By Chinenye Anuforo, Lagos with agency report
Facebook plans to make a dramatic break from its past by rebranding the company next week, according to a report.
Facebook founder and Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg plans to talk about the name change at a company event next week but it could be unveiled sooner, reported the Verge, a US tech news website.
In a statement, Facebook said it ‘doesn’t comment on rumour or speculation.’
Under the plans, Facebook would change the name of its holding company but not that of its eponymous social media platform, known internally as the ‘big blue app’. As well as its founding site, the company also owns Instagram, WhatsApp and the virtual reality brand Oculus.
The report revealed that the new name for the holding company could be linked to Horizon, a word used in at least two virtual reality products that the company is developing. Zuckerberg launched his company as TheFacebook 17 years ago.
Facebook is reportedly pondering a rebrand against the backdrop of its worst PR crisis since the Cambridge Analytica scandal three years ago. A former employee, Frances Haugen, has leaked tens of thousands of documents and gave a damning testimony to US senators in which she said Facebook put “astronomical profits before people”.
According to the report, VR is the driver of the mooted name change as the company focuses on building a ‘metaverse’ as the cornerstone of a new growth strategy. The report said that the rebranding announcement could take place at the company’s annual product conference, Connect, on 28 October, when more details about the metaverse are set to be unveiled.
Oculus products would be a key product in the metaverse, a loosely defined concept that involves people leading their social and professional lives and interacting with other people via VR headsets and through augmented reality, where a digital layer is placed on top of real life, as in the popular Pokémon Go game.
Facebook is developing a social virtual reality platform called Horizon Worlds as well as a virtual-reality meeting service called Horizon Workrooms. Nick Clegg, Facebook’s vice-president of global affairs, has said he now takes his Monday morning meetings in the metaverse with a virtual table and whiteboard.
Facebook says it has just under 2.8 billion daily users for its products but Zuckerberg is renowned for his focus on growth, which is driven by a fear that Facebook could be superseded by a digital upstart at any moment.
Facebook’s shares have performed strongly this year, up 25% since January, giving the company – which makes the overwhelming majority of its money from advertisers targeting its user base – a valuation of just under $1tn (£730bn). However, the company’s shares have fallen below their September peak.
Facebook’s policing of vitriol is even more lacklustre outside the US, critics say
Facebook faces significant pressure following the Haugen revelations. The former Facebook product manager, who left the company in May, told the US Congress that the company was harming children and destabilising democracies. Haugen has been behind the leak of a number of documents to the Wall Street Journal, including showing internal research revealing that 30% of teenage girls felt Instagram made dissatisfaction with their body worse.
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