5 things to know about Facebook’s corporate name change to ‘Meta’
On October 28, social media juggernaut Facebook announced it is changing its corporate name to “Meta”. Here are five things that I find pertinent about such development.
1/ Meta as in…
“Meta” is a reference to “metaverse”, a term coined in Neal Stephenson’s 1992 science fiction novel Snow Crash where “humans, as avatars, interact with each other and software agents, in a three-dimensional virtual space that uses the metaphor of the real world”.
2/ Facebook’s VR ambitions
Facebook has been very clear about its virtual reality ambitions.
In 2014, the company acquired VR headset maker Oculus for 2 billion dollars. In March 2021, The Verge reported that Facebook had “10,000 employees in its division working on augmented reality and virtual reality devices”.
From that perspective, the name change makes sense. The social media giant wants to reflect this specific shift in its product strategy.
3/ Legacy Facebook products won’t change names
Facebook’s core social media and messaging products won’t change names.
As mentioned previously, the change only applies to the company’s corporate name. It is similar to Google changing its corporate name to “Alphabet” in 2015. This was to reflect a product diversification strategy beyond legacy Google product lines following a vast number of corporate acquisitions.
4/ A dystopian connotation?
Some technology observers are critical of the metaverse concept.
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey appears skeptical of Mark Zuckerberg’s plan to turn Facebook into a “metaverse” sharing a tweet calling it a “dystopian corporate dictatorship” (a clear reference to Snow Crash’s nefarious plot).
Tiffany C. Li, MSNBC Opinion Columnist notes that “We can barely trust tech platforms with the internet. We certainly can’t trust them with virtual reality… Imagine online harassers yelling at you all throughout your day, wherever you go, regardless of whether your phone or computer are on or off”.
5/ A cosmetic rebrand?
Others believe the name change is purely a “cosmetic” rebrand following years of controversy including the so-called “Facebook Papers”.
“All the bad press and political battles it is currently fighting have to do with its social networking products, so launching something entirely new — in their minds — is a way to completely rebrand and start fresh, without changing much with the existing problematic products,” states Taina Bucher a media researcher and professor at the University of Oslo. She is the author of the book Facebook.
Only time will tell whether this was a wise choice…