US publication The Verge broke the news last night that Facebook, one of the largest tech companies in the world and the owners of the social media platform of the same name as well as Instagram and Whatsapp, is planning to rebrand itself.
It comes amidst mounting scandals and controversies that some suggest could spell the end of public trust in the organisation as well as sparking a whole new way that we understand and interact with social media.
The company has been dealing with the fallout of a former employee testifying before a US Senate committee hearing that the company values profit over the mental wellbeing of its users and benefits from stoking division in society.
At the same time, politicians around the globe are calling for greater regulation of the social media company, with the federal government in Australia stepping up plans to intervene in Facebook’s power over society.
Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce told reporters last week that “This time, something’s going to happen” about social media regulation.
“The motivation is now there at the federal level in Australia, at the highest level in the United States, in other corners of the globe, to say: ‘we’ve had enough, you can’t treat us like fools. You think we’re joking, we’re not’,” Joyce told the ABC’s PM programme.
While the ire of the Australian government might not be at the heart of Facebook’s apparent run for cover, it does feed into the wider narrative that the company has become too big and too powerful for governments to tolerate any longer.
This all factors into the need for Facebook to rebrand itself, although a name change is not really going to fool anyone into thinking that the company is in any way different. However, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has bigger ambitions than simply worming his way out of legal troubles.
Instead, the company looks to be shifting its sights to a new, global project with ambitions to revolutionise the way we do… well, just about everything, called the metaverse.
In classic Facebook style, the social media giant’s answer to the problems caused by the company appears to be ‘more Facebook’, and the metaverse is set to be another offering from the-company-soon-to-formerly-be-known-as-Facebook.
Much like Google, who restructured their business under the name Alphabet to demonstrate that they are more than just a search engine, Facebook is stepping away from the idea of the company as just a social media platform so that it can focus on building the metaverse.
In July, Zuckerberg told The Verge that, over the next several years, “we will effectively transition from people seeing us as primarily being a social media company to being a metaverse company.”
They have already begun setting in motion the plans for the new digital reality with the hiring of 10,000 new employees to get to work on hardware and software to support this new vision. It now makes more sense why Facebook would buy Oculus, the virtual reality headset company that made waves in the 2010s, as wearable virtual reality tech is going to be integral to getting the project off the ground.
Just last month, Facebook began priming its workforce for the organisational shift with a memo called ‘Building the Metaverse Responsibly’. It outlines exactly what the metaverse is and how the company plans to work with businesses and governments to ensure its implemented ethically — perhaps an admission that it’s not done things as morally as it should have done until now?
“The metaverse isn’t a single product one company can build alone,” the post reads.
“Just like the internet, the metaverse exists whether Facebook is there or not. And it won’t be built overnight. Many of these products will only be fully realized in the next 10-15 years. While that’s frustrating for those of us eager to dive right in, it gives us time to ask the difficult questions about how they should be built”.
While the new name change is still a closely guarded secret, it could have something to do with ‘Horizon’, the VR Facebook platform the company is building that will be an integral part of their metaverse offerings.
Zuckerberg had apparently been planning to talk about, and possibly reveal the name change, at the companies upcoming annual conference on 28 October but it could be announced sooner with the news of the change leaking.