It’s been over two weeks since CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced Facebook’s sudden rebrand to “Meta”, and not much has changed. The new name has done little good and simply added confusion and garner headlines. All this begs the question of what was the point and why?
Why is Facebook Changing Its Name
According to Zuckerberg, despite the company acquiring platforms including Instagram and WhatsApp, the brand is too tightly linked to the single identity of the Facebook app.
“It is time to adopt a new company brand to encompass everything that we do,” Zuckerberg said.
Although the apps themselves will maintain their names, including Facebook, the parent company will now go by Meta. As they move toward building a new generation of products, Meta is hoping to distance itself from its eponymous app.
Moving away from the platform seems to be a response to Facebook’s declining popularity among the youth. A report by the Infinite Dial revealed usage by people aged 12 to 34 dropped 10% in the last year. In contrast, Instagram and TikTok saw a growth of 2% and 19% respectively.
Zuckerberg has acknowledged the rise of other social media platforms, especially TikTok. As a result, a retaliation seems to be pinned on hopefully pioneering the next age of technology, virtual reality.
However, critics argue that this is simply a blatant attempt to direct attention from the now dubbed Facebook Files. These documents, leaked by former employee Francis Haugen, revealed the company’s failings to address issues caused by the app’s algorithms, particularly regarding adolescent mental health.
What is the Metaverse
Derived from the Greek word meaning “beyond”, the name Meta was chosen to represent the metaverse, a virtual reality world. In a letter written by Zuckerberg, he describes a future where “instead of physical things assembled in factories, they’ll be holograms designed by creators around the world.”
In theory, people will be able to gather in virtual spaces using visionary technology including holograms and augmented reality glasses. Zuckerberg expects to invest billions of dollars into building what is supposed to replace the mobile internet.
Although futuristic, the term has been around for decades, originally coined by Neal Stephenson in his 1992 novel Snow Crash. However, in the thirty years since its formation, the fundamentals of the concept have remained the same: a cyber super-platform. Only now, not just Meta but all of Big Tech is ready to realize it into reality, and profit from it.
Why people aren’t buying it
Facebook isn’t the first major corporation to try changing names. In the past, many companies have attempted short lived rebrands often receiving mixed results.
In 2011, Netflix briefly tried to incorporate another service of mailing DVDs to customers under the new name Qwikster. The alteration befuddled consumers, leading to a devastating loss of 800,000 subscribers.
Other efforts, such as IHOP’s embarrassing month-long stunt as IHOB, encountered similar negative reactions and backtracked just as fast. When popular companies attempt to force feed a new image, the different names simply sound ridiculous and cause confusion. And for Facebook, being a social media giant for 17 years has especially made the lowercase f logo too recognizable.
There’s also another, perhaps more shallow, issue of the name Meta being both obscure and frankly stupid sounding. It’s a name that requires a lengthy explanation of a nebulous concept that, following clarification, would still leave users perplexed.
But it’s more than just a new silly name or the sheer eminence of the old brand holding Meta back.
The change is meant to reflect the company’s new vision. However, there is nothing substantial to reflect. The metaverse is still merely a conception, one that Zuckerberg expects will take five to 10 year to manifest. And this vague idea of the future is not enough to convince people of the present.
With no visible change to show for, Meta inevitably seems like a desperate move to distract from recent controversies. Amidst an increasingly negative public image, the rebrand is only offering a promise of development. However, it’s a fruitless pledge when users have already lost faith and trust in the brand. And until Meta delivers, the public will only ever see it as Facebook playing dress up.