Facebook Inc. is changing its corporate name to Meta, CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced during its Connect online conference on Thursday, October 28.
The shift is part of the social media giant’s ambition to expand its services to a more immersive metaverse, which includes social virtual realities called Horizon Home and Horizon World, virtual collaborative workspaces, augmented reality glasses called Azeray, and a high-end VR headset dubbed Project Cambria.
“Today we’re seen as a social media company. Facebook is one of the most used technology products in the history of the world. It’s an iconic social media brand,” Zuckerberg said.
“Building social apps will always be important for us, and there’s a lot more to build. But increasingly, it’s not all we do,” he continued. “In our DNA, we build technology to bring people together. The metaverse is the next frontier in connecting people, just like social networking was when we got started.”
What is a metaverse?
The term “metaverse” was first introduced by American writer Neal Stephenson in his 1992 sci-fi novel Snow Crash. There, it was depicted as a virtual world where humans interact with each other as avatars using various devices.
Since then, Stephenson has been dubbed the Nostradamus of tech, with the term “metaverse” becoming canon in Silicon Valley.
Zuckerberg also described his company’s metaverse as such in the founder’s letter he posted on Facebook’s corporate website on Thursday.
“The defining quality of the metaverse will be a feeling of presence — like you are right there with another person or in another place,” he wrote. “In the metaverse, you’ll be able to do almost anything you can imagine — get together with friends and family, work, learn, play, shop, create — as well as completely new experiences that don’t really fit how we think about computers or phones today”
“You’ll move across these experiences on different devices — augmented reality glasses to stay present in the physical world, virtual reality to be fully immersed, and phones and computers to jump in from existing platforms,” he added.
The company also pledges to build this “massively larger creative economy” responsibly along with creators and developers in the global space and with “privacy and safety” of its users among the top priority.
Moving forward as Meta
Facebook’s family of social media apps, which includes Instagram, Messenger, WhatsApp, and Oculus, will continue operating under their original name and as subsidiaries of the Meta brand.
The shift, as Zuckerberg said, will only affect how the company reports its financial results. “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. “We also intend to start trading under the new stock ticker we have reserved, MVRS, on December 1. Today’s announcement does not affect how we use or share data.”
In a separate blog post also published on Thursday, Facebook announced its $150-million investment in establishing a professional curriculum program to train the next generation of creators developing the metaverse.
Facebook first revealed its plans to build the metaverse and its two-year $50 million USD investment for the project last September.
The funding, which the company called the XR Programs and Research Fund, will cover expenses for global research conducted in partnership with “industry partners, civil rights groups, governments, nonprofits, and academic institutions.”
This includes the Organization of American States; African organizations such as Africa No Filter, Electric South and Imisi3D; Europe’s Women In Immersive Tech; as well as Seoul National University and The University of Hong Kong.
Earlier this week, the tech giant announced it is investing $10 billion on Facebook Reality Labs, its new augmented reality research and development arm, beginning Q4 this year.