On 28th October 2021, Facebook again made headlines. No, this time, it is not about any whistleblower or any new scandal. It is about Facebook rebranding itself as a social technology company, Meta. (We are still calling it Facebook in this article.)
Notably, only the name of the parent company is changed. The name of its products like Instagram, WhatsApp, etc., will remain the same. However, its Oculus line will get a new branding (1). As per the announcement of CTO Andrew Bosworth following the Connect event (2), the Oculus Quest product line will now be rebranded as the Meta Quest product line, and the app will be renamed as Meta Quest app. As per Bosworth, these changes will start taking effect in early 2022.
Yesterday at Connect 2021, Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of the globe’s most prominent social media network, introduced Meta, which brings together all Facebook’s products, apps, and technologies under a single brand name.
According to the official blog post (3), Meta will focus on bringing its ambitious mission metaverse to life and help grow businesses, find communities, and connect people.
“Metaverse will feel like a hybrid of today’s online social experiences, often expanded into 3D or projected into the physical world,” read the official blog post. Moreover, it will also allow users to share immersive experiences with other people even if you can’t be together and do all things together which you can’t do in a physical world.
The company called it its next big evolution in a long line of social technologies and believed it would usher a new chapter for the organization.
With the annual Connect conference, Facebook aims to bring together virtual and augmented reality developers, marketers, content creators, and others to celebrate the growth and momentum of the industry.
This year, Facebook explored different metaverse experiences over the next ten years, from gaming, social connection, entertainment, fitness, work, commerce, and education. The company also announced new tools that would help people create for the metaverse, including Presence Platform, which would allow new mixed reality experiences on Quest 2. Notably, Facebook will also invest about 150 million USD in immersive learning to train the next-gen creators.
Click here to watch the full Connect keynote and learn more about how metaverse will unlock new opportunities.
What’s Changing at Facebook?
According to the company’s official blog post, there are no changes in their corporate structure besides the corporate name.
But, there will be some significant changes to the company’s financial reports. Starting with their results from Q4 2021, Facebook is planning to report two operating segments: the family of apps and reality labs.
Notably, Facebook is also looking to start trading under their new stock ticker; they have reserved MVRS from 1st December.
The company also noted that the announcement doesn’t affect how they use or share data.
“Meta creates technologies that help people connect, grow businesses, and find communities. When Facebook was launched in 2004, it transformed the way people connect. Applications like WhatsApp, Messenger, and Instagram further empowered billions of people worldwide. Now, Meta is looking beyond 2D screens and moving towards an immersive experience with the likes of AR and VR to help create the next evolution in social technology,” wrote Facebook in its blog post.
Mark Zuckerberg shared his insights and vision with Meta in a separate blog post titled “Founder’s Letter, 2021,” published on Thursday (4).
“We are optimistic that in the next ten years, the metaverse will connect a billion users, host billions of dollars of ecommerce, and support jobs for millions of developers and creators,” wrote Facebook’s CEO in the letter.
Over the past many years, the social media giant has ramped up its efforts in hardware, introducing a line of portal video-calling devices, rolling out the Ray-Ban stories glasses, and launching multiple versions of the Oculus VR headsets.
Notably, as the company mentioned, AR and VR will be an integral part of this strategy in the upcoming years.
The Metaverse Demonstration
On Thursday, while unveiling its new ambition, Zuckerberg also demonstrated the company’s metaverse mission.
The demonstration was a Pixar-like animation of software the company hopes to create someday. It included users hanging out in a virtual cartoon-like space with versions of themselves or even fantastical characters, such as robots.
Notably, Zuckerberg even used its part to accuse other tech companies of stifling innovation with higher developer fees (5)
Zuckerberg stated a lot of this is a long way off, with details of metaverse components potentially gaining on the mainstream in the next five to ten years.
“We believe that metaverse will become the successor to the mobile internet,” added Zuckerberg.
Additionally, Facebook also announced a new VR headset named Project Cambria. It will be a high-end product, meaning it will be available at a price point of more than 299 USD Quest 2 headset, the company said in a blog post (6). As per Zuckerberg, Project Cambria will be released next year.
Facebook also announced the name for its first fully AR-capable smart glasses, Project Nazare. The glasses are still a few years out, stated Facebook in its blog post (7).
The re-branding comes amid plenty of news reports over the last month after Frances Haugen, a former employee turned whistleblower, released a trove of internal company documents to news outlets, regulators, and law markets.
The report indicates the company is aware of many of the harms its services and apps cause. However, the company is not doing anything to rectify the issue or even address them.
In a call with analysts, Zuckerberg also refuted the claims and critiques in the reports arising from the documents availed by Haugen.
To know more about the whistleblower revelations, read our previous story, Facebook is Again Under Spotlight With The Latest Revelations From The WhistleBlower.
Notably, Zuckerberg now owns a Twitter handle, @meta, whose tweets are protected as writing this post, and website domain meta.com. The website redirects users to a welcome page on Facebook highlighting the changes.
Previously, they used to redirect users to meta.org, a biomedical research finding tool, a Chan Zuckerberg Science Initiative project. It is a part of the philanthropic arm Zuckerberg Co-founded with Priscilla Chan, his physician wife, back in 2015. According to a Medium post on Thursday, the group is shutting down Meta.org on 31st March 2022 (8).
Zuckerberg on Rebranding Facebook
With the announcement, Zuckerberg has officially become the chairman and CEO of Meta, the new name of Facebook’s parent company.
In an interview with The Verge (9), Zuckerberg stated that the rebrand is about strengthening the company’s mission about metaverse, which the CEO sees as the future of the internet. He further explained that, unlike Google’s founders, who stepped aside in 2015 when it became part of a holding company named Alphabet, he has no plans to give up the stop. Meaning he is still in control of everything.
“With the move, we are moving from being Facebook first as an organization to being a metaverse first company,” stated Zuckerberg.
“I believe that there was a lot of confusion and awkwardness about having the company named as the brand of one of the social media platforms. I believe it is helpful for people to have a relationship with a company that is different from the relationship with any specific one of its products.”
Recent Leaks has no Relation on The Name Change, as per Zuckerberg
It seems that Zuckerberg is well aware of the suspicious timing of the rebranding.
As we already mentioned, Facebook is probably the most scrutinized company worldwide, and its brand has gained bad light in the eyes of young people. And critics are already calling the move an evasion tactic.
However, Zuckerberg says that the current bad news cycle has nothing to do with the name change. He stated, “even though some people are looking to make that connection, I believe it is a stupid thing to do. If anything, I believe it is not the environment where any company should introduce a new brand.”
“Our new products are becoming less like what is traditionally perceived as a social media product, and I believe that having a different identity for that is important.”
Even though we can not say for sure if the rebranding move will help Zuckerberg achieve what he is looking at, there is no question that it is a bold move.
The company is facing down new competitors in the social media industry. Government regulators already seem frustrated with Facebook, and new generations seem to be moving far from its core app.
In such a scene, the metaverse offers Facebook and Zuckerberg a new, maximalist direction to move on.
Can Things Go Wrong for Zuckerberg? Spoiler Alert: If Only.
Now before we dive into Zuckerberg’s metaverse plan, take a closer look at its framework set by Matthew Balls (10):
- Hardware: Facebook’s Oculus, now Meta headsets
- Networking: high-speed, always-on internet connection
- High processing power
- Virtual platforms: Place where people can build businesses and engage in social activities (sounds like a virtual Facebook)
- Interchange tools and standards, aka blockchain technology
- Digital-first payments, again cryptocurrency and blockchain technology
- Metaverse content, assets, and services, again NFTs and Cryptos
According to Ball, crypto and metaverse go hand in hand. He never put crypto into anyone of his metaverse ideas because he believes it is spread across several categories.
On the other hand, when it is about standards (11), “if one declares his intent to start a metaverse, owners of IP would never embrace interoperability or entrust their IP.”
Thankfully blockchain solves this issue to an extent. “Since blockchain itself is an open-source standard when people create bridges to move assets across the technology, the multi-chain world gets built. Hence, a metaverse created on a blockchain makes sense for interchanging assets. It would be hard to imagine better on-ramp transparency,” explained Ball (12).
Ball further talked about how blockchains can help IP owners of our favorite characters resolve their inability to trust others. It allows all content owners and publishers with an interoperable metaverse.
As per Ball (13), “Blockchain seems to be the best way to engage today’s major brands and gaming platforms into the metaverse.”
While crypto and blockchain technologies solve most metaverse issues, one issue remains difficult for crypto land to solve: hardware (14).
According to some market watchers, such as Daniel Bar, an investor (15), we will see “permissioned” metaverse stem first because all the hardware required to enter the metaverse headsets is closed. Ball also noted that almost all virtual worlds based on blockchain and even NFT platforms are based on the browser.
And it is a category Zuckerberg can fill. As the owner of social networking platforms with over half a population worldwide and a unit mass-producing VR headsets, His metaverse ambitions don’t seem too far-fetched.
We can also add that to Facebook’s multi-year effort to build a cryptocurrency, a rather unfortunate project Libra, and how he is eventually joining the pieces together for the metaverse.
In other words, Facebook has a lot of advantages if it ventures into the metaverse. However, there is a small catch. He has to embrace openness and interoperability, something Facebook is still not quite good at.
From his interview with The Verge mentioned above, we can say that Zuckerberg doesn’t seem to believe that he needs hard decentralization and interoperability. While he didn’t say much about what route he is taking for his metaverse, he seems to suggest that the decentralized crypto route is not the only one out there to achieve interoperability.
But then again, remember how his high-profile potential investors started backing out when Facebook started rolling its Libra project, which was pretty grim (16).
In conclusion, yes, it would be possible for Facebook to find immense success with its metaverse ambition. However, the only thing that can prevent the company is the control and centralization at the core of Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg.