Facebook is no more, at least at the corporate level. The social networking giant has officially unveiled a rebrand of their parent organization as “Meta.” Underneath the Meta corporate umbrella will be two units: the Family of Apps—consisting of Whatsapp, Instagram, and Facebook (the product)—and Reality Labs, which will comprise the company’s efforts in the virtual reality space.
In a virtual event on Thursday, CEO Mark Zuckerberg explained the move as a means of moving the organization’s identity away from the singular Facebook property.
“I’ve been thinking a lot about our identity,” Zuckerberg said at the event, “and over time, I hope we’re seen as a metaverse company.”
What is the Metaverse? Meta’s Vision for the Future
According to the company, the Metaverse represents the next phase of online connectivity and has the potential to replace the internet as we know it today. Vice President of Augmented and Virtual Reality at Facebook Andrew Bosworth describes the concept as “a collection of digital worlds each with its own physics to determine what’s possible within them.” Although it sounds like something out of science fiction (where the term originated), Meta is envisioning itself a future in which social interactions, ranging from entertainment to working office environments and education, take place in fully-realized digital environments with the assistance of AR and VR technologies. Zuckerberg provided an example of the technology’s capabilities with a demonstration of his digital avatar visiting friends, families, and co-workers across different online “worlds.”
The company has been building up to this moment with increased investment in its Oculus line of virtual-reality headsets, the August release of Horizon Workrooms (a platform for virtual meetings), and its partnership with Ray-Ban to announce a new line of AR-enabled “smart” eyeglasses.
The Public Responds
It’s worth noting that Meta’s announcement comes amidst recent intense scrutiny of Facebook from lawmakers and the general public. Former product manager at Facebook Frances Haugen has provided thousands of internal documents to a consortium of more than 15 publications which have called into question some of the company’s decisions as prioritizing profit over social responsibility. Stories in outlets such as The Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and the Associated Press have drawn attention to how hate speech and misinformation have sometimes gone unchecked on the platform across the globe. Zuckerberg and the company claim the papers represent a “selectively misleading” view of the organization and its effort to protect users’ safety.
A bold step into the future or a corporate rebrand to distract from bad PR? As always, the internet is totally divided. Here are a few of our favorite serious (and not so serious) reactions to the announcement.
“Facebook’s recent rebrand to Meta proves the immersive world of AR and VR is upon us, further blurring the edges of reality and what people understand today. For marketers and advertisers, this [makes it more important to have] rich data [that provides] insight into not only who people are and what they do, but also—and perhaps most importantly—the ‘why’ driving their decisions. Gone are the days of relying on traditional demographic or behavior-based audiences for targeted display campaigns. . The Meta brand represents a need to leverage predictive and contextual audiences rooted in cognitive psychology that go beyond age and gender and speak to the hearts and minds of individuals in order to invoke a response.-Dave Kelly, chief executive officer and founder at AnalyticsIQ, as told to the Drum
“Meta’ refers to the next big possible paradigm shift, Web3, with the metaverse as the next frontier. However, with all of the recent revelations from the whistleblowers regarding Facebook’s singular focus on profits over consumer and societal safety, it’s unlikely to change the current narrative around Facebook.”-Michael Nevins, chief marketing officer at Smart, as told to the Drum.
Meta has definitely more than proven its commitment to the metaverse: they’ve announced a $10 billion investment in the technology over the next year alone, as well as hundreds of new positions for AR/VR specialists.
The company has not yet revealed details of what this might mean for advertisers utilizing the platform. Facebook only announced the testing of VR ads in the Oculus platform last June, so marketers will have to take a “wait and see” approach to this new technology frontier.
For now, the company will start trading under the new stock ticker MVRS on Dec. 1 and the big blue thumbs up that have long graced corporate headquarters at One Hacker Way is nowhere to be found. Standing in its place is a blue infinity sign.