Facebook Inc is now called Meta, the company said on Thursday, in a rebrand that focuses on building the “metaverse,” a shared virtual environment that it bets will be the successor to the mobile internet.
The name change comes as the world’s largest social media company battles criticisms from lawmakers and regulators over its market power, algorithmic decisions and the policing of abuses on its services.
CEO Mark Zuckerberg, speaking at the company’s live-streamed virtual and augmented reality conference, said the new name reflected its work investing in the metaverse, rather than its namesake social media service, which will continue to be called Facebook.
Announcing @Meta — the Facebook company’s new name. Meta is helping to build the metaverse, a place where we’ll play and connect in 3D. Welcome to the next chapter of social connection. pic.twitter.com/ywSJPLsCoD
— Meta (@Meta) October 28, 2021
Allen Adamson, a marketing and branding export who co-founded Metaforce, a marketing firm based in New York, said rebranding Facebook now makes people think Zuckerberg is trying to create a “distraction.”
“Timing is everything when launching a new brand, and this timing is really difficult because for most audiences, it will appear that he’s become a little bit of The Wizard of Oz. If you remember that movie, you know, pay no attention to the person behind the curtain. You know, I’m just pushing the levers and, you know, look forward, look at the future, look at the metaverse and don’t worry about what’s happening on Facebook,” said Adamson,
“And the challenge is that, you know, doing it now makes people feel like he’s trying to create a distraction. Even though this may have been his vision for a long time, the the way it’s going to play out in the marketplace is that he’s trying to say, don’t look over here, look over here, it’s much more interesting to talk about the future than potentially how one of my companies is bumping along and maybe coming off the rails,” he added.
The metaverse is a term coined in the dystopian novel “Snow Crash” three decades ago and now attracting buzz in Silicon Valley. It refers broadly to the idea of a shared virtual realm which can be accessed by people using different devices.
“Right now, our brand is so tightly linked to one product that it can’t possibly represent everything that we’re doing today, let alone in the future,” said Zuckerberg.
The company, which has invested heavily in augmented and virtual reality, said the change would bring together its different apps and technologies under one new brand. It said it would not change its corporate structure.
The tech giant, which reports about 2.9 billion monthly users, has faced increasing scrutiny in recent years from global lawmakers and regulators.
In the latest controversy, whistleblower and former Facebook employee Frances Haugen leaked documents which she said showed the company chose profit over user safety.
Haugen has in recent weeks testified before a US Senate sub-committee and lawmakers in the UK’s Parliament.
Zuckerberg earlier this week said the documents were being used to paint a “false picture.”
“What makes this awkward is the fact that it’s being launched from Facebook, which is under siege and the Facebook brand and the Mark Zuckerberg brand are one,” said Adamson.
“I’m sure Mark is not being invited to many parties, and when he goes to parties, being the Facebook CEO or founder is is not as much fun as it used to be,” added Adamson.
The company said in a blog post that it intends to start trading under the new stock ticker it has reserved, MVRS, on December 1.
On Thursday, it unveiled a new sign at its headquarters in Menlo Park, California, replacing its thumbs-up “Like” logo with a blue infinity shape.
Facebook shares closed 1.5% higher at $316.92 on Thursday.