Facebook Inc., under fire from regulators and lawmakers in many countries over its business practices, is planning to rebrand itself with a new group name that focuses on the metaverse, The Verge reported.
The name change will be announced next week, The Vergesaid, citing a source with direct knowledge of the matter, Reuters reported from Bengaluru and Stockholm.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been talking up the metaverse, a digital world where people can move between different devices and communicate in a virtual environment, since July, and the group has invested heavily in virtual and augmented reality, developing hardware such as its Oculus VR headsets and working on AR glasses and wristband technologies.
The move would likely position the flagship app as one of many products under a parent company overseeing brands such as Instagram and WhatsApp, according to The Vergereport.
Google adopted such a structure when it reorganized into a holding company called Alphabet in 2015. Facebook said it does not comment on “rumor or speculation”.
If true, the rebranding would make sense as the core Facebook business becomes less important to the group and it seeks to revamp an image tarnished by regulatory and legal scrutiny of how it handles user safety and hate speech, analysts said.
“It reflects the broadening out of the Facebook business. And then, secondly, I do think that Facebook’s brand is probably not the greatest given all of the events of the last three years or so,” Internet analyst James Cordwell at Atlantic Equities said.
Facebook is under wide-ranging scrutiny from global lawmakers and regulators over its content moderation practices and harms linked to its platforms, with internal documents leaked by a whistleblower forming the basis for a US Senate hearing last week.
“Having a different parent brand will guard against having this negative association transferred into a new brand, or other brands that are in the portfolio,” said Shankha Basu, associate professor of marketing at University of Leeds.
Last month, Facebook appointed Andrew Bosworth, who heads up the social media company’s augmented reality and virtual reality efforts, including products like its Oculus Quest VR headset, as chief technology officer.
Metaverse, first coined in a dystopian novel three decades earlier, is popular in Silicon Valley and has been referenced by other tech firms such as Microsoft. The popular children’s game Roblox describes itself as a metaverse company. Epic Games’ Fortnite is also considered to be part of the metaverse.
Zuckerberg plans to talk about the name change at the company’s annual Connect conference on October 28, but it could be unveiled sooner, Reuters quoted from The Verge said.
FB India Policy Head Quit 2020 Amid Speculations: Meanwhile, the whistleblower, for example, had also recently revealed damaging information about FB’s India operations. And, such issues were simmering for quite some time.
Facebook India public policy head Ankhi Das, whose name came up in a controversy over alleged bias by the social networking giant in dealing with hate speeches last year, resigned from the company amidst speculations Oct 2020.
A statement by Ajit Mohan, Facebook India’s Managing Director, had then said: “Ankhi has decided to step down from her role in Facebook to pursue her interest in public service. Ankhi was one of our earliest employees in India and played an instrumental role in the growth of the company and its services over the last nine years.”
According to a NDTV report, Das’ resignation came weeks after both the company and she faced questions – both internally from employees and from the Indian government – over how political content is regulated on the popular social media platform, which boasts over 300 million users in the country.