By Samantha Murphy Kelly, CNN Business
Mark Zuckerberg, the cofounder and CEO of Facebook, kicked off a big product event on Thursday by teasing a series of new social, gaming and workplace concepts for the metaverse — and by acknowledging the optics of focusing on such products amid renewed scrutiny of the company.
Facebook is changing its company name to reflect its future ambitions and confronts wide-ranging scrutiny of the real-world harms from its various platforms after a whistleblower leaked hundreds of internal documents.
Founder Mark Zuckerberg said Thursday that Facebook will change its corporate name to Meta, effectively demoting Facebook’s namesake service to being just one of the company’s subsidiaries, alongside Instagram and WhatsApp, rather than the overarching brand.
A rebranding could be part of an effort to overhaul Facebook’s reputation and turn the page following a series of PR nightmares, including misinformation on its platforms, content moderation failures and revelations about the negative effect its products have on some users’ mental health.
The name change, which was announced by Zuckerberg during the company’s virtual reality and augmented reality conference Facebook Connect, aligns with its growing focus on the metaverse, which refers to efforts to combine virtual and augmented reality technologies in a new online realm.
“I’ve been thinking a lot about our identity as we begin this next chapter. Facebook is one of the most used products in the history of the world,” Zuckerberg said on Thursday. “It is an iconic social media brand, but increasingly it just doesn’t encompass everything that we do.
“Today we’re seen as a social media company,” he added, “but in our DNA, we are a company that builds technology to connect people. And the metaverse is the next frontier just like social networking was when we got started.”
Zuckerberg, who said he loved studying classics in school, said the name was inspired by the Greek word meta, which means “beyond.” “For me, it symbolizes that there is always more to build.”
He kicked off the big product event by teasing a series of new social, gaming and workplace concepts for the metaverse — and by acknowledging the optics of focusing on such products amid renewed scrutiny of the company.
“I know that some people will say that this isn’t a time to focus on the future, and I want to acknowledge that there are important issues to work on in the present. There always will be,” Zuckerberg said. “So for many people, I’m just not sure there ever will be a good time to focus on the future. But I also know that there are a lot of you who feel the same way that I do.”
“We live for what we’re building,” Zuckerberg added. “And while we make mistakes, we keep learning and building and moving forward.”
Facebook showed a series of concept videos that highlighted its vision for metaverse, such as sending a holographic image of yourself to a concert with a friend attending in real life, sitting around virtual meeting tables with remote colleagues or playing immersive games with friends.
Zuckerberg also announced Messenger calling is coming to VR, plans to operate a virtual marketplace where developers can sell virtual goods and a new home screen in Oculus Quest to make chatting and games in the virtual world more social.
“Your devices won’t be the focal point of your attention anymore,” he said. “We’re starting to see a lot of these technologies coming together in the next five or 10 years. A lot of this is going to be mainstream and a lot of us will be creating and inhabiting worlds that are just as detailed and convincing as this one, on a daily basis.”