Last October, the technology conglomerate known as Facebook Inc. was renamed Meta Platforms Inc. The change was made at the corporate level, since the social network Facebook retains its name. In this article we will see why the rebrand was made and what implications it will have for the future.
What does Meta, the new name of Facebook signify?
During the Facebook Connect 2021 event, on October 28, Mark Zuckerberg announced the corporate name change, noting that the idea for Meta arose from the science fiction novel Snow Crash by American writer Neal Stephenson. In that novel, Stephenson mentions the concept of the metaverse and presents the world of the future as a society controlled by large corporations, united by a common virtual three-dimensional space. The great influence that this novel has had on digital culture is evident: for example, the term "avatar" became popular mainly thanks to this book; Likewise, Snow Crash has been a source of inspiration for the concepts of many experimental models of virtual reality.
Preparations for the rebranding were kept secret for more than six months. According to The Verge, Zuckerberg commented that the change was necessary and long overdue: "I think there was a lot of confusion and concern that the company brand was also the brand of one of the social media applications."
How does Meta work?
This year alone, the company plans to invest up to 10 billion dollars to create a new model of reality. However, specific details about what this new digital space will look like are unknown. So far it is known that a unified system of accounts (represented by virtual avatars) will be introduced that will cover all the company's social applications (Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Messenger) and compatible devices.
It is believed that the main gadget that will facilitate the presence of a person in virtual reality will be the Oculus Quest, a headset developed by Oculus VR, a company that is also part of Meta. Its most recent model, the Oculus Quest 2, was presented in September 2020 at the Facebook Connect conference and has 4 cameras that help the user navigate in space. The VR headset is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2 chip, has 6GB of RAM, and a 2K resolution LCD per eye. Oculus Quest 2 users can now play games that support 3D space, work in individual applications, and work together with other users with similar hardware. In addition to Internet access, a Facebook account and a smartphone with the free Oculus app installed are required.
A space called Horizon Home is expected to be added to the app soon, where users can meet up, watch videos, and play multiplayer games together. The new metaverse will likely be based on Horizon Home and other Oculus virtual spaces, such as Horizon Workrooms and Horizon Venues.
What is Meta Verified and what are its benefits?
The last few quarters have not painted very well for Meta, as it has posted major losses in its Metaverse and gone through a round of layoffs of 11,000 people. To stay afloat, the company has decided to replicate the formula that has already been seen recently on Snapchat and Twitter: move to a subscription model. Thus, Meta Verified arrives, a verification program designed for Instagram and Facebook, which is committed to the security and protection of the account against usurpation, as well as a customer service available to its users. Additionally, subscribers will have exclusive stickers for their Reels and Stories, 100 stars per month to support other creators and greater visibility on networks.
What is known at the moment that it is still in testing, and has only been released in Australia and New Zealand. The subscription will tentatively cost $11.99 per month, or $14.99 per month for Apple users; the latter because iOS implemented the option to deny activity tracking to applications by users. For now, if you already have the blue tick on your account, it will not be removed, but to make any changes to your profile settings, you will have to go through the new verification process when it arrives in your country.
What criticism has Meta faced?
It's no secret that in recent years Facebook has come under constant criticism for the possible misuse of users' personal information and the leaking of their data. However, according to Zuckerberg, the name change has nothing to do with the negative publicity this has caused the Facebook brand.
"Mark Zuckerberg envisioned a metaverse as a trusted and shared virtual world (...) in which people can play virtual games, attend virtual concerts, shop online, collect virtual art, communicate through virtual avatars, and working in virtual workspaces", summarizes a columnist for The The New York Times and wonders if all this will come true.
"It's impossible to know for sure, of course, but I personally don't think Facebook — that unmanageable bureaucratic machine whose greatest accomplishments over the past decade have largely consisted of buying up competing apps or copying their features rather than developing its own ideas within of the company—go create an interesting digital universe that people actually want to spend their time in. The Guardian notes: "The Wikipedia page 'Criticism of Facebook' has an extremely long list of content, ranging from records on tax evasion and copyright infringement, to the trauma of its employees and the posting of content denying various genocides. Its founder, Mark Zuckerberg, and his company have been very busy trying to revamp their image, especially after the Cambridge Analytica scandal."
A public poll conducted by Morning Consult among Americans shows that 68% of adult participants are not interested in using Zuckerberg's metaverse, based on what is known so far about the project. At the same time, 25% of the adult participants indicated that they had a positive opinion about Meta, while 40% had a negative opinion (approximately one third, 34%, did not take any position on it). 56% of the so-called generation Z (people born between 1997 and 2012) said they were not interested in the project, while the remaining 44% showed interest in the Metaverse. It is logical to assume that the corporation under the leadership of Zuckerberg has as its main goal to attract attention and arouse the interest of young people, who are increasingly approaching the world of digital technology at a fairly young age.