By Alex Heath for The Verge
Facebook is planning to change its company name next week to reflect its focus on building the metaverse, according to a source with direct knowledge of the matter.
The coming name change, which CEO Mark Zuckerberg plans to talk about at the company’s annual Connect conference on October 28th, but could unveil sooner, is meant to signal the tech giant’s ambition to be known for more than social media and all the ills that entail. The rebrand would likely position the blue Facebook app as one of many products under a parent company overseeing groups like Instagram, WhatsApp, Oculus, and more. A spokesperson for Facebook declined to comment for this story.
Facebook already has more than 10,000 employees building consumer hardware like AR glasses that Zuckerberg believes will eventually be as ubiquitous as smartphones. In July, he told The Verge that, over the next several years, “we will effectively transition from people seeing us as primarily being a social media company to being a metaverse company.”
A rebrand could also serve to further separate the futuristic work Zuckerberg is focused on from the intense scrutiny Facebook is currently under for the way its social platform operates today. A former employee turned whistleblower, Frances Haugen, recently leaked a trove of damning internal documents to The Wall Street Journal and testified about them before Congress. Antitrust regulators in the US and elsewhere are trying to break the company up, and public trust in how Facebook does business is falling.
Facebook isn’t the first well-known tech company to change its company name as its ambitions expand. In 2015, Google reorganised entirely under a holding company called Alphabet, partly to signal that it was no longer just a search engine, but a sprawling conglomerate with companies making driverless cars and health tech. And Snapchat rebranded to Snap Inc. in 2016, the same year it started calling itself a “camera company” and debuted its first pair of Spectacles camera glasses.
I’m told that the new Facebook company name is a closely-guarded secret within its walls and not known widely, even among its full senior leadership. A possible name could have something to do with Horizon, the name of the still-unreleased VR version of Facebook-meets-Roblox that the company has been developing for the past few years. The name of that app was recently tweaked to Horizon Worlds shortly after Facebook demoed a version for workplace collaboration called Horizon Workrooms.
Aside from Zuckerberg’s comments, Facebook has been steadily laying the groundwork for a greater focus on the next generation of technology. This past summer it set up a dedicated metaverse team. More recently, it announced that the head of AR and VR, Andrew Bosworth, will be promoted to chief technology officer. And just a couple of days ago Facebook announced plans to hire 10,000 more employees to work on the metaverse in Europe.
The metaverse is “going to be a big focus, and I think that this is just going to be a big part of the next chapter for the way that the internet evolves after the mobile internet,” Zuckerberg told The Verge’s Casey Newton this summer. “And I think it’s going to be the next big chapter for our company too, really doubling down in this area.”
Complicating matters is that, while Facebook has been heavily promoting the idea of the metaverse in recent weeks, it’s still not a concept that’s widely understood. The term was coined originally by sci-fi novelist Neal Stephenson to describe a virtual world people escape to from a dystopian, real world. Now it’s being adopted by one of the world’s largest and most controversial companies — and it’ll have to explain why its own virtual world is worth diving into.
Facebook is introducing new branding for its products and services in an attempt to distinguish the company from its familiar app and website.
Instagram and WhatsApp are among the services that will carry the new FACEBOOK brand in the next few weeks.
The main Facebook app and website will retain its familiar blue branding.
The new logo, which is in capital letters, uses “custom typography” and “rounded corners” so the company’s other products and app look different.
The branding also appears in different colours depending on which product it represents. So, for example, it will be green for WhatsApp.
“We wanted the brand to connect thoughtfully with the world and the people in it,” Facebook said. “The dynamic colour system does this by taking on the colour of its environment.”
Facebook’s chief marketing officer Antonio Lucio said: “People should know which companies make the products they use. We started being clearer about the products and services that are part of Facebook years ago.
“This brand change is a way to better communicate our ownership structure to the people and businesses who use our services to connect, share, build community and grow their audiences.”
US Senator Elizabeth Warren has said she wants to break up the big tech companies such as Facebook, Amazon and Google and put them under tougher regulation.
This plan may be seen as Facebook’s way of hitting back, although Ms Warren – posting on Facebook – said: “Facebook can rebrand all they want, but they can’t hide the fact that they are too big and powerful. It’s time to break up Big Tech.”
Distancing the Facebook brand – the blue app that’s home to just about everyone, including your parents – from the trendier Instagram, a place for you and your friends, has always made good business sense for Facebook.
And it apparently worked: when Pew researchers asked study participants whether or not Facebook owned Instagram or WhatsApp, 49% of American adults were “not sure”.
So why would Facebook make this change?
It brings several benefits. Front of mind: the firm is covering itself from accusations it hides how powerful it really is by not making it absolutely clear they are behind most of the biggest apps in social media.
And Facebook also wants to fend off efforts to break it up, by making the case that the company isn’t simply a conglomerate of separate, distinct apps which could be easily broken up by regulators. Instead, this rebranding argues the firm is one big connected organism, called Facebook.
Facebook has come under criticism recently over a variety of issues.
Its boss Mark Zuckerberg had to face US lawmakers last month to explain the company’s policy on not fact-checking political adverts.
He also had to defend plans for a digital currency, talk about the social network’s failure to stop child exploitation on the network, and was quizzed over the Cambridge Analytica data scandal.
Earlier in the year, Mr Zuckerberg said the firm was going to make changes to its social platforms to enhance privacy.
These included messages sent via Messenger being end-to-end encrypted, and hiding the number of likes an Instagram post receives from everyone but the person who shared it.
Staples’ 106 UK stores are being renamed Office Outlet by new-owner Hilco Capital, which snapped up the retailer last year for a nominal sum.
The restructuring firm, which also owns entertainment specialist HMV, said the Staples estate would be transformed in “record time”.
The entire rebadging process, along with the installation of a new EPOS system, is due to be completed by the end of this week.
“The reality is we’re kicking everything off very quickly and then we’ll be refining the proposition in the weeks to come with an improved product mix and much better pricing and promotions,” Hilco Capital marketing director Matt Bone told Retail Week.
The fresh branding on the newly named Office Outlet stores – which are largely located in out-of-town retail parks – is in keeping with Staples’ traditional red and white colour scheme.
The US-based stationery specialist agreed to sell its UK retail business and operations, which employs 1 100 people, to Hilco Capital last November.
Staples Inc says the decision was taken in order to place greater focus on its North American and mid-market divisions.
Last year, the business was pushed into exploring “strategic alternatives” for its European operations after it was forced to shelve a $6bn (£4.53bn) merger with rival Office Depot by America’s competition authorities.
Staples Inc consequently assessed the future of its European arm as it sought to wipe $300m (£226m) from its annual cost base.
When the deal to sell its British business to Hilco completed last November, its new owners unveiled plans to “phase out” the Staples brand in the UK, but provided no further details as to what that strategy looked like.
At the time, Hilco Capital chairman Paul McGowan said: “While retail in the UK has been challenged recently, a team led by retail veteran Alan Gaynor will work alongside the existing management team to build a plan for success for the business.”
By Emily Hardy and Luke Tugby for www.retail-week.com
One of SA’s most well-known adhesive brands, Bostik, recently unveiled a new look for its product range, which includes household and office staples such as Prestik, Glue Stick and Clear Adhesive.