Facebook rebrands as Meta: my initial reaction. A failure, which might pay off (#tech)

This quick reaction is based purely on Guardian article. Will write fuller piece by end of week once digested.

1. This is premature, and mainly a capitulation

An Alphabet, Inc. style differently-named parent company is primarily a way to de-risk the company from the fate of it’s (weakest) app of the name Facebook. As M.G. Siegler pointed out in his overhyped, but still potent article: when they eventually created an umbrella company “they called it Facebook, which was dumb”. It shows a sense of pride in Zuck individually, because it was the one app of the family he actually designed rather than acquired. Dumb pride.

The Meta rebrand should primarily be seen in the light of rectifying that dumb prideful decision. This represents failure for Mark Zuckerburg. Full stop.

And the failures have been mounting up. Since I started blogging alone, I’ve covered: heinous privacy breaches resulting in class actions, the most widespread breach of personal phone numbers ever and the final straw this week’s Haugen’s whistleblower that they knew this bad stuff was coming.
They really needed some positive PR. The fact that the main app’s catastrophic impact on society has made it a dirty word in the press is the only reason this change has happened.
Do not let him pretend that he wants to be making this admission of defeat. There’s been a lot of corporate therapy applied to him here over the past couple of months, probably primarily from wiser heads like Clegg, Sandberg.

Sometimes the greatest success can come out of failure. Perhaps the failure of Facebook App needed to happen to force them to do a strong pivot that might pay off for them this decade:

2. A proactive play for Siloed XR (Extended Reality)

When I was workshopping Snowflakes in SoCal!, a musical which takes place later in the decade, about a climate activist trying to run a FirstWeek FlipPh.one digital detox campaign for the XR age, I spoke to Prof Marc Downie, a VR visionary, about what widespread XR might look like.

He described a lacklustre vision of corporate platforms giving us ad-filled AR. This has been realised pretty well in “Square Eyes”.

Likely this tech would be powered in a way society didn’t truly understand.
In our imagining with extremely carbon-intensive cloud computing, by a multinational tech company hybrid so ubiquitous our characters don’t even really feel the need to discuss whether it’s primarily Shenzen or Silicon Valley owned.
All to deliver experiences we’ve somehow become hooked on.
We wanted to depict a world which neither wants nor understands the tech placed upon it, but is addicted nonetheless.

And this move from Mark Zuckerburg looks set to make this more likely a reality.

Non-corporate entities seeded Internet 1.0, but they’ve been slow off the mark ever since. I mean look at this Micro.Blog tech I’m using to publish this blog post. An approach to social media designed to support the human users was only invented a decade after Zuck’s hooky tech was launched.

Zuck is basically saying: “I’m losing my lead in Internet 2.0, so I’m gonna announce we’re playing a new game: Internet 3.0”

It probably means we will all suffer through pop culture getting dragged down as young people get addicted to half-hearted horrible XR attempts (probably under the Instagram brand) for most of the mid-decade.
It probably means a much worse end goal: too centralised, too manipulable, not enough clear consumer rights etc.

Open/indie web activists everywhere: we didn’t expect round 3 to begin this quick, but it has. We urgently need to imagine better XR futures than Zuck, and deliver them a year, not a decade later, and convince people it’s worth waiting that extra year or so for ours than buying into his when their Instagram feed prompts them to.

Where my ethically designed XR social apps at? I’m waiting for you.

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