So we were the first media in Ethiopia to draw attention to the name change and now this.
The well-known Facebook sign has been changed
For the first time in 17 years, Mark Zuckerberg has a new job title.On Thursday, he officially became the CEO and chairman of Meta, the new parent company name for Facebook. The rebrand is about solidifying the social media giant as being about the metaverse, which Zuckerberg sees as the future of the internet. Zuckerberg is staying in control of everything. He told me in an interview that, unlike the founders of Google who stepped aside in 2015 when it became part of a holding company called Alphabet, he has no plans to give up the top job.
I THINK WE’RE BASICALLY MOVING FROM BEING FACEBOOK FIRST AS A COMPANY TO BEING METAVERSE FIRST.Mark Zuckerberg
Instead, the change is about recognizing a shift inside the company that’s already taken place. Zuckerberg has been pouring billions of dollars — at least $10 billion this year alone — into building the metaverse, an expansive, immersive vision of the internet taken from the pages of sci-fi novels like Snow Crash and Ready Player One. “I think we’re basically moving from being Facebook first as a company to being metaverse first,” he told me this week over the phone. While details are slim, a unified account system is going to be introduced to span all of the company’s social apps, the Oculus Quest headset, Portal, and future devices. That means you won’t need a Facebook account to use the Quest.
The rebrand to Meta, announced by Zuckerberg last week at the company’s annual Connect conference, has been a clandestine affair since he formally kicked off the project just over six months ago. The small handful of employees involved had to sign separate nondisclosure agreements, and Zuckerberg refused to tell me the name itself when we spoke the day before Connect. He said he had been thinking about rebranding the company ever since he bought Instagram and WhatsApp, in 2012 and 2014, but earlier this year he realized that it was time to make the change.“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,” he said. “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.”
RECENT LEAKS HAD “NOTHING TO BEAR” ON THE NAME CHANGEZuckerberg
Zuckerberg knows that the timing of this rebrand is suspect. Over the past few weeks, the company has been hit with a nonstop barrage of criticism, thanks to leaked internal documents provided to the media by a former employee named Frances Haugen. Facebook is perhaps the most scrutinized company in the world right now, and its brand has soured in the eyes of young people. To the many critics, distancing the company brand and Zuckerberg from the name Facebook will be seen as an evasion tactic.According to Zuckerberg, the current cycle of bad news “had nothing to bear on this. Even though I think some people might want to make that connection, I think that’s sort of a ridiculous thing. If anything, I think that this is not the environment that you would want to introduce a new brand in.”
The metaverse as an idea isn’t new, but it wasn’t thrust into the mainstream conversation until Zuckerberg started talking about it publicly earlier this year. The concept originates from Snow Crash, a dystopian novel from the 1990s in which people flee the crumbling real world to be fully immersed in a virtual one. While he acknowledges that the origins of the word are a “con,” Zuckerberg is trying to reclaim the metaverse as a utopian idea that will unlock an entirely new economy of virtual goods and services.In the next decade, he thinks most people will be spending time in a fully immersive, 3D version of the internet that spans not just Meta’s hardware such as the Quest, but devices made by others. He’s pushing his teams to build technology that could one day let you show up in a virtual space as a full-bodied avatar, or appear as a hologram of yourself in the real-world living room of your friend who lives across the planet.
He’s careful not to get into details, but he believes there will be a “pretty important role” for crypto technology like NFTs and smart contracts in the metaverse. “One of the big questions that people are going to have about virtual goods in the metaverse is, ‘Do I really get to own this thing?’” he told me. “‘Or is it just content that someone can basically just take away from me in the future?’ And I’m pretty sensitive to that given all the pressures that we’ve had to try to navigate around censorship, and what’s the definition of something that’s harmful versus when you have to get in the way of people being able to express something.”The software underpinning Zuckerberg’s take on the metaverse is called Horizon. It’s part Minecraft meets Roblox with an application for work collaboration as well. Next year, the company plans to introduce Project Cambria, a high-end, mixed reality headset previewed at Connect that mixes virtual graphics with the real world in full color. It will have face and eye tracking to allow for more realistic avatars.Also in the works is a pair of AR glasses called Nazaré. While they are still several years out, to Zuckerberg they have the potential to be as widely used as mobile phones are today. The idea is that, unlike a VR headset that takes you out of the real world, Nazaré will look like a normal pair of glasses with displays capable of overlaying computing onto the world around you. “These products are becoming decreasingly like what you would think of as a social media product today,” he said. “And I think just having a different identify for that is important.”It’s unclear if this rebrand to Meta will achieve what Zuckerberg is aiming for, but there’s no question that it’s a bold move. The company is facing down new social media competitors, frustrated government regulators, and a new generation of potential users who view its core app as far from hip. The metaverse offers Zuckerberg a substantially new, maximalist direction to move toward. Now it needs to get to work.