Facebook Inc. is re-christening itself Meta, decoupling its corporate identity from the eponymous social network mired in toxic content, and highlighting a shift to an emerging computing platform focused on virtual reality.
“The metaverse is the next frontier,” Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg said in a presentation at Facebook’s Connect conference, held virtually on Thursday. “From now on, we’re going to be metaverse-first, not Facebook-first.” The new name META won’t affect how the company uses or shares data, it brings together apps and technologies under one new company brand and the corporate structure isn’t changing. This means that other facebook owned apps including Whatsapp and Instagram are not affected. The company said its stock will start trading under a new ticker, MVRS, on Dec. 1.
The name change is the most definitive signal so far of the company’s intention to stake its future on a new computing platform – the metaverse, an idea born in the imaginations of sci-fi novelists. In Meta’s vision, people will congregate and communicate by entering virtual environments, whether they’re talking with colleagues in a boardroom or hanging out with friends in far-flung corners of the world.
The erstwhile Facebook is hoping to parlay its social-media user base, comprising more than 3 billion people globally, into an audience that will embrace immersive digital experiences through devices powered by augmented and virtual reality software, a business already being aggressively pursued by Meta and its rivals.
Meta may have other reasons to make changes to its corporate identity. Leaning harder into the metaverse lets the company appear to be diversifying its business at a time when it’s facing new pressures in the social media market. Younger rivals such as ByteDance Ltd.’s TikTok are gaining traction among the under-25 age cohort, and Zuckerberg said on Monday he is retooling Meta to focus on attracting young adults again.
Still, Meta is a money-making machine, and has grown to be the sixth most-valuable company in the world by market capitalization. Revenue is expected to top $117 billion this year, up from $5 billion in 2012, the year Facebook went public. Net income is projected to approach $40 billion in 2021. The social network has about 24% of the estimated $200 billion digital advertising market, according to analyst EMarketer Inc., dominating the industry alongside Google, which leads with about 29%.
Zuckerberg pledged that the metaverse will have privacy standards, parental controls and disclosures about data use that his social network has famously lacked.
Meta isn’t the first tech giant to rebrand. Internet search leader Google changed its corporate name to Alphabet in October 2015, seeking to provide a stronger, more accountable corporate structure to oversee its disparate businesses, co-founder Larry Page said at the time. Alphabet became the holding company for Google, self-driving car developer Waymo, life-sciences subsidiary Verily and others, including a variety of experimental endeavors.