The Metaverse is here, Facebook's bet on a new plane of digital existence

Facebook announced last week their change in name to Meta as part of a major corporate rebrand. The rebranding name intends to convey the social media's long-term bet on creating the metaverse.

The metaverse which often uses virtual reality (VR) headsets integrate virtual and augmented reality technologies to visualize a new cyberspace where people can play games, work and communicate in a virtual environment. During the Facebook Connect conference, the company showed examples of people transforming into avatars who are socializing, playing, shopping, and working alongside other virtual avatars in distant settings. "Over time, I hope that we are seen as a metaverse company and I want to anchor our work and our identity on what we're building towards," the CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, said in the virtual conference. On Thursday, the company's headquarters in Menlo Park, California also displayed a new sign replacing its thumbs-up "Like" logo with a blue infinity shape. The rebranding does not apply to its individual platforms such as Instagram and WhatsApp, only the parent company that owns them; hence, Facebook becoming a subsidiary alongside the aforementioned platforms. These said platforms are now under the Meta umbrella. Many younger users of Facebook and Instagram are exhibiting disinterest in these platforms. Developing metaverse may help Meta in regaining them. This venture came after a string of unfavorable stories on Facebook such as spreading hate speech, misinformation, and depressing teenagers’ self-esteem. The case where an ex-employee, Frances Haugen, leaked documents and accused the company of putting "profits over safety" exacerbated the criticisms of the public towards Facebook. According to Zuckerberg, these negative occurrences “had nothing to bear on this. Even though I think some people might want to make that connection, I think that’s sort of a ridiculous thing. If anything, I think that this is not the environment that you would want to introduce a new brand in.” Mr. Zuckerberg cautioned that “many billions of dollars” will be spent scaling the metaverse and that elements may not become mainstream for another 5 to 10 years.

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