Facebook becomes Meta. But what does it mean?

The birth of Meta
Meta is Facebook, IG and WhatsApp
It will be called MRVS in Wall Street
Stocks went up after the news
A new start or a final act?
What's going on with Facebook?
From Person of the Year to the devastating cover
Causes of decline
Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp are offline
A whistleblower speaks out
VIP accounts that skip Facebook's rules
Facebook shows its age
TikTok, the booming social media platform
Cambridge Analytica, the beginning of the end for Facebook
Custom-made political propaganda
Is our data safe in Facebook?
Instagram: the great fading hope
Instagram and its effects on young people
Zuckerberg accused of harvesting hate speech
Social media regulations
Facebook holds up, just with a different name
How about TikTok?
The beginning of the end, or maybe business as usual
The birth of Meta

"Metaverse first, not Facebook first." Mark Zuckerberg has confirmed the rumours and announced on 'Facebook Connect' that the company he runs will no longer be called Facebook, but Meta. The name is a reference to the metaverse he wants to begin with this new step.

Meta is Facebook, IG and WhatsApp

With the infinity symbol as its logo, Meta will be the parent company encompassing Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, among other projects. In the process, the company is making a business turnaround and trying to disassociate the name of their most famous social network from the numerous recent scandals.

"The next version of the internet"

Furthermore, Mark Zuckerberg has emphasised the idea of the metaverse as "the next version of the Internet." It will be a virtual universe much more ambitious and immersive than Facebook. The idea was already developed in science fiction, with writer Neal Stephenson coining the term in the 1992 novel 'Snow Crash.'

It will be called MRVS in Wall Street

For investors, it is worth noting that the name change will be effective as of 1 December. Facebook will be renamed MRVS. The only problem in getting the project off the ground is that, according to Bloomberg, there is already a listed investment fund called Roundhill Ball Metaverse, which has been trading under the name Meta since June.

(Image: Lo Lo / Unsplash)

Stocks went up after the news

Despite this detail (which does not prevent the birth of Meta / FB), Mark Zuckerberg's announcement has come with benefits for the company, which closed the Thursday 28 October session on Wall Street with a rise of 1.51%, with its shares at $324.

(Image: Alex Haney / Unsplash)

A new start or a final act?

Zuckerberg plans to invest millions of US dollars into his "metaverse." A gamble that can be a giant leap for the company but also, in a way, an admittance that Facebook has run its course. At least that's what the world of media and business have talked about for the past few months, despite millions in profit and stock value. It seems to be the end of an era for the social network and affiliates.

What's going on with Facebook?

The social network developed in 2004 by Mark Zuckerberg, back when was a Harvard sophomore, is going through a critical moment. Investors and media experts cast doubt on the company's growth or survival on the long run. Problems involving technology and public image has put Facebook's future into jeopardy.

From Person of the Year to the devastating cover

TIME magazine named Mark Zuckerberg as Person of the Year in 2010. He was 26. Ten years later, the same publication displays a devastating cover hinting that Facebook's demise as an unstoppable powerhouse is inevitable.

Causes of decline

A few years ago, in 2018, a thorough report made by experts from several countries concluded that Facebook had over 2 billion users with a growth that wasn't winding down. Why then has the social network gone from a bright future to an evident decline?

Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp are offline

Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp suffered an outage this October, keeping millions of users without communications. Zuckerberg and the credibility of his technological powerhouse got hit pretty badly, with financial news reporting stock losses of around 6 billion US dollars for him.

A whistleblower speaks out

Also in October, former Facebook employee Frances Haugen testified in the US Congress how the company focuses solely on profit without paying much attention to the consequences of harmful or hateful speech. If something goes viral, give it a free pass, that's the policy of those who run Facebook, according to Haugen. Predictably, the social network has denied these allegations.

VIP accounts that skip Facebook's rules

Frances Haugen's revelations occur at the same time that an extensive investigation by The Wall Street Journal uncovers the existence of a Facebook VIP list: Celebrities and politicians that could post any type of content, regardless if this violated Facebook's policies. They had a special status that shielded them from getting censored by the algorithm. Among those in the list was, of course, Donald Trump.

Facebook shows its age

Trade press has also put into question the ability of Facebook (and Instagram!) to reach out to a younger crowd. Growth in the United States is estimated around 1%, which is pretty much nothing for a social network that expects higher and higher numbers of users all the time.

TikTok, the booming social media platform

TikTok's massive impact among the youth would be eroding Facebook and Instagram's numbers, according to some experts. There are studies that show that 32,5% TikTok users are between ages 10 and 19 and 41% between 16 and 24. Facebook users are in a different age range, obviously, and the reputation of being "a social network for older people'' could hinder any possibility of growth. Image: Solen Feyissa / Unsplash

Cambridge Analytica, the beginning of the end for Facebook

Facebook's biggest problem, however, is the suspicion of being unreliable with user data, selling them without regulation. An investigation one by The New York Times, The Guardian and The Observer pointed out that the social network sold highly-detailed user data to Cambridge Analytica, which made use of it to develop targeted advertising for the 2016 presidential campaign of Donald Trump.

Custom-made political propaganda

Facebook has very detailed data about our daily lives. Cambridge Analytica made use of this to develop custom-made political messages tailored to each person's tastes and, above all, fears. This was done in the US but, according to videos leaked by UK's Channel 4, they also worked in Czech Republic, India, Argentina, Nigeria...

Is our data safe in Facebook?

After the Cambridge Analytica debacle, there's been concerns about Facebook doing business with the sensitive data of their users. Mark Zuckerberg admitted that Cambridge Analytica was a mistake, as it was the VIP list and so many others that surrounds the former Harvard student and put at risk one of the biggest fortunes in the world.

Instagram: the great fading hope

Instagram's acquisition was Facebook's bet to revamp its image. However, there has been some harsh criticism about how Facebook manages this picture-based social network. Image: Kate Torline / Unsplash

Instagram and its effects on young people

A leak to The Wall Street Journal posited that Facebook had done internal studies that pointed out the damaging effects of Instagram over the teenage audience. It was reported that 30% of young people "felt bad about their bodies" after using Instagram. The Wall Street Journal stated that Facebook didn't do a single thing to try to improve Instagram in this regard for its young users.

Zuckerberg accused of harvesting hate speech

There's also the ever-going accusation that Facebook, and social media in general, of harvesting hate speech and contributing to events such as the 2021 assault on the US Capitol. Pictured is a poster where Zuckerberg is lampooned as the "Bison Man'' that shocked and appalled the entire world.

Social media regulations

There has been a trend in both the United States and the European Union calling out a tighter regulation of social media, such as Facebook. If this happens, it would be a financial blow to them since social networks profit from their seemingly absolute freedom.

Facebook holds up, just with a different name

It's still too early to talk about the death of Facebook. A powerhouse made up of Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger still add millions of new users every year. Yet, the most downloaded app in 2020 was TikTok.

How about TikTok?

But this just raises further questions: Is TikTok treating its users with good ethics? Is it spreading harmful content? Is it trading with our data? We can't tell for the time being. The media scrutiny and political pressure that Zuckerberg face is something lacking for TikTok, a social network owned by Chinese investors.

Image: Olivier Bergeron / Unsplash

The beginning of the end, or maybe business as usual

Facebook might have started to face a slow decline but one has to remember the words of Mark Twain when several newspapers declared him dead: "The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated". Only time will tell if Facebook / Meta can renew and continue growing along new generations of users and if Zuckerberg's "metaverse" is truly the future.

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