Mark Zuckerberg surprised the world in October when he announced his company had changed its name to Meta.
The announcement came as the Facebook founder and CEO delivered a presentation showcasing Facebook’s work on virtual reality technologies and the Metaverse - a concept which some believe could become the next version of the internet.
It also saw Mr Zuckerberg reveal that the Silicon Valley giant would move its centre of gravity from social media to tech.
So, will these changes lead to noticeable differences for the billions of Facebook, Instagram and Whatsapp users across the world - and why was Meta chosen as the company’s new name?
Here’s what you need to know.
What is Meta?
Meta is the new name for Mark Zuckerberg’s business empire - a company that now extends beyond social media apps and into the design and manufacture of new technologies.
In the lead up to the 28 October announcement, there was speculation about a potential name change as Facebook had covered the logo at its Californian HQ with a ‘like’ emoji.
But while the parent company is now no longer known as Facebook, the Facebook name will live on in the form of the social media app.
Indeed, day-to-day users of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp will probably notice no difference to the apps.
Explaining the move, Mr Zuckerberg said, “increasingly, [Facebook] just doesn’t encompass everything we do.
“Building our social media apps will always be an important focus for us but right now our entire brand is so tightly linked to one product that it can’t possibly represent everything that we’re doing today, let alone in the future.”
“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.”
It’s a move that echoes what Google did when it changed the name of its parent company to Alphabet in 2015 - an alteration that represented its shift beyond simply being a search engine.
The other key announcement Mr Zuckerberg made was about Meta’s ‘North Star’ - business jargon for what a company’s purpose is.
He said Meta was “going to be metaverse first, not Facebook first”.
Essentially, it means Facebook and social media will no longer be the company’s main focus.
Instead, it will pour its resources into constructing virtual reality products and setting up the Metaverse.
Longer-term, Mr Zuckerberg said it would also mean people wouldn’t need to use Facebook to use the company’s other services.
The announcement of the new name and the company’s change of direction has come after a series of controversies over how the Facebook app has been used in recent years.
The platform has come under increasing scrutiny for its handling of data, political advertising and harmful content, like hate speech.
It has led some to suggest the name change is nothing more than a PR stunt from the Silicon Valley giant.
What does Facebook’s new name name mean?
Mark Zuckerberg said in his presentation that he had chosen the name Meta in part because it “reflects the full breadth of what we do and the future we want to help build”.
But he also said he had chosen it as in Greek it means ‘beyond’.
“For me, it symbolises that there’s always more to build; there’s always a next chapter to the story,” he explained.
“For us it’s a story that started in the dorm room and grew beyond anything we could imagine into a family of apps that people use to find one another, to find their voice, to start businesses and communities and movements that have changed the world.
“I’m proud of what we’ve built so far and excited about what comes next as we move beyond what’s possible today.
“Beyond the constraints of screens, beyond the limits of distance and physics and towards a future where everyone can be present with each other, create new opportunities and experience new things.”
And in what could possibly become the new brand’s tagline, Mr Zuckerberg said: “The future is going to be beyond anything we can imagine”.
What is a metaverse?
A metaverse is an online world where people can game, work and communicate in a virtual environment.
The term refers to a cyberspace parallel to physical reality where a community of people can interact in the form of avatars.
This is possible through the merging of physical, augmented, and virtual reality.
This world already exists today through Meta-owned brand Oculus, which will itself be re-branded to Meta Quest in 2022, as well as Meta’s collaboration with glasses manufacturer Ray-Ban that allows users to see social media notifications via their glasses or sunglasses.
In his presentation, Mark Zuckerberg showed how his new metaverse concept ‘Horizon’ could apply to our future lives.
For example, he demonstrated how it could be used to hold realistic work meetings and help with education.
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