In an announcement last week, Facebook has introduced a huge rebrand that aims to take the company into new realms, namely, the metaverse.
In rebranding as Meta, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg aims to bring together social media apps and technologies under one umbrella, as well as branching out into virtual reality. A statement released by Facebook – or Meta – says:
“When Facebook launched in 2004, it changed the way people connect. Now, Meta is moving beyond 2D screens toward immersive experiences like augmented and virtual reality to help build the next evolution in social technology.”
Mark Zuckerberg referenced the word meta meaning beyond, reflecting the aim of Meta to move beyond what is possible today. He regards Facebook as not enough to encompass what they are doing and what the new vision is, and so the name change was born.
What is the Metaverse?
The metaverse is difficult to define, as many people have different visions of it. However, Meta aims to introduce a metaverse that focuses on augmented and virtual reality to create virtual experiences in gaming, education, and work.
Facebook owns Oculus, a company that creates virtual reality devices that will be used within the metaverse to enhance various experiences such as fitness or gaming. These devices are worn over the eyes to immerse the user in a full virtual reality setting, from a video game to a location on the other side of the world.
And that’s not all – the metaverse will create an entire digital economy where users can buy items for their avatars, such as clothes and art. Zuckerberg confirmed that cryptocurrencies and non-fungible tokens (NFTs) will have a place in this digital world.
Although Meta owns Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp, they will keep their names. Meta aims to utilise virtual reality to create a new dimension of social media – one where people can interact with those on the other side of the world in full virtual reality, travelling to sites all over the world from the comfort of their own homes.
Why Did Facebook Change Their Name?
The name change came as a surprise to many, but it may have a strategic purpose. Facebook has been facing numerous privacy and safety issue allegations, and former employee and whistleblower Frances Haugen has called for greater regulation.
Haugen says that Facebook carries a lot of the blame for the polarising politics of the world and was responsible for the radicalisation of many. She also states that Instagram is fundamentally unsafe for children and pre-teens due to the impact on their mental health and body image.
Some have speculated that this change has come about as part of an effort to direct people away from these controversies and distract from the issues being discussed in the press. This also comes at a time when stock prices have been declining, and the extreme change may help to stimulate more investments within the company.
However, some data analysts regard this change positively, as this could help Facebook grow far beyond the realms of what it is doing now. By looking forward to the future, this move establishes Facebook as a future-focused company that is investing in modern technology.
Facebook isn’t the only company working on the metaverse, either. Apple is also thought to be working on virtual and augmented reality technology, which may launch in 2022, although this is unconfirmed.
Is This Change A Good Thing?
This depends on who you ask. Some are enthusiastic about it and are excited about the developments this will bring about in the gaming and tech world and the possibilities that will arise. It may also stimulate the economy massively – Meta has disclosed that it will be spending $10bn on the project in 2022 and is looking to recruit 10,000 people to work on it in Europe in addition to the 10,000 already working on it in the US.
However, some are not as enthused about this development. Critics of Facebook and Meta worry about what this might mean for privacy and safety in the future. Questions have been raised about how it will safeguard young users from harmful content, internet predators, and harassment.
There is also the issue of advertisements and information that may be obtained from tracking users and how this might be used. Some think that rules and regulations need to be developed now to be ready to put into place when the metaverse is ready to go.
While Meta hasn’t truly taken over yet, there are many questions about whether this is a positive change. While the rebrand may give the company a new shiny logo and updated ethos, it raises many ethical questions of safety and data management. After all, brilliant new technology accounts for nothing when it can potentially be used to do more harm than good.