Corporations do not simply change their identities on a whim. Such deliberations often follow strenuous debate, strategic planning, and a mindset shift as a firm pushes away from its earlier mission. Such arises the riveting question: why would Mark Zuckerberg dare alter the Facebook powerhouse?
Arguably regarded as the world’s forefront in social media, Facebook has held its household name for over a decade. The company’s minuscule beginnings in 2004 quickly dissolved, amassing 1 billion users by 2012. Facebook is the largest social media company in the world, connecting users with bounds of information, news, and most critically, each other. We use these platforms on a regular basis; Whatsapp and Instagram have become staples of many of our daily routines and our main mode of communication with distant friends, family, and colleagues. Through all of his efforts, Zuckerberg had spearheaded the company through its initiatives, both acquiring and consolidating his reach over the years.
With that said, such ambitions have come with reputational costs. Gaining propulsion over the past few years, widespread dissent over Facebook’s handling of social and safety conflicts among the company’s stakeholders have led to scrutiny by lawmakers and regulatory bodies. Questions of whether Facebook can, or should, handle publicized opinions and politics has been a forefront of external company discussions. Zuckerberg’s antitrust Senate hearing in 2020, alongside Twitter and Google CEOs Jack Dorsey and Sundar Pichai, remains fresh in the world of lawmaking, and such is only augmented by the October 2021 whistleblower leaking documents containing the institution’s harmful content-moderation practices.
Facebook asserts that its rebranding is on the basis of expanding into the metaverse—a platform combining reality with technology. The expansions into augmented reality have been present in Facebook’s Oculus VR and other expanding AR technologies and outlets. Moreso, it has expanded into the world of artificial intelligence, with Zuckerberg declaring that it has “tripled [the company’s] investments in processing power for AI and machine learning research”. Research and development hold a strong hold on the company as it aims to lead its competitors across all fronts. From an objective standpoint, Facebook clearly is a major harborer of innovation as our present relations with technology develop.
In spite of the avoidance of any solidified antitrust action from the US Federal Trade Commission, Facebook is growing too large even for itself. As the company expands into the spaces of VR, AR, and AI, its foundation of being a single social media outlet is far from reach. Owning Instagram, Whatsapp, Oculus, and its namesake social media website Facebook, the epicentre of social networking has long outgrew its initial label.
Therefore, it can be seen that this name change is not random—not sparked by one single, reactionary event. It almost seems the rebrand comes at an ideal timing, allowing Facebook to shift the public focus from lawmaker fire, concrete whistleblower revelations, court hearings, questions of ethics, and worries of monopolization into a new, exciting step for the established company. Facebook can now differentiate itself from its signature social media and now establish itself as the definitive head of several technological innovations that directly serve the public.
Of course, the media giant is not free of its previous woes; in terms of its antitrust worries, implementations of a new name may advance the assertion of Facebook being a trust, holding several companies underneath the unique name. That being said, from a managerial standpoint Facebook has little choice going forward; it will have to deal with such facts regardless. However, if it follows through with its decision, Facebook can reassert and reestablish its credibility and power over other media—especially TikTok.
As the venture now reaches for the metaverse, Zuckerberg can begin a clean slate in development of the brand. The Connect Conference on October 28th officially ushered in Facebook’s new vision in Meta—the world beginning to grasp the new vision in usage of the internet. In November 2021, Microsoft too unveils its new plans to expand into the metaverse, and as with other enterprises, so will other companies. As members of an internationally-focused school, it is crucial to look forward to dissecting what these new technologies mean for our society, guiding the dialogue of their undeniable impact on technology and the world of communication as we now know it.