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When Facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg announced the brand change of his company in October of 2021, he would set in motion a plan of massive proportions. Facebook would now be known as Meta, a vague, Greek word the semiotics of which I won’t go into, as the meanings are surprisingly quite smart and multi-layered, and would warrant an entire article on their own.
Long story short, Facebook had not been enjoying the best of reputations in recent years after the Donald Trump elections and the Cambridge Analytica scandal in 2018, not to mention the various bouts over user privacy with regulators it found itself part of the world over. To top it all off, Facebook was no longer the ‘hip’ social media platform it used to be in the early 2010s, with competition swooping in from both domestic and international markets.
With COVID-19 disrupting the entire world and occupying all news headlines, Facebook’s PR would finally catch a break, even if during this time the American social media giant would start feeling the pressure of a new Chinese titan breathing down its neck.
Regardless, Facebook persevered and decided to take this time to rebrand and refocus its efforts. With the name change of Meta came more than just the shedding of its troubled name: the Metaverse was born, a bold project that would put Facebook back on the map.
The Metaverse would represent the culmination of the entirety of Zuckerberg's efforts since the day Facebook was incorporated. The Metaverse was to be another world, a virtual one, that we as human beings inhabit in parallel to our daily lives, powered by advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual reality (VR) technology. You would shop, chat, watch, consume and much more in the Metaverse.
It would represent the next natural evolution for a social media network like Facebook and its subsidiaries: an all-consuming digital world where personal data is the number one currency - regardless of what the promotional videos tell you. At its core, it's the purest distillation of the game that Big Tech giants like Facebook and Google play: users will spend even more time on a digital platform owned and controlled by a corporation, generating and sharing data, which can then be used to power new products and services, but more importantly feed advertiser algorithms. The most important difference is here that the Metaverse stands to be the most immersive digital platform known to man.
Looking back to the 2010s, It is in fact no mere coincidence that Facebook bought VR headset manufacturer Oculus at the time. Undoubtedly, the roadmap for the metaverse wasn’t a plan concocted over a fortnight, and the Silicon Valley firm has been foreshadowing its development for years now.
Did Facebook’s rebrand to Meta succeed in distancing the company from its troubled history and reputation? It’s yet to be seen. The last two years have seen Facebook mostly play catch-up with the rising trend of short-form video content, while it brews the metaverse masterplan behind the scenes. Facebook - Meta - needs a new USP to validate its existence in the sea of copycat social media platforms (behaviour which the company itself propagated over the years, ironically enough, with its CEO’s “don't be too proud to copy” mantra), and the metaverse could very well be its return ticket to zeitgeist relevancy.