Fb’s identify change plan is a mirrored image of its actual priorities

Mark Zuckerberg smiling.
Fb CEO Mark Zuckerberg on the European Fee in 2020. | Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP by way of Getty Photographs

Political scrutiny isn’t stopping Mark Zuckerberg from constructing the metaverse.

Fb’s plan to vary its firm identify, as first reported by The Verge, comes at a peculiar time. The almost $1 trillion firm that owns Instagram and WhatsApp is dealing with its greatest scandal in years over damning inside paperwork leaked by a whistleblower, in addition to mounting antitrust scrutiny from lawmakers and regulators.

So what’s actually happening? Is the identify change meant to be a distraction from its greater issues? An indication of extra firm modifications to come back? And when did Fb first provide you with this concept?

There’s nonetheless rather a lot we don’t know, together with what precisely Fb’s new company identify might be. The Verge indicated it’ll connect with the corporate’s concentrate on the “metaverse,” a creating digital platform enhanced by augmented and digital actuality the place individuals work together by means of digital avatars.

“We don’t touch upon rumor or hypothesis.” mentioned Fb spokesperson Joe Osborne in response to Recode’s questions in regards to the firm.

However one factor this rebrand makes clear is that regardless of the huge challenges Fb is dealing with, it isn’t slowing down or staying in a defensive crouch. It nonetheless has its sights set on increasing its domination and world-building, which is what it’s attempting to realize with its metaverse plans.

Moderately than saying critical reforms in response to the whistleblower’s revelations, CEO Mark Zuckerberg has made no apologies. As an alternative, he and his firm have dismissed the whistleblower’s complaints and proof, and are plowing forward with a longstanding plan to show the science-fiction idea of a metaverse right into a enterprise actuality.

For Fb, this isn’t a brand new concept. Zuckerberg sees the metaverse as the subsequent section of main technological innovation akin to the invention of the web or cell phones.

The CEO advised journalist Casey Newton in March that Fb might be a metaverse firm — not a social media firm — within the subsequent 5 years. The corporate not too long ago introduced 10,000 new hires within the EU who will work on the metaverse. And this reported identify change reveals that Zuckerberg will reorient all the Fb model round it. The identify change might additionally assist Fb distance itself from the luggage related to its principal product because it builds out its shiny new metaverse-related merchandise, like Oculus headsets and different AR/VR wearable gadgets.

Some Fb critics have argued {that a} splashy new identify serves as a handy media distraction from the deeper points at hand — evaluating the technique to that of tobacco large Philip Morris altering its identify to Altria in 2001 or British Petroleum to BP Amoco within the late ’90s after which BP in 2001.

“Confronted with a tsunami of proof of irresponsible habits and attainable felony violations, Fb is determined to vary the topic,” Roger McNamee, an early investor within the firm who has turn into one of many firm’s most vocal critics, advised Recode. “Journalists and policymakers want to stay centered on the crime scene, not the arm-waving.”

Often, company identify modifications for an organization of Fb’s dimension require long-term planning and strategizing, so it appears unlikely that the corporate got here up with the thought in a single day — though it’s believable that latest occasions might have sped up a call already within the works. Fb has struggled with its model’s attraction since lengthy earlier than the Haugen testimony.

And thus far, the reported identify change is just prompting extra scrutiny and is seeming to impress some legislators’ ire, comparable to Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN). Blackburn co-chairs the influential bipartisan Senate Commerce subcommittee that has been main an investigation into the latest whistleblower’s claims; she tweeted on Wednesday that Fb altering its identify “doesn’t make a distinction till they alter their habits of prioritizing revenue over the well-being of kids.”

Because the world waits to be taught extra about Fb’s rebrand, a key element to observe for is whether or not there might be precise structural change to the corporate. When Google restructured its enterprise strains beneath the umbrella of Alphabet in 2015, it was supposed partially to let co-founders Larry Web page and Sergey Brin take a step again from the corporate’s search enterprise and as an alternative concentrate on its extra experimental improvements. Whereas Zuckerberg has given no indication he plans to do the identical, individuals might be watching to see if any type of organizational or management change comes with this rebrand.

Within the meantime, these reported plans sign that irrespective of the reputational hits it’s coping with, Fb received’t be deterred from pursuing its enterprise targets. Regardless of all its public scandals, the corporate remains to be wildly financially profitable, raking in tens of billions in income every quarter. And whereas Fb’s shares took a notable 5 p.c dip shortly after the whistleblower went public and an uncommon community outage, the value is already bouncing again, and analysts anticipate one other robust earnings report subsequent week. That success appears to offer Zuckerberg a mandate to additional his formidable agenda — which proper now doesn’t appear to be fixing Fb’s messy actuality at the moment, however constructing out a complete new one for tomorrow.

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