Facebook is deeply embroiled with controversial documents known as the “Facebook Papers.” In recent weeks, damaging leaks from a whistleblower, Frances Haugen, were made available to the US Congress and top media, and revealed deep division at the company.
In the midst of all that, Facebook decides to make a name change, similar to Google’s renaming the parent company Alphabet in the not-so-distant past.
The timing? Well, let’s just say suspicious.
The birth of Meta
Facebook is changing its name, chief executive Mark Zuckerberg has announced.
The parent company will now be known as “Meta” and will get a new logo, with a blue “M”.
The name change refers to the “metaverse,” a host of augmented and virtual reality features that it claims will be the future of social networking.
Facebook the app will keep its name, and Meta will refer only to the parent company that also owns other apps such as WhatsApp and Instagram.
Zuckerberg showed, during a 90-minute presentation yesterday, how through the use of virtual reality goggles and smart glasses, users will be able to add virtual objects to the real world. They could hang out with friends as well as appear in real meetings as holograms, he suggested.
Much of the technology underpinning the metaverse is yet to be developed but the presentation focused on how people would be able to visit a virtual recreation of their home, for instance, or play chess against people across the world over the internet on a virtual chessboard that was superimposed on the real world.
Zuckerberg alluded to a virtual reality headset named “Cambria” through which such events can take place, but it will not be available until next year.
In this virtual universe, people will roam freely as avatars, attending virtual business meetings, shopping in virtual stores, and socializing at virtual get-togethers. A concept that’s not unheard of.
Zuckerberg already tried to offset potential criticism by saying in his presentation that the next generation of internet services would be built with greater “humility and openness,” and take the “lessons” of the past into account.
The past he is referring to is also the present allegations against Facebook, the details of which are being poured over by the US government and media.
One of the major allegations of the Facebook Papers is that the company built and deployed social media technology without having a grasp of its harmful effects. Critics fear the same problems would plague the metaverse, only the stakes could be higher, as Zuckerberg pitched that people would essentially live part of their lives in his virtual world.
Facebook still a force
Virtually all of Facebook’s revenues – $29 billion in Q3, 2021 – come from online advertising produced by the core blue Facebook app, meaning that any transition to virtual reality focused on the sale of hardware would take enormous investment and many years.
10 years to be exact. Zuckerberg said in his keynote that the process to become a metaverse company would take a “decade” and that his goal was for it to “reach a billion people” over that time. The company said its investments in the metaverse, including a commitment to hire 10,000 new people in hardware jobs, will shave $10 billion off its 2021 profits.
The Facebook papers
The Facebook Papers are a set of internal documents that were provided to Congress in redacted form by Haugen’s legal counsel. The redacted versions were reviewed by a consortium of news organizations, including The Washington Post.
The trove of documents shows how Zuckerberg has, at times, contradicted, downplayed, or failed to disclose company findings on the impact of its products and platforms, according to the Washington Post. The documents also provided new details of the social media platform’s role in fomenting the storming of the U.S. Capitol.
Facebook engineers gave extra value to emoji reactions, including ‘angry,’ pushing more emotional and provocative content into users’ news feeds.
The Facebook papers allege that the company ignored warnings from its employees about the risks of their design decisions and exposed vulnerable communities around the world to a cocktail of dangerous content.
The documents provide the deepest look and insight into the nearly $890 billion company, whose apps are now used by more than 3.6 billion people worldwide.
Facebook shares are currently down nearly 11% since last month, but that may reflect investor concern about the impact of Apple’s privacy changes on the social media giant’s ad business.
Here’s the full leaked document.