Facebook may soon change its name to something else to realign itself with founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s vision of a “metaverse.” The move, if true, comes amid the company’s attempts to shake off controversies over the platform’s negative impact on young people.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the Facebook-owned photo sharing platform Instagram was aware of the role it played in shaping young people’s personal identities and self-image — potentially causing mental health problems for teenage girls.
The Verge reports that the company could rebrand itself as early as next week to start construction on the “metaverse.” The change will coincide with Zuckerberg’s talk at Facebook’s annual Connect conference on October 28, but it could happen sooner.
The rebranding effort would also consist of reshaping the company structure to be closer to that of Alphabet, which owns Google. Operations like Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Oculus would come under a new umbrella structure.
Speaking to the Verge in July, Zuckerberg said that over the next few years, the company will “effectively transition from people seeing us as primarily being a social media company to being a metaverse company.” In Zuckerberg’s vision, he believes that wearable AR devices, such as smart glasses, will become as ubiquitous as smart phones.
Under the metaverse idea, the real world and the virtual world are much more connected. It reflects the evolution of the Internet and the hardware that enables people to access the web.
Zuckerberg has previously spoken about how consumer products, including art, fashion, and media, are as important in the metaverse as augmented reality glasses find more adopters.
Speaking to the Verge, Zuckerberg said:
Well, what I’m excited about is helping people deliver and experience a much stronger sense of presence with the people they care about, the people they work with, the places they want to be. And the reality is that today with the mobile Internet, we already have something that a lot of people access from the moment they wake up to when they go to bed. I don’t know about you, but a lot of mornings, I reach for my phone by my bedside before I even put on my glasses, just to make sure, get whatever text messages I got during the middle of the night and make sure that nothing has gone wrong that I need to jump into immediately upon waking up. So I don’t think that this is primarily about being engaged with the Internet more. I think it’s about being engaged more naturally.
And today, I think about the computing platforms that we have. We have these phones. They’re relatively small. A lot of the time that we’re spending, we’re basically mediating our lives and our communication through these small, glowing rectangles. I think that that’s not really how people are made to interact. A lot of the meetings that we have today, you’re looking at a grid of faces on a screen. That’s not how we process things either. We’re used to being in a room with people and having a sense of space where if you’re sitting to my right, then that means I’m also sitting to your left, so we have some shared sense of space in common. When you speak, it’s coming from my right. It’s not just all coming from the same place in front of me.
I don’t know how much you’ve had this experience, but I have a bunch, in work meetings over the last year, where I sometimes find it hard to remember what meeting someone said something in because they all look the same and they all blend together. And I think part of that is because we don’t have this sense of presence in space. What virtual and augmented reality can do, and what the metaverse broadly is going to help people experience, is a sense of presence that I think is just much more natural in the way that we’re made to interact. And I think it will be more comfortable. The interactions that we have will be a lot richer, they’ll feel real. In the future, instead of just doing this over a phone call, you’ll be able to sit as a hologram on my couch, or I’ll be able to sit as a hologram on your couch, and it’ll actually feel like we’re in the same place, even if we’re in different states or hundreds of miles apart. So I think that that is really powerful.
Facebook currently employs more than 10,000 people in its consumer hardware division.
In September, Facebook unveiled a pair of Ray-Ban “smart glasses” that Zuckerberg previously said is part of Facebook’s push into the metaverse.
Bloomberg reports that one of Zuckerberg’s charity foundations is currently connected to the websites meta.com and meta.org, suggesting that the company’s new name may well be “Meta,” in reference to Zuckerberg’s metaverse.
As detailed by a Twitter user, the term “metaverse” was coined by science fiction author Neal Stephenson in his book Snow Crash, describing a virtual world run by corporations, where end users are treated as citizens of a virtual corporate dictatorship. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey quoted the tweet to say that Stephenson was right.
Despite the reports, Facebook says it will not “comment on rumours or speculation.”