Mark Zuckerberg wants to be known for building the metaverse
Facebook plans to change its company name next week to reflect its focus on building the metaverse, according to a source with direct knowledge of the matter.
The upcoming name change, which CEO Mark Zuckerberg plans to talk about at the company’s annual Connect conference on October 28, but which could be unveiled earlier, is meant to signal the tech giant’s ambition to be known about more than just social media and all the ailments that come with it. . The rebrand would likely position the blue Facebook app as one of many products under a parent company that oversees groups like Instagram, WhatsApp, Oculus, and more. A Facebook spokesperson declined to comment on this story.
Facebook already has more than 10,000 employees building consumer hardware like AR glasses that Zuckerberg says will eventually be as ubiquitous as smartphones. In July, he told The Verge that in the coming years “we will effectively move from people who see us primarily as a social media company to a metaverse company.”
A rebrand could also serve to further separate the futuristic work Zuckerberg is focusing on from the intense scrutiny Facebook is currently undergoing for the way its social platform works today. A former whistleblower employee, Frances Haugen, recently leaked a wealth of damning internal documents to The Wall Street Journal and testified before Congress. Antitrust regulators in the US and elsewhere are trying to split the company, and public confidence in the way Facebook does business is waning.
Facebook isn’t the first well-known tech company to change its company name as its ambitions grow. In 2015, Google completely reorganized itself under a holding company called Alphabet, in part to reflect that it was no longer just a search engine, but a sprawling conglomerate of companies making self-driving cars and health technology. And Snapchat turned into Snap Inc. in 2016, the same year it started calling itself a “camera company” and debuted its first pair of Spectacles glasses.
I’m told that Facebook’s new company name is a closely guarded secret within its walls and not widely known even under its full senior leadership. One possible name could have something to do with Horizon, the name of the unreleased VR version of Facebook-meets-Roblox that the company has been developing in recent years. That app was recently renamed Horizon Worlds, shortly after Facebook demonstrated a version for workplace collaboration called Horizon Workrooms.
Zuckerberg’s comments aside, Facebook has been steadily laying the groundwork for a greater focus on next-generation technology. Last summer it set up a dedicated metaverse team. More recently, it announced that the head of AR and VR, Andrew Bosworth, will be promoted to Chief Technology Officer. And just a few days ago announced Facebook plans to hire 10,000 additional employees to work on the metaverse in Europe.
The metaverse will be “a big focus, and I think it’s just going to be a big part of the next chapter for how the Internet evolves after the mobile Internet,” Zuckerberg told The Verge’s Casey Newton this summer. “And I think it’s also going to be the next big chapter for our company, really doubling in this area.”
Complicating matters is that, while Facebook has heavily promoted the idea of the metaverse in recent weeks, it’s still not a widely understood concept. The term was originally coined by sci-fi novelist Neal Stephenson to describe a virtual world to which people escape from a dystopian, real world. Now it’s being adopted by one of the world’s largest and most controversial companies – and it will have to explain why its own virtual world is worth diving into.