Facebook said on Thursday it would rebrand as Meta, a name change that comes as the company battles criticisms from lawmakers and regulators over its market power, its algorithmic decisions and the policing of abuses on its platforms.
Facebook Inc CEO Mark Zuckerberg said privacy and safety need to be built into the metaverse, as he opened the company’s annual conference on virtual and augmented reality on Thursday.
Facebook continues to battle criticism over its market power, its content moderation practices and harms linked to its social media platforms. The tech giant, which reports about 2.9 billion monthly users, has faced increasing scrutiny in recent years from global lawmakers and regulators.
In the latest controversy, whistleblower and former Facebook employee Frances Haugen leaked documents which she said showed the company chose profit over user safety. Zuckerberg earlier this week said the documents were being used to paint a “false picture.”
The metaverse, a term first coined in a dystopian novel three decades ago and now attracting buzz in Silicon Valley, refers broadly to a shared virtual environment which can be accessed by people using different devices.
Zuckerberg has increasingly been promoting the idea of Facebook, which has invested heavily in augmented and virtual reality, as a “metaverse” company rather than a social media one.
The CEO, speaking during the live-streamed Facebook Connect event, gave examples of privacy and safety controls that would be needed, such as the ability to block someone from appearing in your space in the metaverse.
The company gave a slew of updates for its VR and AR products. It said it would this year launch a way for people using its Oculus VR headset to call friends using Facebook Messenger and for people to invite others to a social version of their home, dubbed “Horizon Home,” to talk and play games as avatars.
Facebook also said it would introduce a way for Oculus Quest users to use different 2D apps like Slack, Dropbox and Facebook while in this “Horizon Home” VR space.
The company, which began a beta test of its virtual meeting spaces “Horizon Workrooms” earlier this year, said it was working on ways of customizing these with company logos and designs and said it would be bringing more work capabilities into consumer Quest devices. It also announced new fitness offerings for Oculus Quest users.