Enter the Metaverse: What’s Behind Facebook Rebrand
October 26, 2021
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by Stephen Kanyi

The planned rebrand of Facebook has been top of public talk for the better part of the last week. Since reports came out of a coming alteration to the company’s name and therefore focus, the internet has been awash with people trying to come to terms with a change to the world’s most popular social network brand.

The specific term thrown around this news has been ‘metaverse.’ This is what tech mogul Mark Zuckerberg told The Verge in July: “over the next several years, we will effectively transition from people seeing us as primarily being a social media company to being a metaverse company.”

He went on to elaborate that he sees the metaverse as “a big part of the next chapter for the way that the internet evolves after the mobile internet.”

More recently (last week), Facebook made an announcement explaining the move

“At its heart is the idea that by creating a greater sense of ‘virtual presence,’ interacting online can become much closer to the experience of interacting in person. No one company will own and operate the metaverse. Like the internet, its key feature will be its openness and interoperability.”

Facebook also detailed plans to hire around 10,000 employees across Europe to create a multi-modal computing platform that would make the foundation of the metaverse.

But what really is a metaverse?

The Metaverse in our own words

Various news outlets (including this one) have fallen back to science fiction author Neal Stephenson’s definition in his novel Snow Crash. Having first coined the term ‘metaverse’, he described it as a shared virtual space where users can interact.

In a broad definition, however, the metaverse is a digital world that lets users interact in multiple ways. While the term is usually described as a virtual space that lets users play, communicate, and do business with each other, the idea is much broader.

Powered by augmented reality and virtual reality technologies the metaverse is going to create 3D virtual environments where ‘you can go inside instead of just looking at on a screen.’

Facebook’s Metaverse

The company’s plan to change names is thus related to this shift in focus to what founder Mark Zuckerberg believes will be the future of the internet.

The metaverse is “going to be a big focus, and I think that this is just going to be a big part of the next chapter for the way that the internet evolves after the mobile internet,” said Zuckerberg speaking to The Verge’s Casey Newton this summer. “And I think it’s going to be the next big chapter for our company too, really doubling down in this area.”

It is akin to Google’s name company name change when the search giant re-organized under parent company Alphabet to signify that it was no longer just a search engine but now included many other technologies such as health tech, driverless cars and smartphone manufacturers.

Snapchat also rebranded to Snap Inc in 2016 calling itself a “camera company” when they released their first pair of Spectacles camera glasses.

With a shift in focus to VR/AR technologies some predict that the new name could be something close to the company’s response to Roblox, Horizon. Recently tweaked to Horizon Worlds the app (which is still in development) allows users to interact and hold workplace meetings in an environment they call Horizon Workrooms.

It is also worth pointing out that the rebrand will unlikely affect its main applications; Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp. Much like the Google rebrand, the name would be more of a re-organization of the company’s priorities rather than a significant change in any of their platforms.

The rebrand could also help Zuckerberg separate future plans from the current scrutiny Facebook faces after a damning leak of internal documents by whistleblower Frances Haugen.

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