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Facebook changes name to Meta as it refocuses on virtual reality

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October 28, 2021

By Elizabeth Culliford and Sheila Dang

(Reuters) – Facebook Inc is now called Meta, the company said on Thursday, in a rebrand that focuses on building the “metaverse,” a shared virtual environment that it bets will be the successor to the mobile internet.

The name change comes as the world’s largest social media company battles criticisms from lawmakers and regulators over its market power, algorithmic decisions and the policing of abuses on its services.

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CEO Mark Zuckerberg, speaking at the company’s live-streamed virtual and augmented reality conference, said the new name reflected its work investing in the metaverse, rather than its namesake social media service, which will continue to be called Facebook.

The metaverse is a term coined in the dystopian novel “Snow Crash” three decades ago and now attracting buzz in Silicon Valley. It refers broadly to the idea of a shared virtual realm which can be accessed by people using different devices.

“Right now, our brand is so tightly linked to one product that it can’t possibly represent everything that we’re doing today, let alone in the future,” said Zuckerberg.

The company, which has invested heavily in augmented and virtual reality, said the change would bring together its different apps and technologies under one new brand. It said it would not change its corporate structure.

The tech giant, which reports about 2.9 billion monthly users, has faced increasing scrutiny in recent years from global lawmakers and regulators.

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In the latest controversy, whistleblower and former Facebook employee Frances Haugen leaked documents which she said showed the company chose profit over user safety. Haugen has in recent weeks testified before a U.S. Senate subcommittee and lawmakers in the UK’s Parliament. Zuckerberg earlier this week said the documents were being used to paint a “false picture.”

The company said in a blog post that it intends to start trading under the new stock ticker it has reserved, MVRS, on Dec. 1. On Thursday, it unveiled a new sign at its headquarters in Menlo Park, California, replacing its thumbs-up “Like” logo with a blue infinity shape.

Facebook shares closed 1.5% higher at $316.92 on Thursday.

TARNISHED REPUTATION

Facebook said this week that its hardware division Facebook Reality Labs, which is responsible for AR and VR efforts, would become a separate reporting unit and that its investment in it would reduce this year’s total operating profit by about $10 billion.

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This year, the company created a product team in this unit focused on the metaverse and it recently announced plans to hire 10,000 employees in Europe over the next five years to work on the effort.

In an interview with tech publication the Information, Zuckerberg said he has not considered stepping down as CEO, and has not thought “very seriously yet” about spinning off this unit.

The division will now be called Reality Labs, its head Andrew “Boz” Bosworth said on Thursday. The company will also stop using the Oculus branding for its VR headsets, instead calling them “Meta” products.

The name change, the plan for which was first reported by the Verge, is a significant rebrand for Facebook, but not its first. In 2019 it launched a new logo to create a distinction between the company and its social app.

The company’s reputation has taken multiple hits in recent years, including over its handling of user data and its policing of abuses such as health misinformation, violent rhetoric and hate speech. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has also filed an antitrust lawsuit alleging anticompetitive practices.

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“While it’ll help alleviate confusion by distinguishing Facebook’s parent company from its founding app, a name change doesn’t suddenly erase the systemic issues plaguing the company,” said Mike Proulx, research director at market research firm Forrester.

The plans to phase out the Facebook name even from products like video calling device Portal show the company is eager to prevent the unprecedented scrutiny from hurting the rest of its apps, said Prashant Malaviya, a marketing professor at Georgetown University McDonough School of Business.

“Without a doubt, (the Facebook name) is definitely damaged and toxic,” he said.

Zuckerberg said the new name, coming from the Greek word for “beyond,” symbolized there was always more to build. Twitter Inc CEO Jack Dorsey on Thursday tweeted out a different definition “referring to itself or to the conventions of its genre; self-referential.”

Zuckerberg said the new name also reflects that over time, users will not need to use Facebook to use the company’s other services.

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In 2015, Google reorganized to create a new holding company called Alphabet Inc, as the popular search engine broke into new fields such as self-driving cars, high-speed broadband and expanded its cloud business. Snapchat also rebranded to Snap Inc in 2016, the same year it launched its first pair of smart glasses.

Facebook, which this year launched its own pair of smart glasses https://www.reuters.com/technology/facebook-unveils-its-first-smart-glasses-2021-09-09 with Ray-Ban, announced a slew of new AR and VR product updates during Connect. These included 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.”

Zuckerberg also showed video demos of what the metaverse could look like, with people connecting as avatars and being transported to digital versions of various places and time periods. He said that the metaverse would need to be built with safety and privacy in mind.

(Reporting by Elizabeth Culliford in New York, Nathan Frandino in Menlo Park, Calif., and Sheila Dang in Dallas; Editing by Ken Li and Matthew Lewis)

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Apple starts legal action against Russian regulator in App Store dispute -RIA

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December 6, 2021

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Apple has started legal proceedings against Russia’s anti-monopoly regulator in a dispute concerning alternative payment options on its App Store platform, the RIA news agency reported on Sunday citing court filings.

Russia opened an antitrust case against Apple in late October, accusing it of failing to allow app developers to tell customers about alternative payment options when using its App Store. It said Apple could face a fine based on its revenue in Russia if found guilty.

In documents published on Dec. 1, the Moscow Arbitration Court listed Apple as a claimant and Russia’s Federal Anti-monopoly Service (FAS) as a defendant in “economic disputes over administrative legal relations.”

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Apple, which did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment, demanded that additional documents be added to the case on Dec. 2, RIA reported.

Forbes Russia cited a FAS representative as saying that the proceedings related to a warning it issued on Aug. 30 over Apple’s alleged failure to inform users they could also pay for purchases outside the App Store.

The FAS did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Apple faced pushback over its App Store rules in the United States in September when a federal judge issued a ruling forcing the company to allow developers to send their users to other payment systems.

(Reporting by Alexander Marrow; Editing by Andrew Osborn)

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Weaker foreign demand sinks German industrial orders in October

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December 6, 2021

By Michael Nienaber

BERLIN (Reuters) -Weaker demand from abroad drove a much bigger than expected drop in German industrial orders, including cars, in October, data showed on Monday, further clouding the growth outlook for manufacturers in Europe’s largest economy.

A pandemic-related scarcity of microchips and other electronic components has caused massive supply bottlenecks and production problems in Germany’s mighty automobile industry and other important sectors of the economy.

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Orders for goods ‘Made in Germany’ dropped 6.9% on the month in seasonally adjusted terms after a revised rise of 1.8% in September and a plunge of 8.8% in August, figures from the Federal Statistics Office showed.

A Reuters poll of analysts had pointed to a smaller decline of 0.5% on the month in October.

“After incoming orders climbed to an all-time high in mid-2021, the index has lost more than 16 points in recent months,” the economy ministry said, adding that the second sharp decline within three months put a further damper on the economic outlook.

Excluding distorting factors from bookings for big ticket items such as planes, industrial orders were still down 1.8%, the data showed.

The drop was driven by a decline in foreign orders of more than 13% on the month, with demand from countries outside the euro zone such as China particularly weak. Orders from domestic clients rose 3.4%.

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“New lockdowns in Asia are slowing industry in Germany,” VP Bank analyst Thomas Gitzel said. He added that the current wave of coronavirus infections across the globe was putting a renewed burden on the world economy.

Gitzel said that domestic demand should remain strong, helped by the new ruling coalition’s commitment to massive investment in the green economy.

“The decarbonization of the economy requires major investments in new technologies. German industry can and will benefit from this,” Gitzel said.

The weak orders data suggest that manufacturing will hamper overall economic growth in the coming months, with analysts expecting stagnation at best in the final quarter of this year.

(Reporting by Michael Nienaber, editing by Kirsti Knolle and Philippa Fletcher)

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Marketmind: Chasing the Omicron dip

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December 6, 2021

A look at the day ahead from Julien Ponthus.

Buying the dip triggered by the Omicron COVID-19 variant across global markets has proven a costly strategy so far. But some investors seem determined to have another go.

European and U.S. stocks futures are trading sharply higher after ending last week on a sour note and notwithstanding a dismal day in Asia where an MSCI index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan lost about 0.9%.

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The region has seen a series of corporate setbacks after ride-hailing giant Didi decided to withdraw from the New York stock exchange last week.

Shares in China Evergrande, the world’s most indebted developer, plunged 14% after it said there was no guarantee it would have enough funds to meet debt repayments.

Another giant, Alibaba dropped 5% after announcing it would reorganise its international and domestic e-commerce businesses. And U.S. regulatory opposition to the sale of Softbank-owned chip firm Arm pushed the Japanese conglomerate 8% lower.

But the mood is lighter already across Europe, allowing 10-year Treasury yields to claw back some of Friday’s falls which took them below 1.4% for the first time since late September.

There are five trading sessions left before Friday’s U.S. consumer price report which some reckon will provide the green light for the Federal Reserve to accelerate its tapering of bond purchases.

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Oil prices too rose by more than $1 a barrel after Saudi Arabia raised prices for its crude sold to Asia and the United States.

And if the market mood is perking up, there is no sign of that in Bitcoin which has fallen further and is now at $48,244 — some $20,000 below peaks hit a month ago.

Key developments that should provide more direction to markets on Monday:

-Vivendi is open to discuss with Rome over state control on TIM’s network

-Alibaba overhauls e-commerce businesses, names new CFO

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-Swiss National Bank Vice Chairman Zurbruegg to retire in July 2022

-Weaker foreign demand sinks German industrial orders in October

-CBI cuts UK economic growth forecasts on supply chain hit

-Euro zone finance ministers to discuss 2022 draft budgets, euro summit

– Russian President Vladimir Putin visits India

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– UK construction PMI/new car sales

-Euro zone finance ministers to discuss 2022 draft budgets, euro summit

BOE deputy Governor Broadbent, ECB Governor Lagarde and board member Panetta speak:

(Reporting by Julien Ponthus; editing by Sujata Rao)

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