Facebook Inc is now called Meta, the company said on Thursday, in a makeover that focuses on its ambitions to build the “metaverse,” a shared virtual environment that it bets will be the next big computing platform.
The name change comes as the world’s largest social media company faces criticism from lawmakers and regulators about its market power, algorithmic decisions and the policing of abuses on its platforms.
CEO Mark Zuckerberg, speaking at the company’s live augmented and virtual reality conference, said the new name reflects his ambitions to build the metaverse, rather than its eponymous social media service.
The metaverse, a term first coined in a dystopian novel three decades ago and now drawing buzz in Silicon Valley, refers largely to the idea of a shared virtual environment that can be accessed by people using different devices.
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“Right now, our brand is so closely tied to a product that it can’t represent everything we’re doing today, let alone in the future,” said Zuckerberg.
The company, which has invested heavily in augmented and virtual reality, said the move will bring its different applications and technologies together under a new brand. He said he would not change his 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 that she said showed the company chose profit over user safety.
Zuckerberg earlier this week said the documents were being used to paint a “false image”.
The company said in a blog that it plans to start trading under the new stock code it has reserved, MVRS, on Dec. 1st. On Thursday, she unveiled a new plate at her headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif., replacing her thumbs. the “Like” logo with an infinite blue shape.
Facebook shares rose more than 3% by late Thursday afternoon.
Facebook said this week that its hardware division Facebook Reality Labs, which is responsible for the AR and VR efforts, would become a separate reporting unit and that its investment would reduce this year’s total operating profit by about $10 billion.
In an interview with Information technology publication, Zuckerberg said he has not considered stepping down as CEO and hasn’t thought “very seriously yet” about breaking up this unit.
The division will now be called Reality Laboratories, its boss Andrew “Boz” Bosworth said on Thursday. The company will also stop using the Oculus brand for its virtual reality headsets, instead of calling them “Meta” products.
This year, the company created a metaverse-focused product team and recently announced plans to hire 10,000 employees in Europe over the next five years to work on that effort.
The company has had several impacts on its reputation in recent years, including handling user data and policing abuses such as health misinformation, violent rhetoric and hate speech. The US Federal Trade Commission also filed an antitrust lawsuit alleging anti-competitive practices.
“While it helps alleviate the confusion by distinguishing Facebook’s parent company from its founding app, a name change doesn’t suddenly erase the systemic problems plaguing the company,” said Forrester Research Director Mike Proulx.
Some of Facebook’s biggest critics seemed unimpressed by the name change. The Real Facebook Oversight Board, a watchdog group focused on the company, has announced that it will retain its name.
“Changing its name doesn’t change reality: Facebook is destroying our democracy and is the world’s biggest seller of disinformation and hatred,” the group said in a statement.
“The meaningless name change should not distract from the real and independent investigation, regulation and oversight needed to hold Facebook accountable.”
Zuckerberg said the new name, coming from the Greek word for “beyond,” symbolized that there was always more to build. Twitter Inc CEO Jack Dorsey on Thursday tweeted a different definition, “referring to yourself or the conventions of your gender; self-referential. ”
Zuckerberg said the new name also reflects that, over time, users will not need to use Facebook to use the company’s other services.