Meta: 4 things you didn’t know about Facebook’s transition

Meta: 4 things you didn’t know about Facebook’s transition
Seen on the screen of a device in Sausalito, Calif., Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announces their new name, Meta, during a virtual event on Thursday, Oct. 28, 2021. Zuckerberg talked up his latest passion (photo credit: AP)

Facebook, one of the most controversial tech companies in Silicon Valley has rebranded and is now called ‘Meta’. But it’s more than just the change of name but a driver to Mark Zuckerberg’s ‘Metaverse’ project hinged on the creation of a virtual world.

Just a few years ago, Zuckerberg – the Facebook Chief Executive Officer – hinted at the possibility of creating a virtual world. The idea was scoffed at by execs like Twitter’s Jack Dorsey thanks to their rivalry.

During the official unveiling of the new name on Thursday, October 28, 2021, Zuckerberg and his team spoke passionately and looked unbothered about their hatchling idea.

At the time of writing this article, Meta had already hired 10,000 employees working on developing augmented and virtual reality projects – that’s almost double the entire employees at Twitter. The Business Standard reported earlier that plans were also underway to hire 10,000 more staff in Europe.

Metaverse, according to Zuckerberg, is a clean, well-lit virtual world, where people can play virtual games, attend concerts, and go shopping with each other’s avatars, all will happen virtually. The CEO is not only confident that the project will be successful but also that it will the future of Facebook a successor to the mobile internet.

While Mr Zuckerberg is entitled to the optimism and public relations stunt, very recent history tells us how tainted the reputation of Facebook has been. Here, we look at four things that the tech guru is trying to escape from by renaming Facebook to Meta.

Competition                                   

The success of the metaverse project could help solve the problem of its core ageing social media bus­iness that has been losing and continues to lose younger users to rival platforms like TikTok and Snapchat.

Facebook’s youth problem hasn’t hurt the company financially really. However, shrinking ad revenue remains a lagging indicator. The metaverse could help with the company’s demographic crisis, that’s if it encourages young people to strap on their Oculus headsets and hang out in Horizon — Facebook’s social Virtual Reality (VR) app — instead of watching some TikTok videos.

Detachment from Apple and Google

For decades, Facebook’s success has been credited to the app’s availability on Android and Apple Store. This meant its success was highly dependent on Apple and Google and the more smartphones remain the dominant way that people interact onlin­e, Facebook will never truly control its destiny. A metaverse strategy could finally relieve Facebook from the thumbs of Apple and Google.

Regulation

Another problem Zuckerberg is avoiding in this transition is regulatory risk. Facebook is not on the verge of being broken up but regulators are making enough noise about restricting its growth that it makes sense to place bets in some areas, like VR and AR, that are less likely to be regulated any time soon.

Controversy and reputation

The last problem on the list is the reputational road-fall Facebook has sust­ained as a result of its many missteps and scandals over the years. The most notable scandal is the Cambria Analytica in which data from 50 million users were sold to third parties for advertisement purposes. 

Of course, building the me­taverse won’t solve any of these problems overnight. It probably won’t solve them at all and could invite new kinds of scrutiny. But it would be wrong to write Facebook’s metaverse off as just a marketing gimmick, or a strategic ploy meant to give the company more leverage over its rivals. 

The metaverse has given him an escape route — away to eject himself from Facebook’s messy, troubled present and break ground on a new, untainted frontier.

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