Facebook is planning to change its company name next week to reflect that it is not just a social media company, according to reports. The new name will focus on building its metaverse, which the tech giant describes as “a new phase of interconnected virtual experiences”; a digital world where people can move between different devices and communicate in a virtual environment.
Since July this year, Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg has been tingling ears with stories about the metaverse. The company recently announced that it will hire 10,000 workers in the European Union to build out its plans for the metaverse, and as of now, it has invested heavily in virtual reality and augmented reality, developing hardware such as its Oculus VR headsets and working on AR glasses and wristband technologies.
The “metaverse” phenomenon however remains strange to many. The term was coined originally by sci-fi novelist Neal Stephenson to describe a virtual world people escape to from a dystopian, real world. Now that it has been adopted by Facebook, it can be rightly assumed that the tech giant is creating a virtual haven, one that it will still have to explain why it is worth diving into.
Mark Zuckerberg is expected to announce the name change at the company’s Connect conference on the 28th of October, but there’s the possibility of the new name being unveiled earlier. The move heralds the company’s ambitions to be known for more than social media, and will likely position the flagship Facebook app as one of many products under a parent company overseeing other products such as Instagram and WhatsApp, Oculus, and more.
Facebook isn’t the first major tech company to rebrand its company name to capture expanded ambitions. In 2015, Google rebranded and reorganized into a parent company called Alphabet Inc, to signal that it was no longer just a search engine, but a sprawling conglomerate with companies making driverless cars and health tech. Also in 2016, Snapchat rebranded to Snap Inc.
Facebook’s move to rebrand its company’ name comes amid wide-ranging scrutiny from global lawmakers and regulators over its content moderation practices and harms linked to its platforms, sparked by condemning internal documents leaked to The Wall Street Journal by a Facebook former employee turned whistleblower, identified as Frances Haugen.
For now, Facebook’s new name remains strictly guarded behind closed walls, and all we can do is anticipate.