Updated: Jan 6
Amidst a fresh controversy and its own struggles to appeal to the newer generation, Facebook has decided to change its company name and announce a new direction for the company. Over the last few years, Facebook has remained the top used social media in the world, topping out at 2.74 billion active users. The originator of modern social media certainly continues to be going strong when it comes to raw numbers but when it comes to popularity— especially among Gen Z— it continues to flounder. That brings us into today, Facebook is now Meta, and with a renewed company ambition centered around building the true “Metaverse”. But does this pivot really bring a bright future for Meta or will a new name just bring about new problems?
In my previous article, (Metaverse) I covered why the “Metaverse” is farther away than many tech companies think. Both from a societal viewpoint and in technology. To put it simply, the Metaverse is the idea of all of us existing online with a single profile that doubles to our real-world identity. It’s a long-awaited, often warned synthesis of online and the real world self. This dream would be helped in large part due to the advancement of virtual reality. We have seen the beginning of the Metaverse in games such as Roblox or Fortnite. What Meta wants to do is take the first big step beyond gaming into making this dream a reality.
You can change your name but you can’t change who you are. Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg were no strangers to controversy. Appearing before Congress several times to explain himself for facilitating a platform that has led to many moral waves of panic across the world. Facebook has been able to control the flow of information for many and, in some cases, this has led to the spread of hate groups and dangerous misinformation to the masses. Many consider the name change to Meta to be one of desperation to hide away from past crimes and remake yourself. Despite this belief, Meta will more than likely do nothing to be better and continue its past faults and probably do worse as time goes on. Facebook has already been known to mishandle people's information and personal identity. This doesn’t contrast well with the goal of the Metaverse; building a new identity that becomes as important as your real one. If anyone is not to be trusted in regards to your profile, it would be Meta. Meta has proven that it can’t be trusted with your online profile, now they want your identity.
With the name change, it was announced that Meta would keep the name of its products. Facebook remains Facebook, Instagram remains Instagram, and so on. All except one. Oculus, the once independent, Facebook-bought virtual reality brand is set to be retired and merged into the Meta brand. This doesn’t bode well for the future of virtual reality headsets. As the Oculus was growing to become the mainstream VR gaming headset, this set it up for failure. A major failing of Oculus was the enforcement of linking your Facebook profile to your headset. One thing gamers don’t like more than anything else is being forced to sign up for external services to play a game. Forcing people to sign into a Facebook profile would only cause more issues than needed. While Meta has retired that requirement as of the name change, the retirement of the Oculus brand takes its place. I think Meta has finally learned that people aren’t eager to align themselves with their Facebook profile anymore. It’s not the future of social media anymore and they know that. However, they’ll soon find out that just as many aren’t lining up to be a part of Meta either. Meta's statement comes across as a shy away from VR as a gaming platform in favor of a social one. This won’t kill virtual reality gaming but it certainly puts a big bump in the road until we see a real dedication to the platform.
Facebook had a lot of issues and Meta has taken those on becoming more of a look into a dystopian future than an exciting look at the future of tech. Maybe Meta’s previous crimes will be forgiven and they’ll all of a sudden will be a force for good, but it’s highly unlikely. Instagram remains the favorite social media among the modern generation and it will continue to do so unless something drastic changes. Regardless, Meta is at the helm of that ship too. Will Meta build the long-awaited Metaverse? Maybe, and it’d be exciting. But one thing for sure is that a name won’t change who you are, and the refocus on the metaverse is a dream still too early to be believed. And now, with Meta at the helm of that dream, it's a little bit more of a nightmare.