The social media network Facebook was founded in 2004 by Mark Zuckerberg. The pioneer startup would later become one of the most popular social media platforms for personal and business use. Perhaps not coincidentally, with all the legal and governmental probes and negative publicity, on October 28th, 2021 it was reported that Mark Zuckerberg announced that Facebook will be changing their name to Meta.
As reported by Wall Street Journal on October 28th, 2021 by Sarah E. Needleman.
Facebook Inc. Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg said the company changed its name to Meta to reflect growth opportunities beyond its namesake social-media platform in online digital realms known as the metaverse.
“Over time I hope our company will be seen as a metaverse company,” Mr. Zuckerberg said Thursday. He unveiled the name, formally Meta Platforms Inc., for the company that also includes Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and other products during Facebook’s annual developer event, where he detailed his vision for the metaverse that he sees as key to the tech giant attracting younger users.
“We’ve gone from desktop to web to phones, from text to photos to video, but this isn’t the end of the line,” Mr. Zuckerberg said at the social-media giant’s annual developer forum called Facebook Connect. “We believe the metaverse will be the successor to the mobile internet.”
Facebook is already investing heavily in creating that new reality of shared online spaces inhabited by digital avatars, with projects ranging from virtual-reality glasses to an e-commerce platform. “We expect to spend many billions of dollars for years to come,” Mr. Zuckerberg said.
The company on an earnings call Monday already said that Facebook Reality Labs, which encompasses augmented-reality and virtual-reality products and services, is becoming a separate reporting unit and that spending for it would reduce this year’s total operating profit by $10 billion. Mr. Zuckerberg at the time said Facebook was “retooling our teams to make serving young adults their North Star.”
The metaverse that he has been increasingly promoting also gives him a comfortable topic to focus on as Facebook faces intense criticism from lawmakers, researchers and users over revelations in The Wall Street Journal’s Facebook Files series, which showed that the company knows its platforms are riddled with flaws that cause harm. Mr. Zuckerberg has said the criticism paints a false picture of the company he co-founded.
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At Thursday’s event the Facebook chief also addressed the decision to discuss emerging plans while the company faces such scrutiny. “I know some people will say this is not a time to focus on the future,” Mr. Zuckerberg said, but argued that it is important to move forward even if mistakes are made along the way.
The company’s shares, starting Dec. 1, are slated to trade under the stock symbol MVRS, giving up the two-letter format it had with FB. Facebook shares rose 1.5% Thursday.
The name change appears to veer away from Facebook’s move two years ago to revamp its logo and corporate identity and boost the name’s prominence by attaching “from Facebook” to the various other brands the company started or acquired over the years.
Other companies have renamed or rebranded themselves over the decades for many reasons. Philip Morris changed its name in 2003 to Altria Group Inc. amid widespread condemnation of Big Tobacco over cigarettes’ harmful heath effects.
Apple Inc. shortened its name from Apple Computer in 2007 to reflect the growth of other products like iPods and iPhones. Google restructured in 2015 to create a parent company named Alphabet Inc. that housed its array of side businesses.
Facebook traces its name to the company’s origin, when Mr. Zuckerberg, then a student at Harvard University, named an early version of the site after the term for the school’s student directories. “I used to love studying classics,” he said Thursday, “and the word ‘meta’ comes from the Greek word meaning ‘beyond.’ For me, it symbolizes that there is always more to build.”
Bank of America analysts in an investor note Tuesday called the metaverse a compelling concept that “has a reasonable chance of mass market adoption with Facebook’s strong backing.” But they cautioned that the company’s ambitions in this area would likely take many years to come to fruition. “Long-term holders will need to have a strong belief in Facebook’s vision for the metaverse business model to want to hold the stock,” the analysts said.
Facebook is one of many big tech companies with metaverse-related objectives. Microsoft Corp. , Nvidia Corp. , Unity Software Inc. and others have said they are developing tools, services or content for the metaverse.
Some early iterations of the metaverse already exist. Roblox Corp. and Epic Games Inc. have hosted virtual concerts with millions of attendees who appeared as avatars. Similarly, virtual-reality applications such as “Rec Room” and “AltspaceVR” let people socialize as avatars. Some tech-industry forecasters have said in the future such experiences will evolve to become almost lifelike.
Mr. Zuckerberg has said it would take time before the metaverse becomes lucrative for his company. “Building the foundational platforms for the metaverse will be a long road,” he said on Monday’s call, adding, “Later in this decade is when we would sort of expect this to be more of a real business story.”
At Thursday’s event, the Facebook chief took an implicit swipe at rival Apple for the fees it charges on its App Store. “I believe that the lack of choice, high fees are stifling innovation and stopping people from building new things and holding back the entire internet economy,” Mr. Zuckerberg said. He has groused for years that Apple holds too much sway over the social-media giant’s business. Apple has defended its App Store policy as benefiting consumers.
“We want to serve as many people as possible,” Mr. Zuckerberg said. “That’s the approach that we want to take to help build the metaverse, too.”
He said the company is building a social platform for the metaverse called Horizon, a beta version of which started rolling out last year. And Facebook is working to bring Messenger calls to virtual reality, enabling people to more easily explore virtual worlds or join games together, as well as creating a marketplace for its Horizon platform and office-related features, he said.
Facebook said earlier this month that it plans to create 10,000 jobs in Europe over the next five years to work on metaverse-related endeavors. The company also has introduced Oculus-branded virtual-reality headsets, and it joined with Ray-Ban to develop smart sunglasses that went on sale for $299 last month. New gadgets are in development, Mr. Zuckerberg said.
“I view this work as critical to our mission because delivering a sense of presence—like you’re right there with another person—that’s the holy grail of online social experiences,” Mr. Zuckerberg said Monday.
With the good and bad history of Facebook, do you believe this change will benefit the social media platform?
Additional Facebook/Meta Resources
Why Did Facebook become Meta? (The New York Times)