So, Facebook announced its rebrand a couple of weeks ago. Let’s get into it. The social media giant will be positioning itself ready to build the metaverse, and in keeping with that goal, it changed its parent-company name to ‘Meta’. Meta will now be known as the overarching company that runs Facebook, Whatsapp, Instagram, and Oculus among others.
Mark Zuckerberg, CEO and founder of Facebook, has said that he wants to build the metaverse; with it being a virtual world where people can do anything and everything, including work, game, and socialise. Zuckerberg said, “We believe the metaverse will be the successor of the mobile internet…We’ll be able to feel present – like we’re right there with people no matter how far apart we actually are.”
Meta also reported that the revenue of their VR segment had grown so substantially that they will now need to count this revenue separately and divide it into two categories. One category is the family of apps as mentioned above, and the second category is its Reality Labs products featuring their VR and AR technology.
This change comes at a time when Zuckerberg is expecting the metaverse to reach a population of 1 billion people within the next 10 years. Therefore, this rebrand is to support his vision of building a metaverse to meet that demand. Users will be able to design their own avatars, decorate their own virtual space, meet with people, and even attend virtual concerts and events all from the comfort of their own homes. All of this is not too far stretched from what we see now, with both Fortnite and Roblox hosting virtual concerts very recently.
Over the last year, Facebook rolled out two platforms in beta to get the metaverse ball rolling. Horizon Worlds and Horizon Workrooms. The former allows users to invite their friends over to their digital world and the latter does the same but purely for professional environments. As well as this, Zuckerberg has also expressed interest in the NFT and Crypto space, working on how digital assets can be effectively represented within the metaverse.
However, this change comes at a time when Facebook is facing uphill public relations battles. This includes the recent whistleblower, Frances Haugen coming forward with leaked documents outlining the toxic business practices and evidence of the long term negative impact the platform will have on the public. Many believe that this rebrand is just to distract the public from what is really going on behind closed doors. Imran Ahmed, CEO of the Center for Countering Digital Hate had not-so favourable words about the Facebook reposition, saying the following, ‘…just imagine what Facebook could achieve if it devoted even a fraction of its metaverse investment on proper content moderation to enforce even the most basic standards of truth, decency and progress.’
There has been a mixed reaction from industry experts on this move from Zuckerberg. Here are a few examples of the negative comments:
“While it’ll help alleviate confusion by distinguishing Facebook’s parent company from its founding app, a name change doesn’t suddenly erase the systemic issues plaguing the company… If Meta doesn’t address its issues beyond a defensive and superficial altitude, those same issues will occupy the metaverse,” said Mike Proulx, VP and Research Director at Forrester.
Tom Bianchi, VP of Marketing at Acquia stated, “Big tech companies are taking steps towards consent-led data strategies, such as embracing first-party data and the phasing out of third-party cookies… But, given the scale of the Cambridge Analytica scandal and the recent whistleblower revelations, it’s clear Facebook has a long way to go before it regains consumer confidence.”
“With social media under scrutiny, and with increasing regulation inevitable, the rebrand and pivot seem to be an attempt to deflect some of the attention from recent scandals, while also entering into a new arena where Facebook may feel better positioned to shape the rules,” said Arielle Garcia, Chief Privacy Officer at UM Worldwide.
It’s not all bad though, here are a few positive outlooks…
Jeff Sue, General Manager of Americas at Mintegral said, “The metaverse and virtual reality world is a great opportunity for Facebook and the new rebranding signifies their intentions… Traditional social media has been a crowded space recently, especially with the rise of TikTok capturing younger audiences. Facebook needed to pivot on many levels from product to PR, and this will allow it to continue growing.”
“Meta represents the future not only for Facebook but for marketing… The metaverse represents the next massive opportunity for brands to engage consumers in new ways,” Aaron Goldman, Chief Marketing Officer at Mediaocean opined. “The key to success for brands in the metaverse will be ensuring that their assets are built into the ecosystem for easy access by consumers.”
This future vision certainly has the tech industry divided. With Meta planning on spending $10 billion in the next year alone on this bet, the social media giant is most certainly committed no matter what other issues hamper it.