Facebook rebrand more Altria than Alphabet

The word “meta” suggests a layer of abstraction between the company and its namesake product, which will still be called Facebook

  
A 3D printed Facebook logo is placed between small toy people figures in front of a keyboard in this illustration taken April 12, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo Image used for illustrative purpose.

A 3D printed Facebook logo is placed between small toy people figures in front of a keyboard in this illustration taken April 12, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo Image used for illustrative purpose.

(The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.)

NEW YORK - The metaverse is here, in name if not in fact. Facebook FB.O , the company, will henceforth be known as Meta, a new name that reflects co-founder and Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg’s focus on creating a new reality based on immersive virtual experiences. For today, the rebrand mostly applies gauze to cover a tarnished name.

Delivering the many technologies needed for Zuckerberg’s vision of the metaverse, which he laid out in a presentation on Thursday, will take decades. But the costs will kick in fairly quickly. The company-formerly-known-as-Facebook is setting out a new division called Reality Labs, investment in which will reduce operating profit by about $10 billion this year. A persuasive metaverse will need huge advances in over a dozen areas, the company reckons, including displays, eye-tracking, sensors and artificial intelligence.

The word “meta” suggests a layer of abstraction between the company and its namesake product, which will still be called Facebook. That’s a bit like the creation of Alphabet, the company that houses search engine Google. It’s a good idea, in that Zuckerberg’s flagship product faces criticism from politicians and whistleblowers over its sometimes-pernicious effect on individuals and society. Former employee Frances Haugen compared the platform to addictive substances like tobacco or opioids when she spoke before the British parliament on Monday.

Tobacco might be an apt comparison in other ways too, in that Facebook’s rebrand has a touch of Altria, the owner of Marlboro cigarettes. That company changed its name from Philip Morris in 2003, in part to get away from the association with cigarettes. Nearly two-decades later, it still gets most of its revenue and profit from smokes. Sometimes a name is just a name.

CONTEXT NEWS

- Facebook has changed its company name to Meta in a rebrand reflecting its ambitions of building a “metaverse,” a shared virtual environment. The company will trade under the new stock ticker MVRS from Dec. 1.

- The group’s corporate structure would not change as a result of the rebranding, it said as the new identity was unveiled on Oct. 28. The social network Facebook will retain its current name.

- Starting with fourth-quarter financial results, the company plans to report on two operating segments: Family of Apps and Reality Labs.

(The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.)

(Editing by John Foley and Amanda Gomez) ((For previous columns by the author, Reuters customers can click on CYRAN/ SIGN UP FOR BREAKINGVIEWS EMAIL ALERTS https://bit.ly/BVsubscribe | robert.cyran@thomsonreuters.com; Reuters Messaging: robert.cyran.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))


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