Mark Zuckerberg announced on Thursday that Facebook’s new name would be Meta. The billionaire CEO said that the rebrand was part of the company’s move to include its vision for the future, which it called “the metaverse.”
According to AP News, none of the company’s products such as Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, Messenger, or Oculus would change their name, but that shares would start trading under the new corporate umbrella name “MVRS,” standing for “metaverse.”
Sounding like something out of a science-fiction movie, the metaverse Zuckerberg aspires to be a “computer-generated environment.” The phrase was first coined in the 1992 dystopian sci-fi novel Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson, which described a virtual 3D world navigated by digital avatars.
Zuckerberg explained on Thursday that his version of the metaverse would start out as “a set of virtual spaces where you can create and explore with other people who aren’t in the same physical space as you.”
Imagine a 3D Zoom meeting, or a less playful and more realistic version of popular video games such as Sims or Animal Crossing.
Speaking with The Verge, Zuckerberg said that the metaverse would be “an embodied Internet,” or a place where you could do more with the internet than looking at a flat screen.
“We think there’s going to be lots of companies building virtual worlds and environments in the metaverse,” Nvidia vice president Richard Kerris told AP News, “in the same way there’s being lots of companies doing things on the World Wide Web.”
Zuckerberg said that he hopes the metaverse will reach a billion people within the decade. He envisions it as a new, virtual ecosystem where people can work and create.
“Today we are seen as a social media company,” Zuckerberg said. “But in our DNA we are a company that builds technology to connect people. Together, we can finally put people at the center of our technology. And together, we can unlock a massively bigger creator economy.”
“To reflect who we are and what we hope to build,” he said, “over time, I hope we are seen as a metaverse company.”
Many critics of Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg allege that the rebrand came at an opportune moment for the company, since a massive document leak dubbed “The Facebook Papers” implicated the social media website in various workplace malpractices.
Facebook was accused of violating user’s data privacy, compromising security, failing to stop human trafficking, and promoting groups that spread misinformation about the 2020 presidential election and Covid-19.
Critics allege that Facebook used the rebrand to distract investors and avoid the bad press that has been swirling around the company for years. “They can’t walk away from the social network with a new corporate name and talk of a future metaverse,” said marketing consultant Laura Ries.
She compared the name change to when BP rebranded as “Beyond Petroleum,” to escape criticism that it was a company that was harmful to the environment.
The Real Facebook Oversight Board, an online watchdog group, told AP News that “changing their name” to the metaverse “doesn’t change reality.”
“Facebook is destroying our democracy and is the world’s leading peddler of disinformation and hate,” the group said in an official statement. “Their meaningless name change should not distract from the investigation, regulation and real, independent oversight needed to hold Facebook accountable.”
On Monday, the #deletefacebook hashtag was trending on Twitter, as years of trouble for the social media website began to catch up with the company.