Facebook will now go by the name Meta, the company announced Thursday by pulling down a curtain draped over its iconic ‘Like’ sign outside its Silicon Valley headquarters Thursday.
It comes as the company is ensnared in controversy relating to whistleblower Frances Haugen’s leaked documents and bombshell claims that the company ‘puts profits over people.’
The firm’s original, flagship social media site and app – Facebook – will keep its moniker, but Facebook Inc., the parent company that also owns Instagram and WhatsApp, will now go under the new title.
The announcement, which came at the Facebook Connect augmented and virtual reality conference, includes a new logo depicting a blue infinity symbol and refers to the ‘metaverse’, the company’s new focus to expand beyond its social media apps.
It refers to shared virtual world environments that people can access via the internet. The term can refer to digital spaces, which are made more lifelike by the use of virtual reality or augmented reality.
‘Our mission remains the same, it’s still about bringing people together,’ he said, adding, ‘Now we have a new North Star to help bring the metaverse to life.’
He added that the word means ‘beyond’ in Greek and symbolizes that there is ‘always more to build’ and ‘always a next chapter in the story.’
‘I believe the metaverse is the next chapter of the Internet and it’s the next chapter of our company too,’ he said, adding, ‘While most etch companies focus on how people could connect to technology, we focus on building technology so people could connect with each other.’
Zuckerberg has previously suggested the metaverse to be future of the company, and has been talking up the metaverse since July.
The company has invested heavily in virtual reality and augmented reality, developing hardware such as its Oculus VR headsets and working on AR glasses and wristband technologies.
The buzzy word, first coined in a dystopian novel three decades earlier, is popular in Silicon Valley and has been referenced by other tech firms such as Microsoft.
The move is reminiscent of when Google abruptly renamed itself Alphabet in 2015, making Google a subsidiary and allowing it to become a technology conglomerate.
But the burning question on the minds of many is whether the name is enough to help Meta shake off it’s mounting public relations nightmares.
In addition to a new drop of documents from Haugen, last Monday. U.S. officials announced Facebook Inc had agreed to pay pay up to $14.25 million to settle civil claims by the government that the company discriminated against American workers and violated federal recruitment rules.
And last Tuesday in the U.K., the company was fined £50.5 million ($70 million) after failing to provide enough important information to the competition regulator investigating the firm’s takeover of GIF sharing platform Giphy.
Britain’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) launched a probe into the acquisition in June last year, shortly after the deal was announced, over concerns about a ‘substantial lessening of competition.’
Facebook responded to the fine, saying: ‘We strongly disagree with the CMA’s unfair decision to punish Facebook for a best effort compliance approach, which the CMA itself ultimately approved. We will review the CMA’s decision and consider our options.’
Facebook has also admitted that users can share information about how to enter countries illegally and about people smuggled on its social media platforms.
The admission comes as Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich urged the Department of Justice and US Attorney General Merrick Garland to investigate the social media giant over its ‘facilitation’ of illegal migration into the United States.
The move could benefit the California-based behemoth’s reputation, which has suffered hit after hit in recent years. The company had been facing a number of scandals long before its controversy over the Facebook Papers.
It was accused of facilitating the spread of misinformation during the 2016 US presidential election, prompting a a series of congressional hearings and policy changes, including the introduction of third-party fact-checkers and further transparency in political advertising.
In 2019, the Federal Trade Commission fined Facebook $5 billion for allowing 87 million US profiles to be harvested for information used for political advertising by British firm Cambridge Analytica.
Some of the advertising was used to help the 2016 campaign of former president Donald Trump.
When announcing the new name, Zuckerberg paid no notice to any of the scandals or Facebook papers, but focused solely on Meta’s goals going forward.
Those familiar with the popular children’s game Roblox already know the metaverse as it describes itself as a metaverse company. Epic Games’ Fortnite is also considered to be part of the metaverse.
The metaverse is ‘going to be a big focus, and I think that this is just going to be a big part of the next chapter for the way that the internet evolves after the mobile internet,’ Zuckerberg told The Verge earlier this year.
‘And I think it’s going to be the next big chapter for our company too, really doubling down in this area.’
On Sunday, Facebook announced it was hiring 10,000 people in Europe to build the metaverse out.
Facebook’s scandals over the years, from selling user data to allowing human trafficking on the site
Facebook staff have reported for years that they are concerned about the company’s failure to police hate speech
Facebook’s algorithms flooded users with extremist content and conspiracy theories based on their political beliefs
Facebook executives knew 32% of girls said Instagram made their insecurities worse, but continues to add beauty-editing filters to the app
Instagram bombards those who suffer from eating disorders with images and videos of exceedingly thin females and others afflicted with anorexia
Facebook executives knew it was becoming less popular among young people but shielded the numbers from investors.
Staff failed to anticipate the disastrous January 6 Capitol riot despite monitoring a range of individual, right-wing accounts
Apple threatened to remove the app from the App Store over how it failed to police the trafficking of maids in the Philippines
Mark Zuckerberg personally agreed to requests from Vietnam’s ruling Communist Party to censor anti-government dissidents
Facebook ignored or delayed suggestions from its own experts on how to act to curb anti-vaccine misinformation that spread on its platform
Mark Zuckerberg has come under fire for public comments about the company that are often at odds with internal messaging.