The Rebranding of a Tech Giant

Meta Platforms Inc. is the new company name

Facebook’s move to rebrand itself as Meta Platforms Inc. is making the rounds of the global headlines of late. On the ‘face’ of it, the company is bracing itself for a planned immersion into the metaverse, that parallel universe where people interact, shop and play via digital avatars, and which promises to be the next digital frontier.

There was no shortage of avatars at last week’s Facebook Connect conference, where Mark Zuckerberg and other Facebook executives shared a “vision for the metaverse—a place of new immersive experiences and the next evolution of social technology, built by people like you.”

“The future is yours to imagine”, they say. And imagining its future is just about what the tech giant seems to be doing right now. Zuckerberg is looking at billions of dollars and years of effort to be spent on augmented and virtual reality in which the company can flourish. He expects “this investment to grow even further for each of the next several years”.

There is, of course, no shortage of assorted sceptics and critics either, all of them very keen to have their say, even without account or registration. Some were quick to point out that the name change may have more to do with an attempt to reverse the reputational damage inflicted upon the brand by adverse publicity than with the company’s aspirations for the future.

Facebook is currently facing backlash over a cache of documents leaked to The Wall Street Journal by former employee Frances Haugen. The documents portray the company as seeking profit at the expense of people's well-being. A host of accusations have been levelled at the company, from condoning fake news and hate speech, to the destruction of people’s self-esteem.

Zuckerberg himself has dismissed the idea that the name change has anything to do with the leak. "Even though I think some people might want to make that connection, I think that’s sort of a ridiculous thing," he told The Verge. "If anything, I think that this is not the environment that you would want to introduce a new brand in.”

Reuters reports that metaverse pioneers find fault with the company’s intrusion into their own digital space. Having been early adopters of the realm, they seek to disparage the rebranding as Facebook’s way of appropriating itself of a concept that it had no hand in creating in the first place. The move certainly secures the name for Facebook before others can get interested.

One thing remains to be seen, and that is whether the change of name can have any bearing on the company’s business practices. Mike Proulx, Forrester vice president and research director, argues that the name change won't make the problems go away. If anything, they will be carried forward into the new realm. Speaking to USA Today he said, "If Meta doesn’t address its issues beyond a defensive and superficial altitude, those same issues will occupy the metaverse.