Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has unveiled the company’s new name, Meta. As had been reported, this signifies a new effort to make the metaverse a center of the company’s ambitions going forward. It’s also probably an effort to distance the company from the large amount of bad press it has received recently.
In announcing the name change, the company went all-in on selling the idea of the metaverse, a virtual 3D space that combines virtual reality and augmented reality technology. Zuckerberg during the livestream announcement hailed it as the next step in online communication after writing text on websites, and social media on mobile devices. He expects the metaverse will be mainstream in the next five to 10 years, with up to a billion users by that point.
According to Zuckerberg, the metaverse will be a space where people can interact with each other, their media, and real-world objects through VR headsets (like Facebook’s Oculus Quest 2), smartphone AR, and smart glasses. They’ll be able to work and play together in customized virtual homes and worlds, and possibly even engage in a “metaverse economy” where they’ll build businesses.
The livestream presented popular VR games like Beat Saber as being able to interact with the metaverse. While showing off other VR games and software, Zuckerberg also revealed that Rockstar is working on Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas for the Quest 2.
“Over time, I hope that we are seen as a metaverse company,” Zuckerberg said towards the end of the stream, right before announcing the name change. “From now on, we’re going to be metaverse-first, not Facebook-first.”
Along with revealing the name “Meta,” Zuckerberg announced that “over time,” users won’t need to use Facebook in order to use the company’s other services. This could encompass all the products Facebook owns like WhatsApp, Instagram, and Oculus. This could be similar to how in 2015, Google reorganized as a subsidiary of new parent company Alphabet.
The change also comes at a time when Facebook might be trying to get away from the controversy it has run into in the last few weeks. The company recently admitted to its shareholders it’s being investigated by the government following leaks, mainly from whistleblower Frances Haugen.
One key takeaway from the “Facebook Papers” is that Haugen said to the Securities and Exchange Committee (SEC), “Facebook misled investors and the public about its role perpetuating misinformation and violent extremism relating to the 2020 election and January 6th insurrection.”
Earlier in September, a report surfaced revealing that Facebook knew how damaging Instagram could be for young girls’ mental health. Also in September, an excerpt from Pether Thiel’s biography claimed Zuckerberg cut a deal with then-president Donald Trump in 2019 that Facebook would avoid fact-checking political posts if the Trump administration wasn’t “heavy-handed” in its regulation, a claim Zuckerberg denies.