Facebook has announced a new name for its holding company, Meta, that will encompass Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and the virtual reality brand Oculus.
The platform is said to be focusing on building its metaverse, a virtual reality part of the company, as it aims to change its position as a social media platform to a part of a virtual universe.
Facebook has faced a very public backlash over the way the platform operates, and by rebranding to a name and a focus that doesn’t revolve around Facebook, the company thinks it can start to build a new reputation for itself.
Social media is evolving every day and there have been a lot of different updates to Facebook that arguably haven’t necessarily improved the platform for users.
Social media platforms are fighting a hard battle with the likes of TikTok to remain relevant and Facebook has been around for over 17 years. It does appear that it’s time for the platform to make some big changes to maintain its popularity.
The PR crisis Facebook faces
User trust in the platform has significantly decreased: in 2020 the US Digital Trust Survey found that Facebook ranks last in terms of digital trust among users.
Distrust of the platform is the result of several public scandals, including Cambridge Analytica and the publication The Facebook Papers, in which 12 US news organisations raised concerns about how Facebook moderates content and how human traffickers have used the platform for exploitation.
Not to mention The Wall Street Journal’s Facebook Files, which raised concerns about the impact of Instagram on teenage girls and many more issues.
What will Meta achieve?
A new name doesn’t change or solve any of the scrutinies that Facebook is under; it merely indicates that Mark Zuckerberg is trying to find a way to build a new brand rather than attempt to rebuild Facebook’s reputation (if that’s even possible) or delete Facebook altogether.
The metaverse is a distinctly innovative and unique idea that holds a lot of promise in a world where social media isn’t just about posting pictures or bits of text anymore.
However, the failures of Facebook are still very much present and unresolved. The launch of Meta might only be one big PR stunt to pull attention away from the problems and avoid taking responsibility for any of Facebook's wrongdoings.
Will users trust the metaverse? Will Facebook come up against the same problems again? Only time will tell.