CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced Thursday that Facebook the company is changing its name to Meta to reflect its growing focus on the metaverse.
“From now on, we’re going to be the metaverse first, not Facebook first,” Zuckerberg said at the company’s annual Connect conference Thursday. “Our brand is so tightly linked to one product that it can’t possibly represent everything we’re doing today, let alone the future.”
Though its vision is expanding to virtual spaces where people interact via digital avatars, the company said it is not changing its corporate structure. It will trade under the ticker symbol MVRS.
Facebook and its apps Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp will be housed in a separate division from Facebook Reality Labs, which makes the company’s augmented and virtual reality products, the company said earlier this week.
The rebranding of one of the world’s most powerful and best-known companies comes as Facebook is embroiled in a public relations crisis over a ache of documents leaked by former product manager Frances Haugen and provided to Congress.
A consortium of 17 U.S. news organizations, including USA TODAY, obtained the redacted versions of those documents that provide a rare glimpse inside the company and its decisions that seem to prioritize profits over people’s well-being.
Zuckerberg said this week that news coverage of those documents has painted a “false picture” of the company.
Forrester vice president and research director Mike Proulx said the name change won’t change problems inside the company.
“If Meta doesn’t address its issues beyond a defensive and superficial altitude, those same issues will occupy the metaverse,” he said.
The negative news pummeling Facebook “had nothing to bear on this,” Zuckerberg told The Verge.
“Even though I think some people might want to make that connection, I think that’s sort of a ridiculous thing,” he said. “If anything, I think that this is not the environment that you would want to introduce a new brand in.”
The metaverse is not a new concept but has been thrust into the mainstream in recent months as Zuckerberg has talked up his new vision for the company he started in his Harvard dorm room.
“We’ve gone from desktop to web to phones, from text to photos to video, but this isn’t the end of the line,” Zuckerberg said. “The next platform and medium will be even more immersive and embodied internet where you’re in the experience, not just looking at it, and we call this the metaverse.”
In a blog post, Zuckerberg said the name meta comes from Greek word means “beyond.”
“For me, it symbolizes that there is always more to build, and there is always a next chapter to the story,” he said.
Facebook to Meta, more than a name
The corporate name change signals a big shift for Facebook, said Baird Equity Research analyst Colin Sebastian.
“What does Meta mean? It means the Metaverse is not a side project,” he wrote in a research note. “The company is ‘all in’ in developing the next computing platform – the successor to the mobile Internet.”
But, Sebastian said, this futuristic vision is not quite Steve Jobs and the iPhone in 2007. Zuckerberg himself estimates it will take five to 10 years for these features to become mainstream.
“Zuckerberg presented a very ambitious vision for the Metaverse – with photorealistic avatars and spaces, EMG input (gestures, wrist movements), holograms and voice interactions that generate immersive virtual versions of work, play, socializing, shopping, traveling, etc.,” Sebastian said.
Still, a number of companies are already rushing to gain a competitive advantage in the metaverse.
On Thursday, Zuckerberg took a swipe at corporate rival Apple, decrying experiences that are “more tightly controlled than ever” with “stifling” taxes on creative ideas.
As they look to dominate the next phase of the internet, Meta and Apple are publicly tussling over how user data is collected. Changes Apple has made have undercut Facebook’s advertising business.
“This is not the way that we are meant to use technology,” Zuckerberg said. “The metaverse gives us an opportunity to change that if we build it well.”
Kirsten Martin, director of the University of Notre Dame’s Tech Ethics Center, questioned whether Facebook should be trusted with the metaverse.
“If the Facebook executives cannot get a handle on the content on Facebook where the app was used to recommend an insurrection, how will those same executives get a handle on content in the virtual space they are proposing?” she said in an email.
Facebook isn’t the first tech company to change its name. In 2015, Google created a new publicly traded parent company called Alphabet to house its disparate businesses.
Companies also change their names to distance themselves from bad publicity. For example, Philip Morris rebranded as Altria because of the association with its tobacco products.
The Verge first reported that Facebook was