MENLO PARK (CBS SF/AP) — Under fire in the media and in Washington, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced Thursday he was changing the name of the company he founded to 'Meta' reflecting the social media giant's attempt to pivot to its "next chapter" and away from the controversy embroiling it.
The announcement makes Facebook just one of Meta's namesake services alongside Instagram and WhatsApp.
"I've been thinking a lot about our identity as we begin this next chapter," he said. "Facebook is one of the most used products in the history of the world. It is an iconic social media brand, but increasingly it just doesn't encompass everything that we do."
He said the name reflects his vision of a futuristic metaverse.
But skeptics point out that it also appears to be an attempt to change the subject from the Facebook Papers, a leaked document trove so dubbed by a consortium of news organizations that include The Associated Press.
Many of these documents, first described by former Facebook employee-turned-whistleblower Frances Haugen, have revealed how Facebook ignored or downplayed internal warnings of the negative and often harmful consequences its social network algorithms created or magnified across the world.
"I know that some people will say that 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," Zuckerberg said. "So for many people, I'm just not sure there ever will be a good time to focus on the future. 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," Zuckerberg added. "And while we make mistakes, we keep learning and building and moving forward."
Zuckerberg says he expects the metaverse to reach a billion people within the next decade. The metaverse, he says, will be a place people will be able to interact, work and create products and content in what he hopes will be a new ecosystem that creates millions of jobs for creators.
The announcement comes amid an existential crisis for Facebook. It faces heightened legislative and regulatory scrutiny in many parts of the world following revelations in the Facebook Papers.
Facebook the app, along with Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger, are here to stay; the company's corporate structure also won't change. But on Dec. 1, its shares will start trading under a new ticker symbol, "MVRS."
Metaverse, he said, is the new way. Zuckerberg, who is a fan of classics, explained that the word "meta" comes from the Greek word "beyond."
A corporate rebranding won't solve the myriad problems at Facebook revealed by thousands of internal documents in recent weeks. It probably won't even get people to stop calling the social media giant Facebook — or a "social media giant," for that matter.
But that isn't stopping Zuckerberg, seemingly eager to move on to his next big thing as crisis after crisis emerges at the company he created.
While largely dismissing revelations from the the Facebook Papers as unfair criticism, Zuckerberg has focused on building a virtual environment you can go inside of instead of just looking at on a screen.
Just as smartphones replaced desktop computers, Zuckerberg is betting that the metaverse will be the next way people will interact with computers — and each other. If Instagram and messaging were Facebook's forays into the mobile evolution, Meta is its bet on the metaverse. And what's better than a name change to show how serious he is?
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