Facebook (FB) is changing its name to Meta as it focuses on the metaverse, a series of interconnected, persistent virtual worlds that let people interact with digital objects and avatars.
The company’s existing Facebook app will still retain its name.
CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced the rebranding during the company’s Connect conference on Thursday, which offered a further glimpse into the company’s plans for the so-called metaverse in the coming decade.
“We believe the metaverse will be the successor to the mobile internet,” Zuckerberg said during the keynote. “We’ll be able to feel present like we’re right there with people no matter how far apart we are.”
The metaverse is still in its infancy, but companies like Facebook hope it will be a new version of the internet. The metaverse can be accessed via virtual reality and augmented reality headsets, or something as basic as your average laptop or smartphone. The key is that it serves as a kind of virtual stand in for the real world.
“Over time I hope that we are seen as a metaverse company,” Zuckerberg said.
In addition to laying out its vision for the metaverse, the company debuted a prototype for a VR headset codenamed Cambria, which will be able to reflect things like your facial reactions in virtual worlds. The prototype is also expected to launch next year.
What’s more, the company showed off its first pair of fully augmented reality glasses.
Big tech is obsessed with the metaverse
Facebook isn’t the only company investing heavily in the metaverse. Nvidia has put a significant chunk of change into its Omniverse project, which is meant to function as the plumbing for metaverse projects.
Microsoft (MSFT), meanwhile, is investing in the metaverse as a means to improve remote meetings, while Amazon (AMZN) and Disney (DIS) have made it clear they’re interested as well. Roblox (RBLX), an online gaming firm, has already launched its own kind of metaverse that allows gamers to create and host their own game worlds.
Facebook’s news comes amid the controversy surrounding the Facebook Papers, a series of articles based on documents provided to a number of media outlets by whistleblower Frances Haugen. The Wall Street Journal was the first outlet to report on the files.
Since the initial stories went live, Facebook has been slammed by regulators and lawmakers in the U.S. and abroad for seemingly ignoring everything from hate speech and the impact the company’s apps have on some teenage girls, to human trafficking and sectarian violence.
Facebook has fired back in a series of blog posts and statements by executives who claim that the documents lack the appropriate context and that studies cited in reports aren’t scientific. Haugen has since testified before both Congress and members of the U.K. parliament.
Facebook is also fighting to get an antitrust lawsuit filed by the Federal Trade Commission dismissed. The suit, which was initially dismissed without prejudice and subsequently refiled by the FTC, alleges Facebook violated federal antitrust law by running a buy-or-bury scheme aimed at purchasing or crushing upstart competitors.
Facebook’s pivot to a greater focus on the metaverse is part of its strategy to have more control over its own fate. The company currently relies on hardware like Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Android devices to reach consumers through its apps. With its own hardware and new collection of software offerings, Facebook doesn’t have to worry about third-parties interfering with its business.
Zuckerberg specifically referenced this dynamic during his keynote.
“Here we are in 2021 and our devices are still designed around apps, not people,” Zuckerberg said. “The experiences we’re allowed to build and use are more tightly controlled than ever. And high taxes on creative, new ideas are stifling.”
The threat of outside companies impacting Facebook’s bottom line became clear when the social media giant reported its Q3 2021 earnings, and admitted that Apple’s new advertising privacy feature was creating headwinds for the business.
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