The rechristened Meta, as the parent company of Facebook’s social services and AR/VR businesses, is intended to reflect Zuckerberg’s positioning of the company as focused around “metaverse” experiences and services, which he hopes will reach 1 billion people in the next decade.
“Our mission remains the same — it’s still about bringing people together,” Zuckerberg said Thursday during his keynote kicking off Facebook Connect, its annual conference for AR/VR developers and creators. “But now we have a new North Star, to help bring the metaverse to life, and we have a new name that reflects the full breadth of what we do and the future that we want to help build.”
Facebook is one of the most-used products in the world, Zuckerberg said, but “increasingly it just doesn’t encompass everything we do.”
“From now on, we’re going to be metaverse-first, not Facebook-first,” he added, which means that over time users will not need to use Facebook to access the company’s other products.
By renaming itself Meta, Facebook — coincidentally or not — also is introducing a new storyline about the massive company amid a cascade of recent articles by major news outlets revealing new details of its inner workings. Based on a trove of leaked documents referred to as “The Facebook Papers,” the stories show that top Facebook execs, including Zuckerberg, failed to act on warnings from employees about problems like misinformation.
According to Zuckerberg, the metaverse extends beyond traditional social media to provide virtual environments where people can interact in far more immersive ways. The metaverse strategy also encompasses ecommerce initiatives, which Zuckerberg has said will help reduce its reliance on competitors like Apple and Google.
“Today we’re seen as a social-media company,” but the company’s DNA revolves around building technology to connect people, Zuckerberg said, “and the metaverse is the next frontier.”
With the new Meta name, the company plans to start trading under the new stock ticker symbol “MVRS” on NASDAQ starting Dec. 1. The full corporate moniker is “Meta Platforms, Inc.” The company said that the announcement “does not affect how we use or share data.” Facebook’s name change to Meta is similar to Google’s adoption of Alphabet in 2015 as the name of its parent company.
This week Zuckerberg said the company will invest about $10 billion this year in metaverse projects, including in Oculus VR products, smart glasses and ecommerce, an amount he expects will increase in the years ahead. Meta expects to spend “many billions of dollars… before the metaverse reaches scale,” he said Thursday.
Starting with its Q4 earnings, Facebook said earlier this week, it will report results into two business segments. Those are Family of Apps (FoA), which includes Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, WhatsApp and other services; and Reality Labs (RL), which includes augmented and virtual reality related consumer hardware, software and content.
News of the name change to Meta came at the end of Zuckerberg’s 75-minute keynote. During the lighthearted and future-looking Facebook Connect livestream, Zuckerberg and other execs showed off new virtual social-space concepts the company is working on, including games, music and entertainment, fitness, remote work, learning, shopping (to sell both digital and physical products). People will be represented in the metaverse via avatars, which Zuckerberg called “living 3D representations of you” that are richer than profile pictures on social media.
Zuckerberg’s avatar joins colleagues in a metaverse meet-up as shown during Facebook Connect
On the games front, the company is working on new VR titles with Vertigo Games, Epic Games, WarpFrog and Rockstar Games, which is creating a version of “Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas” for Oculus Quest 2. To develop VR learning content, Facebook will invest $150 million over three years in VR, chief business officer Marne Levine said.
As part of the metaverse push, Facebook is developing several new hardware products, including “Project Cambria,” a higher-end VR and mixed-reality headset than the Oculus Quest 2 that is supposed to more naturally represent the wearer’s expressions and body language. Project Cambria is slated to be released in 2022.
The company also is working on Project Nazare, which will be “full AR” smart glasses, in addition to the recently introduced Ray-Ban Stories (starting at $299). It’s also developing technology to enable an immersive, all-day metaverse experience, Zuckerberg said. He called out the company’s work in neural interfaces for AR and VR, built on electromyography (EMG) inputs to translate a person’s electrical motor nerve signals into commands for virtual experiences.
Central to Facebook’s metaverse vision, Zuckerberg said, is that privacy, safety and interoperability “need to be built into the metaverse from Day One… These have to be fundamental building blocks.”
Horizon is the name of the metaverse platform the company is developing, while Spark AR is the set of tools for creating augmented-reality experiences that overlay the real world.
Facebook’s string of bad PR in recent weeks was instigated by accusations by whistleblowers who have leaked internal documents to a consortium of media outlets that portray the company as prioritizing profits over safety. The company has pushed back against the accusations, claiming the documents were cherrypicked from internal research and discussion boards.
On Facebook’s Q3 earnings call, Zuckerberg lashed out at what he characterized as a “coordinated effort” by media orgs “to selectively use leaked documents to paint a false picture of our company.” He also asserted that problems like misinformation are “not primarily about social media.”
On Thursday, Zuckerberg ended his keynote by saying, “We’ve learned from struggling with difficult social issues and living under closed platforms. Now it is time to take everything we’ve learned and help build the next chapter.”