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Explained: Facebook Rebranding to Meta

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This article is the continuation of the previously published domain news article on Facebook’s planned Rebranding.

It’s official – Facebook Rebranding to Meta

Facebook officially has changed its corporate name to Meta as part of a major rebrand.

For the first time in 17 years, Mark Zuckerberg has a new job title: He is now the CEO and chairman of Meta, the new parent company name for Facebook. Facebook’s name change to Meta is intended to help the company move forward on building the next digital frontier, the metaverse. With this rebrand, Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and other products have become subsidiaries under the Meta umbrella.

So, What Exactly  Is the Metaverse?

The word metaverse is a portmanteau of the prefix “meta” (meaning “beyond”) and “universe” and is typically used to describe the concept of a future iteration of the internet, made up of persistent, shared, 3D virtual spaces linked into a perceived virtual universe.

The metaverse in a broader sense may not only refer to virtual worlds but the entire spectrum of augmented reality.

The term metaverse was 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. Stephenson used the term to describe a virtual reality-based successor to the Internet.

Concepts similar to the metaverse have appeared under a variety of names in the cyberpunk genre of fiction as far back as 1981 in Vernor Vinge’s novella True Names. Stephenson stated in the afterword to Snow Crash that after finishing the novel he learned about Habitat, an early MMORPG that resembled the metaverse.

The elements of the metaverse include “video-conferencing, games like Minecraft or Roblox, email, virtual reality, social media, and live-streaming.” The aforementioned cyberspace has kept evolving and included various computer-mediated virtual environments. Such expanding cyberspace indicates a digital ‘big bang’ driven by various technologies and ecosystems.

Technologies are the enablers that drive the transition from the current Internet to the metaverse, such as Extended Reality, User Interactivity (Human-Computer Interaction), Artificial intelligence, Computer Vision, Edge and Cloud computing, and Future Mobile Networks.

Remarkably, the metaverse ecosystem allows human users to live and play within a self-sustaining, persistent, and shared realm. Therefore, the metaverse ecosystem considers user-centric elements including Avatar Identity, Content Creation, Virtual Economy, Social Acceptability, Presence, Security and Privacy, and Trust and Accountability.

Facebook and Metaverse: How Does It Connect?

Zuckerberg says he’s chosen Meta as the company’s new name because of its meaning in Greek” “beyond”. It also alludes to the “Metaverse”, an online virtual oasis that he wants to build.

In an interview with The Verge, when asked to explain why he’s doing his rebrand, this is Zuckerberg’s answer:

“At a high level, we did this segment reporting change on Monday as part of earnings. So we’re now looking at our business as two different segments. One for the social apps and one for future platforms basically. And the idea is that the metaverse work that we’re doing is not about any one of those segments. It’s not like Reality Labs is doing the work building the metaverse. It goes across all of this. The metaverse is going to be both future platforms and social experiences.

So, we wanted to have a new brand identity that, as you reported, is directionally aligned with the future vision that we’re working towards. There’s sort of a higher-level brand identity goal and then there’s a more technical and functional goal. The higher-level piece is that Facebook is the iconic social media brand. And increasingly we’re doing more than that.

People think of us as a social media company, but the way we think about ourselves is that we’re a technology company that builds technology to help people connect with each other. We think that makes us different from the other companies because everyone else is trying to work on how people interact with technology, whereas we build technologies so that people can interact with each other.

For us, it was never just about social media, and increasingly we’re moving beyond that. It felt like having the brand of the company be tied to the idea of social media and one of the specific products that we’re building there — because we now have Instagram and WhatsApp growing to be really important as well — felt increasing like it didn’t encompass everything that we were doing. So we wanted to shift that to have something that is more evocative of the vision that we’re moving towards.

On a more functional and technical basis, I think that there was just a lot of confusion and awkwardness about having the company brand be also the brand of one of the social media apps. When people wanted to go sign into their Quest, we wanted them to sign in with their Facebook account because we wanted to have a single identity or account system for the company.

Google has that, Apple has that. Microsoft has it. But for us, the issue is that if you’re signing into Quest or WhatsApp or Instagram with a Facebook account, I think that there was
confusion about, “Am I signing into this with my Facebook corporate account, or is this going to be tied to my social media account?” People had concerns about Quest. “If I don’t want to use Facebook or if something happens and my account gets deactivated, is my device now going to get bricked?”

That’s a concern that I think people shouldn’t have to have. People had concerns that “If I sign into Instagram with this or if I sign into WhatsApp with it, does that mean that my data is somehow gonna get shared over here in a way that I didn’t want?”

I think it’s helpful for people to have a relationship with a company that is different from the relationship with any specific one of the products, that can kind of supersede all of that. So from a functional perspective, I thought it was very important to have that. And as I looked out several years towards launching something like Nazaré, these products are becoming decreasingly like what you would think of as a social media product today.

I think just having a different identity for that is important.

When I thought about when was the best time to try to make that shift, it’s kind of like as soon as possible once you realize that you want to do that. So that’s what led us down this path. We’ve been thinking about it for a long time. I formally kicked off the project earlier this year. It was a little over more than six months ago. But this is a debate that we’ve been having for a long time inside the company, about whether we should do this. It’s something that I’ve been working with Alex Schultz on very closely since he became the CMO.”

When asked if there’s going to be a unified account system across everything, Zuckerberg explains:

“You’ll have a Facebook account and you’ll have an Instagram account. You’ll also have an account with the company that’s the top level. So that way if you don’t want to use Facebook, you don’t have to. One interesting analogy here is I think we’re basically moving from being Facebook first as a company to being metaverse first. I feel like this is in a way like when Microsoft went from being Windows first to cloud-first.

There were all these subtle ways in which, because the company brand was Facebook, a lot of stuff flowed through Facebook and the Facebook app in ways that may have not been optimal. Facebook is still clearly the app that people use the most out of all the ones that we do. But there are people who want to just use WhatsApp or want to just use Instagram, or just want to have Quest and be in VR or AR and not have to use these things.

So I think it’s about being able to pick and choose which of the services you want to use and know that, no matter what happens to your Facebook account or your Instagram account, you’re still going to have all the content that you bought in VR or all your virtual goods. You can set up an avatar and it can be tied to one of those accounts or could just be tied to your overall identity across the different families of apps. And you can use it in all these places if you want. I bet that’s going to be pretty powerful.”

Pioneers of “Metaverse” Are Unimpressed by Facebook Rebrand

While Zuckerberg is happy and excited to move forward with his ideas, not everyone is impressed with it. In particular, the pioneers of “metaverse” are unimpressed by this Facebook rebrand.

Early adopters of the virtual worlds known as the metaverse criticized Facebook’s rebranding as an attempt to “capitalize on growing buzz over a concept that it did not create”.

“They are essentially trying to build what many of us have been building for years but rebrand it as their own,” said Ryan Kappel, an American who for more than two years has hosted meet-ups in different metaverses.

“I think Facebook has made this early name change to essentially secure the new trademark legally as soon as possible as more brands become interested,” said a UK-based crypto investor known as Pranksy, who said he first bought virtual world real estate around early 2020.

Artur Sychov, who founded metaverse Somnium Space in 2017, said Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s announcement of the rebrand felt “rushed… kind of like trying to insert themselves into the metaverse narrative which is happening right now.”

Dave Carr, communications lead at the organization that runs the virtual world Decentraland, said Facebook’s move might meet resistance from metaverse users who are wary of its control over the content.

“People who want to determine the future of the virtual worlds they inhabit, maintain ownership of their creative output, and move freely between them will choose the decentralized version,” he said, describing Decentraland’s metaverse environment as decentralized and Facebook’s plan as likely centralized.

Decentraland, founded in 2017 with about 7,000 daily users now, sees itself as an alternative to traditional social media platforms that sell user data and control the content that users see.

Many existing metaverse platforms are based on blockchain technology that makes central control impossible. Blockchain is the distributed-ledger architecture that underlies cryptocurrencies. In these virtual worlds, people use cryptocurrencies to buy land and other digital objects in the form of non-fungible tokens (NFTs).

However, not all reactions are negative. Some said Facebook’s entry into the metaverse could raise interest in the concept of virtual worlds generally, attract more users, and support the development of multiple virtual worlds.

Tristan Littlefield, the co-founder of NFT company nft42 and metaverse user since 2018, said his first reaction to Facebook’s announcement was negative because he dislikes its sale of user data. But “having a behemoth like Facebook come in and just dump billions of dollars … could be a positive” because of the new people it would bring to the space, he said.

Changing Names Usually Yields Mixed Results

A number of major companies have changed established brands over the years. Japanese car brand Datsun became Nissan, Kentucky Fried Chicken shortened its name to KFC. 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.

In 2015, Google reorganized under a new parent company called Alphabet, and its founders handed over the day-to-day running of its lucrative search engine — although the company is still widely referred to as Google.

Similarly, the Facebook social network, known internally as the “big blue app,” isn’t going anywhere. However, this rebrand was deemed necessary as Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg said that the existing brand could not “possibly represent everything that we’re doing today, let alone in the future.”

“Over time, I hope that we are seen as a metaverse company and I want to anchor our work and our identity on what we’re building towards,” Zuckerberg told a virtual conference, “We’re now looking at and reporting on our business as two different segments, one for our family of apps, and one for our work on future platforms. And as part of this, it is time for us to adopt a new company brand to encompass everything that we do, to reflect who we are and what we hope to build.”

The company also unveiled a new sign at its headquarters in Menlo Park, California, on Thursday, replacing its thumbs-up “Like” logo with a blue infinity shape.


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