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Meta still has a Facebook problem

Published Oct 29th, 2021 7:31AM EDT
Meta Facebook
Image: Chris Tuite/imageSPACE/MEGA

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Facebook CEO took the virtual stage on Thursday to confirm a recent leak. Some said the company would announce a rebrand at the Connect event, a move that many anticipated for a while. Facebook needs a new name to describe better what the company is doing and dissociate itself from the Facebook toxicity. Mark Zuckerberg delivered the name change during the press event, revealing that the Meta name was accurate. Facebook is now called Meta, and Meta will oversee everything Facebook does, including Facebook, Messenger, WhatsApp, Instagram, Oculus, Portal, and whatever else might come down the road.

Zuckerberg insisted on the massive metaverse vision during the event and media blitz and the incredibly expensive effort that goes into that. But the metaverse is still something people will not get to experience until several years down the road. And while it’s great to see Facebook take some action to clean its brand, the fact remains that Meta is still Facebook. Meta still has a big Facebook problem to fix.

The cleanse after the Facebook toxicity

Zuckerberg explained his metaverse vision and the Meta name change in interviews after Connect. The recent Facebook controversies came up, with the CEO saying they’re not the reason why Facebook is now called Meta.

Facebook is at a center of a massive new scandal that reveals the company’s propensity towards promoting harmful, divisive content on Facebook and Instagram. Not one but two whistleblowers detailed Facebook’s business decisions that favored the dissemination of unsafe content across its networks. Facebook has denied the allegations, but this is just the first phase of the matter.

Here’s an excerpt from The Verge’s interview with Zuckerberg:

[The Verge:] You said you started this formally about six months ago. Is it at all a reaction to the brand baggage and the brand tax you guys sometimes refer to internally that Facebook has, and just wanting to distance from that? Or is it really more just looking ahead? I have to imagine it’s a mix of both.

Zuckerberg: We started well before the current cycle [of bad news]. I think the current cycle clearly had nothing to bear on this. Even though I think some people might want to make that connection, I think that’s sort of a ridiculous thing. If anything, I think that this is not the environment that you would want to introduce a new brand in.

But it’s not a ridiculous thing to make that connection. Anyone familiar with Facebook’s troubled years since the 2016 election knows that. The environment is not the one you want to introduce a new brand. But it simultaneously is. Facebook, the company, needs to get rid of the Facebook name as soon as possible.

Facebook is Meta
Facebook, the company, has a new name that will manage Facebook, the app: Meta. Image source: Meta

The Meta name change goes deep

It’s not just the Facebook company that gets the Meta treatment. Facebook will overhaul all the brands associated with physical products.

The Oculus Quest becomes the Meta Quest. The Oculus App will be called the Meta Quest App. Similarly, the Facebook Portal video devices will be called Meta Portal.

“When people buy our products, we want them to clearly understand that all of these devices come from Meta and ladder up to our metaverse vision,”  Meta CTO Andrew Bosworth said in an announcement.

But that doesn’t apply to the software. Facebook app (sic), Messenger, WhatsApp, and Instagram will not get a Meta particle on front of it. Then again, you don’t buy these products. Not consciously, anyway.

The full Connect event is available at this link, where you can explore the new website.

Meta is still Facebook

But make no mistake. Meta is still Facebook. You can change the name all you want, but it’s the same company managing the same social networks. It’s the same execs presiding over those complex algorithms that allegedly favor toxic content over healthy social interactions. It’s still Mark Zuckerberg’s company at the top, and Meta still serves at the pleasure of Mark Zuckerberg.

The Facebook privacy worries will not just go away just because Meta is now managing it. Nor will Meta get a blank check when it comes to the metaverse environment or Meta products. Customers will still need clear details over how Meta plans to manage all the user data it harvests via the social apps and how that user data will play a role in the metaverse Meta wants. The includes fixing the Facebook problem and preventing similar scandals.

That’s not to say that Facebook can’t change as Meta. Or that Zuckerberg shouldn’t be in charge. Just that Meta, as it is now, is still Facebook. And since Facebook has a serious image problem right now, Meta has a serious Facebook problem.

Also, let’s not forget that Facebook will still bring in most of the money Meta needs to build a hopefully clean metaverse. In other words, Facebook’s tainted money earned off of harmful content that Facebook could have prevented will pay for the metaverse. And Facebook already spent $10 billion on that future.

Google did something similar years ago when it created Alphabet, the new mothership that governs all of Google’s projects. But Google never had to worry about its main brand. Google, for all its own scandalous behaviors, is in a much better place than Facebook.

If things don’t change inside Meta, then the Facebook whistleblowers will just be replaced by Meta whistleblowers.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.