Zuckerberg: How Facebook Morphed Into Meta

By Victor Westerkamp | November 1, 2021
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On October 28, during the Facebook Connect virtual conference, Mark Zuckerberg announced the name change of Facebook, believing that the term Facebook was too closely linked to that of the platform of the same name, launched in 2004. (Image: CHESNOT/Getty Images)

Facebook is now Meta, CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg announced on Thursday divulging the tech-giant “will effectively transition from primarily being a social media company to being a metaverse company.”

Meta will keep the brand names for social media apps like Facebook, Whatsapp, and Instagram, which will fall under the parent company Meta. At the same time, Oculus, the producer branch of consumer hardware like VR and AR glasses, will be phased out by Meta as a brand.

In July, Zuckerberg started preaching about what he envisioned the metaverse to be. “To reflect who we are and what we hope to build,” Zuckerberg said in an interview with The Verge’s Casey Newton, indicating the name Facebook doesn’t fully cover everything the company does and is still tied to one product. “But over time, I hope we are seen as a metaverse company,” Zuckerberg added.

The company has been investing heavily in hardware development over the past few years, introducing Portal video-calling devices, Ray-Ban Stories glasses, and Oculus virtual-reality headsets.

“Today, we are seen as a social media company, but in our DNA, we are a company that builds technology to connect people, and the metaverse is the next frontier just like social networking was when we got started,” Zuckerberg said in Thursday’s announcement.

So, what is this metaverse exactly that Zuckerberg is talking so much about? “Critically, no one company will run the metaverse — it will be an ‘embodied internet,’” Zuckerberg said, explaining many different players operate it in a decentralized way. It’s almost like Zuckerberg is alluding to blockchain technology as an imperative for co-creating the internet of things.

In Neal Stephenson’s 1992 sci-fi novel, Snow Crash, the term was introduced to the public for the first time and refers to a convergence of physical, augmented, and virtual reality in a shared online space. But in Stephenson’s novel, virtual reality turned out to be a somewhat bleak new world. 

Or, as Udi Wertheimer, an influential blogger on Twitter with 115.4K followers, put it:

“The word ‘metaverse’ was coined by Neal Stephenson in the book ‘Snow Crash,’ and it originally described a virtual world owned by corporations where end-users were treated as citizens in a dystopian corporate dictatorship.”

What if Neal was right?

Zuckerberg also announced that the company’s corporate structure would stay the same, but the financial results reporting will change. “Starting with our results for the fourth quarter of 2021, we plan to report on two operating segments: Family of Apps and Reality Labs,” he explained, adding that, “We also intend to start trading under the new stock ticker we have reserved, MVRS, on December 1.”

Concurrently, shares of Canadian material-science firm Meta Materials surged early Friday in the latest apparent ticker confusion with Facebook’s latest identity change, Bloomberg noted. The report said it resulted in one of the most actively traded stocks of the day, with 11 million shares traded before mid-day. 

Some critics say the move to Meta was inspired to steer away from the company’s scrutiny by antitrust regulators and some politicians. In addition, news reports over the past month generated negative publicity after Frances Haugen, a former employee turned whistleblower, released some compromising internal company documents to news outlets, lawmakers and regulators.

Another remarkable phenomenon is that “Meta” means “dead” in Hebrew, as many Jewish people commented on social media. Was Zuckerberg — Jewish himself — not aware of this, or was it just a play on words? Facebook is Meta; Facebook is dead; Long Live Meta.