Facebook renames itself Meta as it faces closer scrutiny


(TNS) – In a move that signals the company’s growing interest in augmented and virtual reality projects, Facebook – which owns Instagram photo-sharing app, virtual reality company Oculus, and messaging platforms Messenger and WhatsApp, along with its namesake social network – will now be known as Meta.

The new name is a nod to the idea of ​​’metaverse’, a buzzword in Silicon Valley that encompasses a mix of physical, virtual and mixed realities that users can access and interact with through devices such as ‘a virtual or mixed reality headset. reality glasses.

“I think the metaverse is the next chapter for the internet, and it’s also the next chapter for our business,” Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg said at a press event Thursday morning.

Zuckerberg’s announcement came just over an hour after a main event broadcast live on Facebook Connect. Ahead of the reveal, Zuckerberg and other company executives discussed various metaverse projects the company is working on, including work and exercise simulations, virtual real-time tracking of physical objects, and photorealistic online avatars.

This transition has been a long time coming for Zuckerberg. After acquiring Oculus for $ 2 billion in 2014, he described virtual reality as “the future of computing.”

Zuckerberg acknowledged Thursday that the rebranding – and the corporate vision it embodies – is a shift in focus from the area of ​​social media that defined Facebook’s early days. But he said the company’s driving goal – connecting people – remains the same.

“The metaverse is the next frontier, just like social media was when we started,” Zuckerberg said. Facebook, he added, “is one of the most widely used products in the history of the world. It’s an iconic social media brand. But increasingly, it just isn’t all-encompassing. what we do.”

The company now “examines and reports” on its activities as “two different segments,” he added: a “family of applications” on the one hand and “future platforms” on the other. go.

The company’s applications and their branding will remain the same. The “What We’re Building” section of the recently updated Meta website still lists a Facebook app – the company’s flagship social network – under a banner featuring the new logo of the Meta umbrella company. , which looks like an infinity sign.

It’s reminiscent of what Google did in 2015, when the company launched Alphabet, a separate brand parent company that encompasses not only Google’s eponymous search engine, but a whole suite of diverse technological properties, including Fiber (a communications infrastructure company), Sidewalk Labs (an urban design company) and Calico (a “cure death” project).

It’s also a reversal of the company’s earlier efforts to unify its various businesses under the Facebook name. In 2019, the company updated the branding of two of its largest subsidiaries to “Facebook’s Instagram” and “Facebook’s WhatsApp”. The move was seen by some as a way to tie apps more closely together to make possible antitrust action more difficult.

Facebook’s Meta rebranding comes as the company fights back a wave of criticism and potential legal challenges stemming in large part from its social networking business. A series of leaks facilitated by whistleblower and former Facebook employee Frances Haugen led to story after story over the past month about the negative social impacts of the two platforms, which many Facebook staff seemed to be aware of. internally.

Once again this week, the leaks made public the company’s slow response to anti-vaccine misinformation on the Facebook app; its understaffing of content moderators fluent in foreign languages; and the concerns of the operator of the Apple App Store that the social network facilitates the sale of maids from the Middle East.

Earlier revelations, which Haugen discussed in Congress earlier this month, focused on the detrimental effects of apps on minors and the amplification of political extremism.

For company critics, rebranding is little more than a distraction from these issues.

“Changing their name doesn’t change the reality: Facebook is destroying our democracy and is the world’s leading peddler of disinformation and hate,” the Real Facebook Oversight Board, a watchdog group critical of Zuckerberg’s company, said in a statement. written response to rebranding. “Their meaningless name change should not distract from the real and independent investigation, regulation and oversight needed to hold Facebook accountable.”

The term “metaverse” used repeatedly by Zuckerberg first appeared in the 1992 science fiction novel “Snow Crash”. The concept has also played a central role in the “Ready Player One” franchise.

© 2021 Los Angeles Times. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


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