01 Nov 2021 4:39 PM +00:00 UTC

Facebook's Meta Rebrand Explained

Facebook artwork and logo
Credit: Meta

Facebook, the largest social media platform on the globe, is a service owned, operated, and created by a company of the same name, or at least it was until a few days ago. At the Facebook Connect event CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that Facebook as a company, and not the social network, was rebranding itself as Meta. In this article, we’ll tell you everything you’ll need to know about Facebook’s rebranding, why it happened, and what it means.

Meta logo and artwork
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Credit: Meta

First off, it’s important to understand that while this move can sound a little strange and confusing if you aren’t tuned into the tech world, it’s not unusual. In fact, Google itself did the same rebranding move back in 2015 with its broader company and not its actual products and services.

Since its inception through 2015, Google was the name of the company as well as the name of the company’s top product: Google Search. In 2015, however, Google the company rebranded itself as Alphabet and made Google the search engine a subsidiary of Alphabet. Today, Google is simply one of the companies under the Alphabet umbrella, like FitBit or Google Fiber.

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Google made this move in part for backend financial, leadership, and organizational reasons, but bigger picture, the restructuring was done to signify a larger change in direction for the company and an expansion of its scope in terms of what industries it wanted to participate in, what products it wanted to produce, and what services it wanted to offer.

Facebook’s rebranding was done for very similar reasons. According to Zuckerberg, he wants Facebook to be seen as a ‘metaverse company’ and not simply a social network. This might sound vague and abstract, but by detaching the Facebook brand from the larger company, the company itself is a lot more free to invest in other technologies and industries.

Facebook logo
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Credit: Meta

For example, Facebook’s purchase of Oculus remains a pretty contentious topic in the tech world because Facebook as a data-collecting social network doesn’t seem like a good fit for what many people want to be an open and accessible gaming platform that helps to usher in the next-generation of video games and video game technology.

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However, if a company with different goals and perhaps different policies and direction owned Oculus, it’s likely the reception would have been a lot different. Now, this isn’t something that can happen overnight with a simple name change as obviously Meta is still Facebook, but this rebranding likely signals a larger change in corporate policy and direction.

Zuckerberg wants the ‘metaverse’ to be a digital space where people can go to collaborate, work together, socialize, and play games. This folds into virtual reality, of course, where the metaverse will be an actual digital location you can visit and participate in, but make no mistake, the metaverse isn’t just some kind of virtual reality application.

Meta wants to focus on designing products and services that bring people together digitally: They want to own the veritable digital public square and not just a social network or a virtual reality platform. The ambitions are much larger than just those, even if Facebook is one of the biggest platforms in human history. And for many, this is at least a somewhat worrisome idea.

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Facebook Connect logo
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Credit: Meta

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Today, the influence and reach of Big Tech is a major concern for people not just in the United States but across the globe. Multinational technology conglomerates like Alphabet, Google, Meta, Apple, or any other number of companies exert large amounts of control over the public discourse, people’s privacy, and ultimately, how many humans live their lives.

On its own, this may not be the biggest concern, but when tech company after tech company makes the news for sketchy data collection practices or unreasonable policies or unequal applications of its own rules, many become weary about these tech companies broadening their scopes and inserting themselves into other markets.

In the end, it’s not very likely that Facebook’s rebranding signals a major switch to an open-source, completely privacy-focused set of products and services designed with all the best interests of the consumer at heart, but Zuckerberg’s plans are future-thinking and could change the world once again, just like Facebook did, whether the average person wants that or not.

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Plus, an online ‘metaverse’ is very much where the world is heading. More and more of life is spent online across a wide variety of platforms and services, so central hubs where work, play, and collaboration can be done easily are going to become more and more appealing as the internet continues to fracture into bespoke platforms for particular interests or communities.

Oculus VR headset
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Credit: Oculus

If you’d like to learn more about the specifics of the metaverse as a platform, during Facebook Connect Zuckerberg gave an over an hour-long talk about his specific plans for the future and how the metaverse will actually work.

As currently envisioned, the metaverse will be a mix of augmented and virtual reality content. To enter into the metaverse, you’ll strap on a VR headset and enter a virtual world not totally unlike a Second Life or a VRChat. You’ll have a home, a customizable avatar, and be able to play games and socialize with other people.

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However, the metaverse is not just a game or a hangout space, as it's being heavily marketed towards professionals as a virtual office environment that can help bridge the gap between an actual office and working at home.

Many are comparing this kind of virtual reality to that seen in dystopian science fiction novels and movies like a Ready Player One or simply The Matrix where companies build and control an entire virtual world where people are forced to live, work, play, and socialize within.

Oculus logo
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Credit: Oculus

Undoubtedly, an easier way to communicate and collaborate remotely would be a huge positive to society today as many people are frustrated with the idea of being forced to go back to the office when working at home is a lot safer and more comfortable.

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Plus, apps like VRChat have a sizable community of people that love the idea of a second, virtual life they can live totally online that’s more fantastic and social than what many people’s lives have been for years, especially in the context of the pandemic.

Suffice it to say that the metaverse isn’t all doom and gloom, but what’s next for Meta and Zuckerberg could have serious ramifications for the world at large. How it all shakes out, though, we can’t know now, so we’ll all have to wait and see.