News & Politics

Facebook Might Change Its Name but Not Its Stripes

Mandel Ngan/Pool via AP

Facebook might change its name.

According to a new report in The Verge, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg plans to “rebrand” the company with a new name to better testify to his “metaverse” ambitions.

Or maybe just to better veil his current ambitions, but I’ll circle back to that (cough, cough) in a moment.

First, today’s news:

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.

Facebook declined to comment for the story.

At Tuesday’s closing price, Facebook was the sixth most valuable company in the world by market cap. But Forbes rates the Facebook brand as the world’s fifth most valuable.

A company with that kind of branding muscle doesn’t change its name lightly.

Imagine Apple changing its name to “Garage Consumer Electronics” to highlight the company’s humble origins. Or Coors switching its name to “Colorado Pisswater.” Or McDonald’s going with “Tiny Little Burger Patties You’ll Hardly Notice.”

The only example that comes to mind in an even semi-positive way is Google.

Officially, Google has been named Alphabet since 2015. But since the Google search engine is the only Alphabet property of any serious value or consumer awareness, the name change was barely noticed. People still say “Google” when they mean “search the internet.”

Recommended: Jan. 6 Probe: House Committee Votes to Hold Former Trump Confidant Steve Bannon in Contempt

Facebook the parent company is not the same as Facebook the antisocial media platform, but it seems that a parent-company rebranding might actually be less about Zuckerberg’s considerable ego than it is about deflecting growing criticism — and possible antitrust actions — against the platform.

It might also indicate that Zuckerberg is looking beyond Facebook’s lagging user growth and towards the Next Big Thing:

Facebook has been steadily laying the groundwork for a greater focus on the next generation of technology. This past summer it set up a dedicated metaverse team. More recently, it announced that the head of AR and VR, Andrew Bosworth, will be promoted to chief technology officer. And just a couple of days ago Facebook announced plans to hire 10,000 more employees to work on the metaverse in Europe.

“Metaverse” is just a sci-fi-sounding term for “augmented reality,” like super-souped-up heads-up displays that might be worn as regular-looking glasses or even, someday, as contact lenses.

The problem for Facebook as a brand is that virtually nobody trusts the company to respect, much less protect, user privacy. Google is a far more trusted name than Facebook, but not even Google could make a go with its “Google Glass” AR headsets. “Glassholes” was the term coined for the few people wearing them, and Google quickly shuttered the whole project.

Why would anyone with even the slightest knowledge about Facebook’s evil data-hoovering ways want to put a Facebook-branded camera/microphone/GPS system on their face?

This metaverse rebrand might be nothing more than some handwavium applied to get consumers to forget that Facebook is always gonna Facebook.