Another corporate giant has rebranded itself. Facebook the company is now Meta the company. I suppose it had to be done because of brand confusion. Facebook was the name of the company as well as the name of the app used by billions of people. It’s similar to when Google the company became Alphabet the company, and Google remained one of Alphabet’s platforms.
So why now? Many observers might point to the fact the company formerly known as Facebook was getting slammed for what was happening on its Facebook platform. Whistleblower Frances Haugen, a former product manager for the former Facebook, leaked a trove of documents that became known as the Facebook Papers. The Facebook Papers revealed how the company ignored or downplayed internal warnings about the negative and often harmful consequences its social network algorithms created or magnified across the world. Things like spewing election lies and hate and other vitriol. Turns out it wasn’t all puppies and party shots in your feed.
It was a bad look, and when companies look bad, they often try to throw on lipstick to pretty themselves up. Sometimes they change their name.
So why Meta? Meta as a prefix means “beyond” or “transcending” the word it attaches to: metaphysical transcends the physical realm. Another meaning for meta is self-referential. For example, metadata is data about data. Metafiction is fiction that continually refers to itself as fiction or takes as its subject the writing of fiction. Like if I were to write a novel about a character who is writing a novel. Don’t worry, loyal readers, I won’t do that.
Mark Zuckerberg, who is rumored to be considering a personal rebranding to become Meta Zuckerberg (inspired by the basketball player Ron Artest who became Metta World Peace), explained the rebranding at
Facebook’s Meta’s annual conference:
“Right now, our brand is so tightly linked to one product that it can’t possibly represent everything that we’re doing today, let alone in the future. Over time, I hope that we are seen as a metaverse company, and I want to anchor our work and identity on what we’re building toward.”
What is the metaverse? Let’s break it down. With the “transcending” meaning of meta, metaverse must mean beyond rhyming poetry. Not just verse, but prose and bullet points as well? Or maybe it’s the self-referential meaning of meta: metaverse is poetry about poetry.
I was confused. So I researched a little more and discovered the metaverse has nothing to do with poetry and is in fact a virtual world you can plug yourself into and do — in theory — almost anything. Mark Z. himself explained some of these metaverse concepts in a letter he wrote about the rebranding:
In this future, you will be able to teleport instantly as a hologram to be at the office without a commute, at a concert with friends, or in your parents’ living room to catch up.Mark Z.
Beam me up, Scotty! Because I’m really tired of squeezing into those airline coach seats.
I’ve got nothing against Facebook rebranding as Meta. Lots of troubled corporate behemoths do it.
Philip Morris became Altria to take the emphasis off all the lawsuits around its cigarette brands. Their website says they are moving from “a tobacco company to a tobacco harm reduction company.” At the same time, they continue to produce the best-selling cigarette brand—Marlboro—along with Parliament, Merit, Lark, Virginia Slims, L&M, Chesterfields, and others.
Dunkin’ Donuts became Dunkin’ to take the emphasis off doughnuts and put it on beverages and other breakfast foods—because doughnuts (and donuts) are bad for you.
Weight Watchers became WW to take advantage of being a wellness company and the body positive movement.
So Meta it is. But I suspect the Facebook brand will overshadow the Meta brand (Google or Alphabet?). And it’s on Facebook where the lies will continue to proliferate, conspiracy theories thrive, incels complain, white supremacists strut, and millions of people post cute pictures of their cats.