Facebook’s renaming comes at critical moment
October 20, 2021
Facebook plans to change its name to focus on the metaverse, reports suggest. The company has been laying the groundwork for a greater focus on the next generation of technology. The following Cornell University experts are available to comment on Facebook’s renaming.
Brooke Erin Duffy, professor of communication, is an expert on social media platforms – and studies the intersection of media, culture and technology.
“Facebook’s impending rebranding is no means unprecedented. Rather, tech companies have sought to establish new brand identities when they no longer want to be associated with a single, defining product or service. Recall that when Google renamed itself as “Alphabet” in 2015, it was an attempt to communicate to external stakeholders that they were more than just a search engine.
“Moreover, and despite Mark Zuckerberg’s public insistence that Facebook is ‘not a media company,’ the corporate renaming is evocative of a strategy used by media organizations during the period of digital disruption that began in the aughts. During the aughts, print magazines, newspapers and television stations were all recast as ‘brands’ that transcended any particular media technology.
“Indeed, Facebook’s strategic renaming comes at a critical moment: the company is once again under a high-powered microscope for its potential impact on public and civic welfare, and its initial promise to allow users ‘to stay connected with friends and family’ seems less relevant when users are gravitating toward social networks that foreground other distinctive features – be it TikTok, Snapchat, or Twitch.”
Andrea Stevenson Won, professor of communication, directs the Virtual Embodiment Lab. The lab's research focuses on how mediated experiences change people’s perceptions, especially in immersive media.
“It’s an interesting question what Facebook’s new name will imply. Do they want to be ‘a metaverse company,’ one of many options for experiencing virtual content? Or – and this is what it sounds like when they talk about building the metaverse – are they going to try to be the gateway to virtual experiences?
“A key thing about the fictional metaverse was its economy. You could buy property and conduct business there, and if you wanted to have a cool-looking avatar or access specific events, you’d have to pay for that. And because everyone with technological savvy and money went there, advertising was really profitable. So, that would all fit in quite well with Facebook’s business model and aligns with their investment in their virtual reality division, Oculus.”