In the shadow of mounting controversies for his beleaguered tech firm, CEO Mark Zuckerberg laid out his vision for the future of the internet at a company conference Thursday, which he sees as evolving on the so-called "metaverse."
Zuckerberg also announced that the name of his tech giant will be changed to "Meta" to reflect the shifting interests, though critics have accused the company of attempting to use its high-profile name change announcement to shift focus from the renewed scrutiny it has faced from lawmakers and beyond in recent weeks.
The metaverse, a three-dimensional digital world created by augmented and virtual reality products and services, will be "the successor to the mobile internet," Zuckerberg said during his keynote speech to kick off Facebook's Connect conference on Thursday. The chief executive demonstrated some of the experiences he said will soon be available in the digital realm -- including connecting with friends and family, gaming, working out and even working remotely via a digital avatar and VR hardware.
"We're now looking at and reporting on our business as two different segments, one for our family of apps and one for work on future platforms, and as part of this, it is time for us to adopt a new company brand to encompass everything that we do to reflect who we are and what we hope to build," he said.
"I am proud to announce that starting today, our company is now meta," Zuckerberg added.
The Facebook chief said the word comes from the Greek term for "beyond," and is meant to symbolize that "there is always more to build, there is always a next chapter to the story."
"Our mission remains the same still about bringing people together, our apps and their brands, they're not changing either," the CEO added. "We're still the company that designs technology around people, now we have a new North Star to help bring the metaverse to life, and we have a new name that reflects the full breadth of what we do and the future that we want to help build."
Finally, Zuckerberg said, "From now on, we're going to be metaverse-first, not Facebook-first."
The name change announcement comes just weeks after a company whistleblower, Frances Haugen, testified before lawmakers, alleging blatant disregard from Facebook executives when they learned their platform could have harmful effects on democracy and the mental health of young people.
Haugen, a former Facebook product manager, accused Facebook of "choosing to prioritize its profits over people" in her opening statement before lawmakers on the Senate Commerce subcommittee.
"You can declare moral bankruptcy and we can figure out a fix [to] these things together because we solve problems together," Haugen said.
Zuckerberg did not directly address Haugen's claims during his remarks Thursday, saying only, "the last few years have been humbling for me and our company in a lot of ways." During his remarks, which lasted over an hour, he mostly demonstrated how he sees people could use the metaverse and virtual or augmented reality tools in the near and far-off future.