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Meta: What Facebook's name change means as it expands into Mark Zuckerberg's 'metaverse'

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Facebook renames to meta
Facebook renames to meta   -   Copyright  OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP
By Pascale Davies

Facebook has announced that it will change its company name to Meta.

The social media giant made the announcement on Thursday at the Facebook Connect augmented and virtual reality conference.

The company said it would not change its corporate structure and its apps and technologies would be brought together uner one brand.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the new name reflected its focus on its ambitions for the metaverse.

The metaverse, short for "meta-universe," is a digital world where the real and virtual merge into a vision of science fiction and allows people to move between different devices and communicate in a virtual environment.

In practical terms, it refers to augmented and virtual reality products and services.

The term designates a cyberspace parallel to physical reality where a community of people can interact in the form of avatars. The concept was coined by author Neal Stephenson in the 1992 science fiction novel "Snow Crash". It refers to the merging of physical, augmented, and virtual reality in a shared online space.

Some video game communities have already created embryos of meta-universes, such as Roblox (a platform that includes myriads of games created by children and teenagers) or Fortnite (a shooter and survival game that boasts 350 million players).

Expanding into the metaverse

The company has previously announced it would create a product team to work specifically on metaverse-related projects. It also said in October it plans to create 10,000 jobs in the European Union over the next five years to help build the metaverse

"In the coming years, I expect people will transition from seeing us primarily as a social media company to seeing us as a metaverse company," Zuckerberg said in July.

"In many ways the metaverse is the ultimate expression of social technology."

Facebook, the world's largest social network, has invested heavily in virtual reality and augmented reality, acquiring hardware such as the Oculus VR headset and working on AR glasses and wristband technologies.

It has also purchased a bevy of VR gaming studios, including BigBox VR. It has about 10,000 employees working on virtual reality, The Information reported in March.