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For the first time in 17 years, Mark has a new job title
On Thursday, he officially became the CEO and chairman of Meta, the new parent company name for Facebook. The rebrand is about solidifying the social media giant as being about the metaverse, which Zuckerberg sees as the future of the internet. Zuckerberg is staying in control of everything. He told me in an interview that, unlike the founders of Google who stepped aside in 2015 when it became part of a holding company called Alphabet, he has no plans to give up the top job.
Instead, the change is about recognizing a shift inside the company that’s already taken place. Zuckerberg has been pouring billions of dollars — at least )10 billion dollars this year alone — into building the metaverse, an expansive, immersive vision of the internet taken from the pages of sci-fi novels like Snow Crash and Ready Player One. “I think we’re basically moving from being Facebook first as a company to being metaverse first,” he told me this week over the phone. While details are slim, a unified account system is going to be introduced to span all of the company’s social apps, the Oculus Quest headset, Portal, and future devices. That means you won’t need a Facebook account to use the Quest.
The rebrand to Meta, announced by Zuckerberg today at the company’s annual Connect conference, has been a clandestine affair since he formally kicked off the project just over six months ago. The small handful of employees involved had to sign separate nondisclosure agreements, and Zuckerberg refused to tell me the name itself when we spoke the day before Connect. He said he had been thinking about rebranding the company ever since he bought Instagram and WhatsApp, in 2012 and 2014, but earlier this year he realized that it was time to make the change.
“I think that there was just a lot of confusion and awkwardness about having the company brand be also the brand of one of the social media apps,” he said. “I think it’s helpful for people to have a relationship with a company that is different from the relationship with any specific one of the products, that can kind of supersede all of that.”
According to Zuckerberg, the current cycle of bad news “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.”
The metaverse as an idea isn’t new, but it wasn’t thrust into the mainstream conversation until Zuckerberg started talking about it publicly earlier this year. The concept originates from Snow Crash, a dystopian novel from the 1990s in which people flee the crumbling real world to be fully immersed in a virtual one. While he acknowledges that the origins of the word are a “con,” Zuckerberg is trying to reclaim the metaverse as a utopian idea that will unlock an entirely new economy of virtual goods and services.