With its rebrand as Meta, Facebook is hitching its wagon to a virtual future—and hoping that its investors and its users will go along for the ride. Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of the social network giant, announced the rebranding on Thursday, along with a vision for the “metaverse,” a digital world layered over the physical one, in which people interact via avatar.
The announcement comes as Facebook faces some of its most intense scrutiny yet, following revelations about its internal decision-making and questions about its role in the Jan. 6 insurrection revealed by whistleblower Frances Haugen.
“The timing is conspicuous,” says Yakov Bart, associate professor of marketing and the Joseph G. Riesman Research Professor at Northeastern. “Certainly it could be perceived as an intentional move to divert attention away from the negative news around the Facebook Papers,” Bart adds, referring to a trove of internal documents released to news outlets that generated a Congressional hearing.
Nevertheless, he says, what’s clear is that the announcement was more for Meta’s investors than its consumers—a signal that the company is looking forward with new ideas for revenue.