Mark Zuckerberg. Source: Eliot Blondet/ABACA via Reuters.
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  • Facebook is now called Meta — a rebranding that focuses on building out its plan for a shared virtual environment known as the ‘metaverse’
  • CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the new name reflects the company’s work investing in the metaverse, rather than its namesake social media platform
  • As part of the change, Facebook’s hardware division Facebook Reality Labs — responsible for AR and VR efforts — will become a separate reporting unit
  • However, experts argue a simple name change “doesn’t suddenly erase the systemic issues plaguing the company”
  • Shares in Facebook closed 1.5 per cent higher on Thursday at US$316.92 (A$420.66), and will start trading under the new stock ticker MVRS on December 1

Facebook is now called Meta, the tech giant said on Thursday, in a rebranding that focuses on building out its plan for a shared virtual environment known as the ‘metaverse’.

In a letter, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the new name reflects the company’s work investing in the metaverse, rather than its namesake social media platform, which will remain as Facebook.

“The defining quality of the metaverse will be a feeling of presence — like you are right there with another person or in another place,” he said.

“Feeling truly present with another person is the ultimate dream of social technology. That is why we are focused on building this.”

The metaverse is a term coined in Neal Stephenson’s 1992 dystopian novel ‘Snow Crash’, and refers broadly to the idea of a shared virtual realm that can be accessed by people using different devices.

“Right now our brand is so tightly linked to one product that it can’t possibly represent everything we’re doing today, let alone in the future,” Mr Zuckerberg continued.

“Over time, I hope we are seen as a metaverse company, and I want to anchor our work and our identity on what we’re building towards.”

While its corporate structure will not be affected, the tech giant — which has invested heavily in augmented and virtual reality — said the new name would bring together its different apps and technologies under one new brand.

As part of the change, Facebook’s hardware division Facebook Reality Labs — responsible for AR and VR efforts — will become a separate reporting unit. Investments in that unit are expected to reduce this year’s total operating unit by around US$10 billion (A$13.27 billion).

According to its head, Andrew “Boz” Bosworth, the division will be called Reality Labs, and will stop using the Oculus branding for its VR headsets, instead calling them ‘Meta’ products.

Still, the rebranding comes amid sweeping criticism from lawmakers and regulators over the company’s market power, algorithmic decisions and policing of content on its platforms.

In the latest controversy, whistleblower and former employee Francis Haugen leaked a trove of internal documents she said showed how the company chose profit over the safety of its users.

Recent weeks have seen Ms Haugen testify before a US Senate subcommittee and lawmakers in the UK’s Parliament, but Mr Zuckerberg said the documents were being used to paint a “false picture”.

“While it’ll help alleviate confusion by distinguishing Facebook’s parent company from its founding app, a name change doesn’t suddenly erase the systemic issues plaguing the company,” Mike Proulx, research director at market research firm Forrester said.

Mr Zuckerberg said the new name, derived from the Greek word for “beyond,” symbolised there was always more to build.

But the plan to phase out the Facebook name — even from products like the video calling device Portal — show the company is eager to prevent the unprecedented scrutiny from hurting the rest of its apps, according to Prashant Malaviya, a marketing professor at Georgetown University McDonough School of Business.

“Without a doubt, [the Facebook name] is definitely damaged and toxic,” he said.

Shares in Facebook closed 1.5 per cent higher on Thursday at US$316.92 (A$420.66) and will start trading under the new stock ticker it has reserved, MVRS, on December 1.

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