Facebook’s Transition to Meta: Metaverse, Controversies, and the Future
June 2021, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg revealed his new ambitious initiative to his employees. He disclosed how the future of the company would go a lot beyond connected social applications and supporting hardware. The future of the company would be defined by an all-out, interconnected set of experiences that look like they’re coming straight out of a sci-fi movie- something known as the metaverse. Fast forward three months later, On October 28th, Facebook changed its corporate branding to Meta. In this article, we’ll take a look at the timeline of all the events leading up to this major rebranding event and what it could mean for the future of the company and its users.
Metaverse- What Is It?
The term metaverse was coined in Snow Crash, a 1992 sci-fi novel by Neal Stephenson. The term was used to refer to a shared online space formed by the convergence of physical, virtual, and augmented reality. A lot of companies and products have already used metaverse-like elements. Fortnite and Roblox, for example.
When Did Facebook’s Ambition To Become A Metaverse Company Start?
Facebook marked its first presence in the VR space in 2019 when it launched Facebook Horizon, an immersive environment that people can experience using the Oculus headset.
Facebook’s large investments in virtual reality hardware and products are widely known, so are the short-lived failures that followed in that space. Despite that, Zuckerberg announced in July this year that Facebook intends to bet it all on metaverse. In August, Facebook made headlines for showcasing and promoting a VR app that lets people take meetings in virtual reality.
In September, Facebook also announced a $50 million fund for research in building metaverse products responsibly. This was followed by the announcement of a $10 million creator fund for their developers in their Horizon Worlds platform. Eventually, in October, Mark Zuckerberg announced the change of Facebook’s name at the company’s Connect event, which is focused on AR/VR, and shared that the new title, Meta, does more justice to the company’s core ambition which is to build the metaverse.
“I wanted to discuss this now so that you can see the future that we’re working towards and how our major initiatives across the company are going to map to that,” Zuckerberg said at the event. “What is the metaverse? It’s a virtual environment where you can be present with people in digital spaces. You can kind of think of this as an embodied internet that you’re inside of rather than just looking at.”
What Is The Possible Reason Behind This Major Shift From The Earlier Core Vision?
It may come as a surprise to a lot of you but Facebook was, in fact, quite late in leveraging the mobile apps revolution. What we had back then were painful HTML5 experiences that were nowhere close to native apps that were fast becoming mainstream. It was not until 2012 when Zuckerberg realized that apps will define the future. Needless to say, he left no stone unturned in creating seamless mobile experiences for users. And since then, the company hasn’t overlooked any potential emerging technology to avoid repeating the same mistake again. This is evident from Facebook’s acquisition of Oculus in 2014 which marked their entry into the VR market. Becoming a metaverse company can be seen as an evolution of their venture into the virtual reality space.
Another reason, for this major rebranding, could be to distance themselves from the growing negative branding which Facebook has been through over the years. Despite the increasing business, Facebook has been in the limelight for all the wrong reasons, too. From the 2016 Russian elections disinformation and privacy lapse incidents such as the Cambridge Analytica scandal to the very recent revelations from a whistleblower who was a part of Facebook’s civic integrity team, Facebook is one of the most infamous tech companies when it comes to being under greater scrutiny than any other tech company. So it’s only fair to draw a line before venturing into something new and trying to rebrand themselves.
Introducing Meta- The New Social Technology Company
Mark Zuckerberg introduced Meta at the Connect 2021 event on October 28th, 2021. Meta will be the parent company that brings together all the apps and products under one brand. Meta, as a company, will focus on bringing metaverse to life, and help people connect, find communities, and grow business.
Speaking about his vision for Meta, Mark Zuckerberg said, “The metaverse will feel like a hybrid of today’s online social experiences, sometimes expanded into three dimensions or projected into the physical world. It will let you share immersive experiences with other people even when you can’t be together — and do things together you couldn’t do in the physical world. It’s the next evolution in a long line of social technologies, and it’s ushering in a new chapter for our company.” You can read more about his vision for the company in Founder’s Letter, 2021.
What Are The Implications Of This Rebranding?
This isn’t the first time a tech giant has rebranded itself. Back in 2015, Google created a new parent company called Alphabet, as a part of their new corporate structure. Today,
Google is a subsidiary of its parent company Alphabet but colloquially, people still refer to the company or its products as “Google.” We shouldn’t be surprised if Facebook receives the same response. The only difference that we can expect is that metaverse would offer experiences that are way beyond connected social apps and therefore it may achieve a differentiating factor for itself when it comes to being recognized as a new brand in itself.
Will Others Follow The Trend?
“Metaverse” has become a hot topic in the tech industry. According to a report by IG, Google searches for “metaverse stocks” have increased by a whopping 17900 percent ove the past one year! The rise comes from an existing market where companies, especially gaming companies, were already working around metaverse- Nvidia Corp and Unity, for example. The expansion is now set to go beyond gaming, and even social media, which we can say is the second most potential facet of tech for the adoption of the metaverse.
We are living in an age where the competition is cut-throat, whether direct or indirect. Especially when it comes to advancements in technology, no one, particularly the tech giants, wants to be categorized as laggards. To that end, Microsoft also recently launched “Mesh for Teams,” a metaverse-like product that allows people to create powerful 3D avatars of themselves for meetings where they don’t want to be on camera. We can expect more companies to follow the trend and explore more innovative use cases in the near future.
Trouble For Facebook, Again? Meta Company Sues Facebook For Stealing Its Name
A Chicago-based tech company, Meta, recently filed against Facebook for trademark infringement. The company has alleged that Facebook has “stolen” their name. Nate Skulic, the founder of the company, said that Facebook lawyers have been “hounding” them to sell their name. When Facebook failed to buy them, it aimed to “bury” the company by media force, stated the company.
“They couldn’t buy us, so they tried to bury us by force of media. We shouldn’t be surprised by these actions — from a company that continually says one thing and does another,” he said.
Facebook has not responded to the allegations and what happens is yet to be seen.
What Does The Future For Meta Look Like?
Distancing the company’s upcoming core business from a product that is becoming widely infamous seems like a wise move but rebranding entirely might require a lot more effort than expected. The core brand needs to be realigned with a product that is nowhere close to being mainstream yet, or not as relevant right now, to say the least. This doesn’t mean that it does not have potential, it certainly does, but it may take years for it to achieve mainstream success. Facebook as a social media platform has close to 2.5 billion users but their metaverse products, right now, have only a few thousand users. It has become quite clear that users aren’t aggressively demanding early headsets even when certain gaming platforms are driving their growth. Facebook claimed that their Quest 2 headsets sold much better than their other devices but the uncertainty still remains- would people be willing to embrace a world full of Facebook headsets strapped on them to embrace the metaverse?