Mark Zuckerberg’s ambitious vision of developing a virtual “Metaverse” – and renaming the parent of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp “Meta” to match it – has everyone scratching their heads and wondering what it all means.
Zuckerberg announced the rebranding on Thursday, during the company’s hour-long Connect 2021 virtual event, describing it as “the next evolution of social connection.”
Though the technologies to make the “Metaverse” happen are still in development and may be years off, the name change is effective immediately.
Meta won’t erase Facebook – or Instagram or WhatsApp – but denote the parent company in charge of all three, much as Alphabet is the company that owns Google and YouTube, for example.
There seemed to be some confusion on that account online, however, as people who have been targeting Zuckerberg as an enemy of “our democracy” immediately jumped to the conclusion it was an attempt to hide or change the subject.
“I don’t know if Zuckerberg knows but changing your name doesn’t help avoid legal culpability,” tweeted Zephyr Teachout, a progressive Democrat from New York, adding that Meta was “a perfectly fine name for one of the dozen social networks that will be leftover after the break up.”
I think Meta is a perfectly fine name for one of the dozen social networks that will be leftover after the break up.
In the meantime, I don’t know if Zuckerberg knows but changing your name doesn’t help avoid legal culpability.
— Zephyr Teachout (@ZephyrTeachout) October 28, 2021
Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) said it reminded her of “a cancer to democracy metastasizing into a global surveillance and propaganda machine for boosting authoritarian regimes and destroying civil society… for profit!”
Meta as in “we are a cancer to democracy metastasizing into a global surveillance and propaganda machine for boosting authoritarian regimes and destroying civil society… for profit!” https://t.co/jzOcCFaWkJ
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) October 28, 2021
Dan Pfeiffer, former Obama aide and current board member of Good Information Inc, called Zuckerberg’s ideas “embarrassingly stupid” with no one at Facebook daring to tell him so.
This entire Facebook Meta shitshow has real signs of a company where no one has the guts or cache to tell Mark Zuckerberg his ideas are embarrassingly stupid
— Dan Pfeiffer (@danpfeiffer) October 28, 2021
Others made fun of the rebrand, and for a while ‘feta’ was trending with memes involving Zuckerberg and the famous Greek cheese. The fast-food chain Wendy’s joked they would change their name to ‘Meat.’
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey tweeted out a dictionary definition of the term in English, saying that “meta” means “referring to itself or to the conventions of its genre; self-referential.”
meta: referring to itself or to the conventions of its genre; self-referential.
— jack⚡️ (@jack) October 28, 2021
His company later added the only META they will recognize is their Machine [Learning], Ethics, Transparency and Accountability team.
— Twitter Safety (@TwitterSafety) October 28, 2021
Once you get past the memes and mockery, however, Zuckerberg’s presentation revealed an ambitious plan for what he called “embodied internet,” a combination of virtual and augmented reality that will be experienced through motion sensors, smart glasses and technologies that have yet to be invented.
One of the company technicians he spoke with mentioned that the project will require “a dozen major tech breakthroughs” over the coming years. They were already working on things like “photorealistic avatars,” showing a concept video that looks like a deepfakers’ dream come true.
This also quickly drew comparisons to the Matrix, a virtual world from the 1999 sci-fi dystopia.
They’re trying to destroy the physical world so they can keep you locked in a room while eating bugs and pretending to be a space man.
It’s the Matrix. We are the batteries… pic.twitter.com/N8PwQSOWpF
— Dave Rubin (@RubinReport) October 28, 2021
Others found the notion of a virtual reality fine by itself, but lamented that Facebook is the “wrong company” to run it. Fast Company called it “a vast platform for misinformation and disinformation,” citing as proof the conspiracy theories such as “Russian meddling” in US elections and the claim the January 6 “insurrection” was planned there by “domestic terrorists.”
“I believe that Metaverse is the next chapter for the internet,” Zuckerberg argued, saying it would deliver the ultimate promise of technology, “to be together with anyone… teleport anywhere… create and experience anything.”
“A future where with just a pair of glasses you’ll be able to step beyond the physical world.”
Since founding Facebook in 2004, Zuckerberg has managed to monetize social relationships and create a massive media empire.
Thursday’s presentation suggests something far more ambitious: a vision of humanity’s future beyond the constraints of physics, even as the political forces he has himself supported continue to paint a target on his back.
“Meta, a Chan Zuckerberg Initiative project, is a biomedical research discovery tool that analyzes & connects millions of scientific outputs to give you a comprehensive view into science. You can easily explore research and follow developments by searching for specific terms or creating customizable feeds of papers and preprints.”
About Meta, Inc.:
Meta Platforms, Inc., formerly known as Facebook, Inc. until October 28, 2021, is an American multinational technology conglomerate holding company based in Menlo Park, California. It is the parent organization of Facebook and its subsidiaries. It is one of the world’s most valuable companies and is considered one of the Big Five companies in U.S. information technology, alongside Amazon, Alphabet, Apple, and Microsoft. The company generates the vast majority of its revenue by selling advertisement placements to marketers.
Meta offers other products and services, including Facebook Messenger, Facebook Watch, and Facebook Portal. It has also acquired Giphy and Mapillary, and has a 9.99% stake in Jio Platforms.