How Facebook is already owning the Metaverse

Mark Zuckerberg controls his avatar in a demonstration of the metaverse.
Mark Zuckerberg controls his avatar in a demonstration of the metaverse.
Image: Facebook
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Facebook is already laying claim to the metaverse by changing its name. Facebook, the app, will still be called Facebook, but its parent company is now Meta. In a presentation on Thursday (Oct. 28), CEO Mark Zuckerberg outlined his vision for the metaverse, an immersive next-generation internet that relies heavily on virtual reality. Facebook will trade under the NASDAQ stock ticker symbol MVRS, rather than FB, starting on Dec. 1.

Zuckerberg says he wants to build the metaverse as a collective space that, like the internet, should not be dominated by one company. But, for Zuckerberg, building the metaverse likely means building it in Facebook’s image. By making Facebook’s branding synonymous with the metaverse, Facebook already has a leg up on the competition.

Facebook is Meta

Facebook has been preparing to become Meta for quite some time. The company bought, nabbed the @meta handle on Twitter and Facebook (but not on Instagram, curiously).  And the company even replaced its famous thumbs-up sign at its Menlo Park, Calif. headquarters with the new Meta logo, which is a modified infinity symbol.

The company name Meta was a separate brand owned by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Zuckerberg’s family charity. The brand was recently dissolved for “unrelated reasons” and its assets were transferred to Facebook, the news website Puck reported.

Dominating the metaverse

Facebook’s rebranding is both ambitious, potentially premature (considering it said the metaverse is still years away), and has the benefit of diverting attention from the avalanche of bad press the company received this month as a result of internal document leaks.

But it is also a way for Facebook to expand, possibly outrunning its current problems. (The company has been criticized for its lack of efficacy in removing hate speech and misinformation, its centrality in developing nations, and negative effects on kids, among other things.) Facebook has built market dominance in social networking and digital advertising, and is fighting antitrust battles on those grounds, but it has also been losing ground with teens and young adults, according to internal documents.

Zuckerberg spent a considerable amount of time in his presentation criticizing Apple and Google’s control over their respective app marketplaces. But by staking its claim in the metaverse, an ecosystem that promises to be as expansive as it is unavoidable, the platform can regain its position with a new generation of internet users.

Zuckerberg laid out an egalitarian vision of the metaverse, stressing the need for lower fees for developers and better interoperability. Yet the presentation was exclusively about Facebook products that are in the works. There was no discussion about how Facebook would govern its considerable market share in this new internet medium, little assurance about how privacy or anonymity protectections, and no details about content moderation in Facebook’s slice of the metaverse.

While Washington struggles to regulate Facebook of yesterday, the Facebook of tomorrow is already in the works. And it could be much harder to rein in once it’s built.