This morning Facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg announced the biggest change to his company since listing on the stock market 10 years ago – it’s changing names and will now be called Meta.
Meta is short for Metaverse, a difficult to describe “vision” that doesn’t yet even exist. Think of it as trying to describe “The Internet” to someone in 1990 – yeah, you’d struggle with that.
Mark Zuckerberg has a strong belief in what it can be saying “We believe the metaverse will be the successor to the mobile internet. We’ll be able to feel present — like we’re right there with people — no matter how far apart we actually are.”
And perhaps his best description of why we’re heading this way comes from the journey of how we got to where we are today “The basic story of technology in our lifetimes is how it’s given us the power to express ourselves and experience the world with ever greater richness. […] We’ve gone from desktop to web to phones. From text to photos to video. But this isn’t the end of the line. The next platform and medium will be even more immersive — an embodied internet where you’re in the experience, not just looking at it. We call this the metaverse. And you’re going to be able to do almost anything you can imagine — get together with friends and family, work, learn, play, shop, create — as well as entirely new categories that don’t really fit how we think about computers or phones today.”
Of course, there’s going to be some serious questions about just why this is happening now. Facebook is under pressure from Government enquiries all around the world, not least the US Senate. There are whistleblowers claiming they put profits before the greater good of their users and so much more.
Zuckerberg addressed this head on, saying “With all the scrutiny and public debate, some of you might be wondering why we’re doing this right now. The answer is that I believe that we’re put on this earth to create. I believe that technology can make our lives better. And I believe the future won’t be built on its own.”
“I know that some people will say this isn’t a time to focus on the future. I want to acknowledge that there are important issues to work on in the present. There always will be. 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 I do. We live for what we’re building, and while we make mistakes, we’ll keep learning and building and moving forward.“
In many ways you’ve got to give him credit for that willingness to push through and create this vision. But with the history of user data exploitation and privacy concerns, there’s always going to be a lack of trust. The CEO says that’s front of mind. “Privacy and safety need to be built into the metaverse from day one.”
Will the social media website Facebook now be called Meta?
Simply put, this is about the parent company, the management team, the developers all working for a company that does so much more than just build Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp.
This is more about their Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality investments like Oculus than it is about the social networks.
A new name, like Meta allows them to focus on a much wider vision, while still having these individual brands and products.
But good luck trying to understand the Metaverse too soon. Your kids are probably best placed actually, because Roblox and Minecraft servers like The Hive are probably the closest actual examples of a metaverse we’ve got today.