After facing one of the biggest scandals in years over shocking internal documents, social media giant Facebook is changing its name. The name change, first reported by The Verge on 19 October, will be announce in the company’s upcoming annual Connect conference on 28 October.
Valued at nearly a trillion dollars, Facebook along with the social media platform of the same name, also owns Instagram, WhatsApp and a host of other technology products like Oculus.
Speaking to The Verge earlier this year in July, Facebook chairman and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg said that in the next few years, “we will effectively transition from people seeing us as primarily being a social media company to being a metaverse company.”
But what’s in a name? Is it reputation damage control after the recent whistleblower leak or does the company have bigger plans in the future? And what could the new name be?
Facebook's 'Metaverse' Vision
Facebook’s rebranding efforts, according to a Bloomberg report, started earlier this year when Zuckerberg started pushing the idea of the social media giant transitioning towards a “metaverse”. According to Zuckerberg, users will be able to “transport” themselves between different experiences and interact with each other via virtual reality.
“The defining quality of the metaverse presence is this feeling that you’re really there with another person or in another place,” said Zuckerberg reportedly while outline his vision during a company quarterly earnings meeting.
A simple way to understand what a “metaverse” is to imagine a virtual world where a user can take up different identities and interact with different aspects of a digital world.
Facebook describes the metaverse as a virtual space where “you’ll be able to hang out with friends, work, play, learn, shop, create, and more. It’s not necessarily about spending more time online – it’s about making the time you do spend online more meaningful.”
According to Reuters, Facebook already has plans to hire 10,000 employees in the European Union over the next five years to facilitate the build of the “metaverse”. The company also plans to invest $50 million to build the virtual world.
Growing Trust Deficit in Facebook
While Facebook is not the first major business to change its name or rebrand – like Google forming its parent holding company Alphabet in 2015 – its proposed rebrand comes at a peculiar time.
Facebook has been under scrutiny for years, with its alleged spread of misinformation and hate speech elections, and most recently from the US Congress after former Facebook employee turned whistleblower France Haugen revealed damning internal documents regarding the company’s knowledge on how its products and platforms influence and harm users.
Trust in Facebook has also been falling according to a recent survey by The Verge, with 34 percent respondent saying they had unfavourable opinion about the social media giant compared to only 29 percent in the 2020 survey.
“Unless Facebook has serious plans to address at least some of its many issues, just changing a name is pointless. In fact, it can worsen matters,” reported Wired, quoting Anaezi Modu, CEO of Rebrand.
Meta? Horizon? Possible Future Names
The announcement regarding the company’s future name change prompted a flood of speculation on social media.
Among the popular contenders is “FB” and even “The Facebook” which is a return to the company’s original name. However, media report point out that the name name will be along the lines of Facebook’s metaverse ambitions.
According to The Verge, the new name can be along the lines of “Horizon”, which is a virtual reality platform the company is developing.
“Meta” is another possible contender according to a Bloomberg report. The report states that the domain name “meta.com” redirects to meta.org which is the name of research tool developed under the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative.
(With inputs from The Indian Express, The Verge, Wired, Bloomberg)