s significant shift in focus towards building a “metaverse” for its billions of users.
A metaverse, which has become the hottest buzz word in Silicon Valley, is set to be a virtual world in which people will be able to shop, work and socialize in a parallel universe, most likely through the use of virtual reality headsets. At the same time, the metaverse will also be a platform in which users can appear as 3D holograms to their friends in physical settings through the use of augmented reality glasses which impose digital images into a real world setting.
Zuckerberg claimed during a 90-minute pre-recorded presentation that the metaverse will be “an embodied internet, where you’re in the experience, not just looking at it”.
“Today we are seen as a social media company, but in our DNA we are a company that builds technology to connect and the metaverse is the next frontier, just as social media was when we first got started”, Zuckerberg, 37, said.
He said the company’s current name was “iconic”, but it does not represent everything staff are now working on and is too “tightly linked to one product”. He added: “It is time for us to adopt a new company brand to accomplish everything that we do, to reflect who we are and what we hope to build.”
Zuckerberg said the company would now be focused on building a world “beyond what’s possible today, beyond the constraints of screens, beyond the limits of distance and physics”.
The billionaire boss warned that the company expects to invest “many billions of dollars before the metaverse reaches scale”, but believes that within the next decade the new technology will be used by a billion people, support millions of jobs and create “billions of dollars of digital commerce.”
However, the name change was also announced during a testing time for Facebook’s reputation. Frances Haugen, a Facebook whistleblower, has leaked thousands of internal documents that she has claimed shows the social media giant puts “astronomical profits before people”. Some of the most damaging documents have shown Facebook’s own research stated that Instagram was making some teenage girls’ body issues worse, while its own employees were warning that the firm’s algorithms were letting misinformation and hate speech “flourish”.
Regulators around the world have reacted with shock to the documents, hauling Facebook executives before politicians on both sides of the Atlantic. In the US, Facebook has been accused by senators of copying the tactics of Big Tobacco by hiding “its own research on the toxic effect of its products”, while in the UK, Haugen told MPs that Instagram is dangerous for teenagers and that the platforms “unquestionably” make “hate worse”.
While the wider company name is being rebranded to Meta, the core Facebook service, and its family of apps, including Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger, will also remain unchanged.
This is similar to how Google created a new parent company name, Alphabet, in 2015 to represent its shift beyond simply being a search engine to working on a diverse array of products from autonomous cars to drones and smart glasses.