In a radical re-branding move, Facebook has decided to rename the company Meta Platforms Inc., an umbrella term for all its existing services and those it aims to bring to the audience in the future. Meta comes from the term metaverse, an idea espoused by Facebook as the future of social connection encompassing Facebook, Messenger, Instagram, WhatsApp, Oculus, Workplace, Portal and Novi. With these platforms and a seamless interactive virtual social space between them, Facebook claims to bring the future of connectivity closer to us,along with experiences like virtual reality and augmented reality.
Facebook’s interest in artificial intelligence and virtual reality is not new as only a few years ago in 2019, they bought the promising virtual reality start-up Oculus. Now, with metaverse, they are introducing a 3D world of socialising, learning, gaming and interacting in ways beyond imagination. Metaverse will incorporate all aspects of life including social connections, entertainment, gaming, exercise, work, education, and commerce, aiming to be a one-stop solution to everyday life. However, the technological developments in that direction are still ongoing as Facebook is trying to create new technologies to bring the vision of metaverse to life. Like Facebook, and other services by them, metaverse is also a collective project to be created and used by people across the world.
Many see this rebranding as an attempt by Facebook to change and reverse the negative narratives building around them, especially vis-à-vis data security and privacy concerns. In a most recent case against Facebook, an ex-employee Frances Haugen shared documents with the Wall Street Journal confirming to speculations that important alterations were not made to Facebook and Instagram to cut-down on their negative social impact keeping profit in mind. Even prior to this, the company has been in muddy waters over the past couple of years by rising questions on data privacy and the growing role of Facebook in determining important political decisions of the time.
Although Facebook has been reiterating its commitment to data security and user’s discretion, things have only been going downhill for the corporation with multiple lawsuits and governments. With meta, these goals have been more clearly shown in its commitment to safety and expression, protection of privacy and security, towards making the platforms unbiased and transparent in elections and towards providing support to COVID relief programmes across the world.
Name and brand identity changes are not new and many leading corporations across the world have done it when they found their goals not aligning with the brand name. Apple changed its name from Apple Computers to Apple Inc., to incorporate all the other products they had launched in the market. For Facebook’s CFO Mark Zuckerberg, the name Meta too has a similar calling. In classic Greek, the word means beyond, symbolising their inspiration that there is always more to build.
The concept of Metaverse that was coined in a sci-fi novel Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson some three decades ago. Since then, many companies have invested in the idea in different capacities including Microsoft and Nvidia. However, Facebook would be the first to rebrand its entire vision and future in this direction. The social platform for metaverse, Horizon is already under development.
As lucrative as the idea seems, investors realise that it is going to be a long way before it becomes a functional platform, speculating at least a decade before it becomes a business and profitable to the investors. For the tech enthusiasts, the coming years are going to be a roller coaster through some of their most awaited sci-fi fantasies coming true!