What is Metaverse? How are Facebook's 'New Name' and Neal Stephenson Novel Linked?

Facebook is reportedly planning to change its company name to reflect its focus on the metaverse, a virtual reality version of the internet that the tech giant sees as the future. This comes as the social media giant is facing intense scrutiny about its business practices.

The tech company is planning to rebrand itself with a new name next week, The Verge reported on Tuesday, citing a source with direct knowledge of the matter.

Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg plans to talk about the name change at the company's annual Connect conference on Oct. 28, but it could be unveiled sooner, The Verge the report said.

Distancing from Scandals?

The renaming is likely to leave intact the name of the original Facebook, launched in 2004. The change could also distance the company from its current scandals revealed by whistleblower Frances Haugen.

The rebranding would likely position Facebook's social media app as one of many products under a parent company, which will also oversee groups like Instagram, WhatsApp, Oculus and more, the report added.

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Key to Facebook's Future Lies with the Metaverse Concept?

The move to rebrand will also reflect Facebook's focus on building the so-called metaverse, an online world where people can use different devices to move and communicate in a virtual environment, according to the report. It would blur the lines between the physical world and the digital one.

The technology might, for example, allow someone to don virtual reality glasses that make it feel as if they're face-to-face with a friend -- when in fact they are thousands of miles apart and connected via the internet, reported AFP.

The metaverse is "going to be a big focus, and I think that this is just going to be a big part of the next chapter for the way that the internet evolves after the mobile internet," Zuckerberg told The Verge earlier this year.

Neal Stephenson's 1992 science fiction novel

The term "metaverse" was coined in Neal Stephenson's 1992 science fiction novel Snow Crash, where it referred to a 3D virtual world inhabited by avatars of real people.

Stephenson used the term to describe a virtual reality-based successor to the Internet. Stephenson stated in the afterword to Snow Crash that after finishing the novel he learned about Habitat, an early MMORPG which resembled the Metaverse.

Lots of other science fiction media includes metaverse-like systems (some of them predating Snow Crash). But Stephenson's book remains one of the most common reference points for metaverse enthusiasts, along with Ernest Cline's 2011 novel Ready Player One.

Facebook on Monday announced plans to hire 10,000 people in the European Union to build the "metaverse".

"The EU has a number of advantages that make it a great place for tech companies to invest -- a large consumer market, first class universities and, crucially, top quality talent," the blog post said.

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