After announcing plans to hire 10,000 workers in Europe (despite a looming global corporate tax agreement that could substantially increase his firm's tax burden) to get to work on building the Facebook Metaverse - before Microsoft or Roblox, or - even worse - some scrappy newcomer, can beat them to the punch - Facebook has just leaked a massive scoop to the Verge.
In a move that, in a way, resembles Google's big corporate re-brand to 'Alphabet' in 2015 (and also, in a way, the defense contractor formerly known as Blackwater's numerous name changes over the years to help move past reputational damage) the social media behemoth has decided to 'rebrand' and change its official corporate name from 'Facebook' to, well, something having to do with "the Metaverse."
In keeping with the 'rebranding' theme we mentioned above, some high-level source at Facebook (Zuckerberg?) told the Verge that the decision is meant to "signal the tech giant's ambition to be known for more than social media and all the ills that entail."
The coming name change, which CEO Mark Zuckerberg plans to talk about at the company's annual Connect conference on October 28th, but could unveil sooner, is meant to signal the tech giant's ambition to be known for more than social media and all the ills that entail. The rebrand would likely position the blue Facebook app as one of many products under a parent company overseeing groups like Instagram, WhatsApp, Oculus, and more. A spokesperson for Facebook declined to comment for this story.
Of course, we'd be remiss without sharing a few notes on the timing of this leaked announcement. Facebook's attempt to publicly pivot away from its social media mainstays comes at a time when:
- Antitrust regulators have been trying to break up the company for some time now
- Whistleblower Frances Haugen's explosive claims, in leaked documents and in Congressional testimony, are only a couple of weeks in the rearview
- Just yesterday, Democratic Sens. Warren and Brown demanded the company halt its stablecoin pilot project meant to provide virtually free remittance payments between the US and Guatemala.
Even without the new hires in Europe, Facebook already has more than 10,000 employees building AR glasses that Zuckerberg believes will eventually be as ubiquitous as smartphones. In July, he told The Verge that, over the next several years, "we will effectively transition from people seeing us as primarily being a social media company to being a metaverse company."
But here's the real key line in the Verge report: "a rebrand could also serve to further separate the futuristic work Zuckerberg is focused on from the intense scrutiny Facebook is currently under for the way its social platform operates today."
As for what Zuck is saying, he told the Verge over the summer that the metaverse is "going to be a big focus, and I think that this is just going to be a big part of the next chapter for the way that the internet evolves after the mobile internet," Zuckerberg told The Verge's Casey Newton this summer. "And I think it's going to be the next big chapter for our company too, really doubling down in this area."
Put another way: Facebook is moving on from all of its past scandals involving its social media platforms - whether it's antitrust, or evidence that management does virtually nothing to stop human trafficking around the world, or teen girls feeling bad about themselves on Instagram. Zuck is officially done talking about it. So don't even try dragging him in front of Congress for another hearing.
But don't worry, because there's already been plenty of new criticism for Zuck to answer to regarding his new favorite obsession. Tuesday evening, Twitter and Square CEO Jack Dorsey tweeted a crack suggesting Facebook's metaverse will be just as "dystopian" as science fiction writers imagined it would be 30 years ago.
As for what the new name might be, well, we imagine there will be plenty of speculation about that.