Facebook announced Thursday it will change its name to "Meta," emphasizing its focus on building a "metaverse" of interconnected 3D virtual spaces.
In a Facebook Connect talk, CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced the name change along with a number of initiatives designed to introduce the company's virtual reality tools. Facebook the social media platform will retain its name, but the parent company, which also owns Instagram and WhatsApp, will be renamed.
The rebrand comes at a pivotal moment for Facebook. Lawmakers from both parties are working to curtail its power, and a whistleblower documented that the company knows it causes harm to children. Zuckerberg implicitly acknowledged the public relations difficulty Facebook is in, saying, "Right now, our brand is so tightly linked to one product that it can't possibly represent everything we are doing."
The website meta.com redirects to a welcome page on Facebook, which says, "Our company's vision is to help bring the metaverse to life, so we are changing our name to reflect our commitment to this future." Other promotional materials claim Facebook hopes the "metaverse will be a collective project that goes beyond a single company … created by people all over the world, and open to everyone."
Zuckerberg's talk focused on new technologies that would create a sense of "presence" while interacting online, highlighting the ability to interact with the avatars of other users and to purchase digital clothing. Some metaverse proponents worry Facebook will monopolize the burgeoning industry. Facebook is also developing a new digital currency, Libra, that it hopes will replace a wide range of online transactions.