It’s almost Halloween, so we were all expecting the odd scare, but little could have prepared us for the blood-chilling horror of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg ‘acting’ amazed in front of a green-screened mockup of The Metaverse, during his keynote at the company’s Connect event.
Zuckerberg — or The Zuckster, as I imagine he introduces himself when arriving uninvited to your birthday drinks — was in the process of announcing that the company formally known as Facebook would from now on be known simply as Meta.
Facebook, the social network, will remain Facebook, but it will be one product among many. Or, as The Zuckster clearly hopes, one among all.
With the new name comes a new visual identity, one so bland that I need to go full-on Clockwork Orange just to critique it. Eyes pinned open, you’ll see an elongated infinity wave in an inoffensive tech-blue gradient and a generic geometric sans logotype. You could throw $5 at a sweat-shop style freelance site and receive a more ambitious, inspiring design than this. It is utterly bland.
If I try really, really hard to find something wrong, I might suggest the M feels a little too large, the single-story a is a little too open compared to the spacing elsewhere, and the wave is a little unbalanced and a little too small. But that is being super-picky because just as there’s little to get excited about, there’s little to be offended by either. It’s a logo fit to adorn a mid-range domestic router.
The Zuckster’s faith in himself as a positive brand ambassador means that he takes full credit for the new direction. The small team involved was reportedly required to sign extensive NDAs, and there’s no credit being given to any external agency.
Of course, it’s very easy to point out what Meta (née Facebook) gets wrong. What it doesn’t get wrong is making money. And this is a sensible business decision from a company that has watched Google extricate itself from algorithm-related ethics allegations with its Alphabet rebrand.
Leaked internal research suggests that Facebook is extremely concerned about its ability to maintain its position in the social media landscape. The app is in sharp decline. It’s no longer the most installed app, and even for those who still have an account, it’s used weekly rather than hourly. Most worrying of all, the average age of its userbase is steadily increasing.
Strategically, it’s a good design direction for Facebook. The most significant benefit is that absolutely none of the insidious, anti-democratic crimes that Facebook has been accused of can be associated with Meta; Meta is a blank slate.
In a press release that echoed The Zuckster’s keynote, Meta notes that it will begin trading under the stock ticker MVRS from December 1, staking a claim as the Metaverse business entity.
The Metaverse — and let’s be clear, this is not The Zuckster’s concept — is a so far ill-defined collection of ideas that will potentially coalesce over the next few years into some form of virtual reality web. It’s almost as if someone over at Facebook HQ said, “If only we could name ourselves ‘Inter,’ then we’d own the whole Internet!” And everyone cheered.
So yes, there is the sickening reality that we’re going to spend the rest of our careers trying to find a less tainted name for metadata. But that’s nothing to the amount of time we’ll devote explaining to future generations that Meta is not The Metaverse.
From now on, I’ll be referring to all Web 3.0 as the Geoverse and see if I can’t revive the fortunes of Geocities. Ah, now there’s a social network worth raising from the dead. Happy Halloween.