As Facebook plans to go all in on the metaverse, a virtual reality space where users can interact with each other in a computer-generated environment, the tech giant has announced it will take on a new name: Meta.
“Today, we’re seen as a social media company. But in our DNA, we’re a company that builds technology to connect people, and the metaverse is the next frontier, just like social networking was when we got started,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said at Thursday’s Connect 2021 event. “From now on, we’re going to be metaverse first, not Facebook first. That means that over time, you won’t need to use Facebook to use our other services as our new brand starts showing up in our products. I hope that people come to know the Meta brand and the future that we stand for.”
Zuckerberg emphasized that the company’s corporate structure and how it uses or shares data will not change. However, beginning in the fourth quarter, Meta will report its Reality Labs segment separately from its family of apps, including Instagram and WhatsApp. The Facebook app, where users post personal updates and register likes, is not changing its name.
Along with the name change, the company has launched a new Twitter account and website. It will also transition from its FB ticker symbol to MVRS beginning on Dec. 1. Shares of Facebook jumped as much as 3% following the announcement.
The rebrand comes as Facebook has faced a growing PR firestorm, including scathing testimony to U.S. and U.K. lawmakers from former product manager-turned-whistleblower Frances Haugen and a series of reports from The Wall Street Journal and a media consortium of 17 U.S. news outlets, including FOX Business, dubbed The Facebook Files and Facebook Papers, respectively. Zuckerberg has pushed back on Haugen and the reports, most recently during the company’s latest earnings call Monday.
“I know that some people will say this isn’t a time to focus on the future, and I want to acknowledge that there are important issues to work on in the present. There always will be. So for many people, I’m just not sure there ever will be a good time to focus on the future,” Zuckerberg acknowledged Thursday. “But I also know that there are a lot of you who feel the same way that I do. We live for what we’re building and while we make mistakes, we keep learning and building and moving forward.”
According to a letter from Zuckerberg, the metaverse will enable people to get together with their friends and family, work, learn, play, shop and create.
In order to lay the groundwork for the metaverse, a new feature called Horizon Home will allow users to create their own digital living spaces where they can hang out with friends, watch videos and jump into games and apps together. Horizon Home builds upon Horizon Worlds, which is currently in beta, and Horizon Workrooms for businesses. Meanwhile, Horizon Venues will give users an all-access pass to live concerts, sporting events and more.
Meta is also building upon the Oculus Quest 2 with an Active Pack for fitness, which provides an exercise-optimized facial interface and touch controllers to help users stay in control while they sweat, and Quest for Business, which will allow users to collaborate with their co-workers and access productivity apps using a Work Account. Quest for Business will launch a limited beta in 2021 and fully launch in 2023.
The company will also expand its Messenger VR capabilities with audio calling and VR gaming offerings with Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. In addition, developers can access a new Presence platform, which offers tools to build more realistic mixed reality, interaction, and voice experiences for metaverse users.
Next year, Meta will also launch its next-generation all-in-one VR hardware, Project Cambria, a high-end and higher-priced alternative to Quest 2. The company will also launch a beta for a free iOS app called Polar, which is powered by the company’s Spark AR and allows developers to create and share new augmented reality effects and filters.
Meta plans to sell its devices at cost or subsidized in order to make them available to more people. It also will continue supporting side-loading and streaming from PCs to offer choice and aim to offer developer and creator services with low fees. The investments in virtual and augmented reality are expected to put a $10 billion dent in the company’s operating profit in 2021.
“Our hope is that within the next decade, the metaverse will reach a billion people, host hundreds of billions of dollars of digital commerce, and support jobs for millions of creators and developers,” Zuckerberg said.