Facebook Becomes Meta

Sophia Mirabal

Facebook has appeared to take a more immersive direction, as CEO Mark Zuckerberg introduced a parent company “Meta,” at the company’s annual Connect conference. A month-long online, AI-powered marketplace and virtual event, Connect 2021 provided a chance for attendees to join one on one meetings with leading international suppliers in facilities management. This year, Zuckerberg and other Facebook executives shared their vision for what they consider the next evolution in a long line of social technologies: the metaverse. 

But Meta is only one piece to the puzzle. Designed to enforce connection, find communities, and build businesses, it will serve as an anchor and representative to future virtual communication. Zuckerberg wishes to expand the company’s image with this rebranding, “The metaverse encompasses both the social experiences and future technology. As we broaden our vision, it’s time for us to adopt a new brand.” Meta simply emphasizes this vision. Though the company’s platforms (Facebook, Instagram, and Whatsapp) will keep their names, Meta is an attempt to stray away from exclusively social-media-related content.  

But what exactly is the metaverse?

The term itself has been coined to refer to a virtual environment in which users exist in a digital presence (like an avatar) and interact with each other in real-time. Developments in this virtual reality will influence and likely transform the pace of worldwide digital communication and user experience. Facebook’s yet-to-be-developed host of services and products will be the first step towards this full-fledged cosmos, a world that several other companies (Microsoft, Roblox) are already living in. 

However, Zuckerberg’s plans for Meta seem significantly more ambitious, from Horizon Home to Presence Platform to Messenger calls in VR, the company CEO plans for an inventive reality that will “help grow the overall Metaverse economy” and reach beyond current limits. “In this future, you will be able to teleport instantly as a hologram to be at the office without a commute, at a concert with friends, or in your parents’ living room to catch up,” 

But what are Zuckerberg’s intentions?

Clearly, there is a strategy about the branding. As other social networks accumulate, they become conflicting forces for Meta, and by expanding the company’s properties (and incentive) Meta stands out amongst the crowd of competitors. Though Facebook by no doubt has been a pioneer in social media, its relevance has fallen in recent years, and Meta is an attempt to revive such relevance, solidifying the company’s (hopefully pivotal) role in a much broader, augmented reality. 

Some might speculate the change in pace is preparation for a worldwide change in internet function, and therefore a new market in online communication. Meta is an attempt to headline this image. So, is this entirely an act of benevolent innovation, or is this about owning the operating system of the future? Of course, the tech giant CEO denies this motive, as the company claims their tools will be made available to enable developers to connect their platforms with others and allow “a lot more commerce and help grow the overall Metaverse economy.”

But Zuckerberg’s timing also arouses suspicion. Meta has faced a steady stream of unfavorable stories following whistleblower Frances Haugen’s Facebook Papers. Many suspect the change in the company name is an effort to separate itself from the issues highlighted in her documents, as the growth of the metaverse will provide a distraction for a company currently under fire for poor user protection, and divert attention elsewhere. 

But Meta’s incentive is still a long way away. Though many would agree: virtual reality, in this lifetime, will become a commonly coordinated means of communication and business development, this reality is still very much the future.