A Facebook by any other name
Image: Facebook

A Facebook by any other name

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Good morning! This Wednesday, Facebook might rename itself, Google's placing big bets on bundles, and Netflix has a plan to get the next "Squid Game."

What's in a Facebook?

Facebook may be looking for a rebrand. The Verge reported last night that Mark Zuckerberg could unveil a new name for the company sometime between now and its Connect conference on Oct. 28. Going forward, "Facebook" would be an app in the portfolio rather than the name of the company itself.

The first question: What's the new name? (This is what everyone stayed up too late discussing on Twitter.) "TheFacebook," "Hot or Not" and "Face" are all popular guesses. The Verge suggested "Horizon" as a possibility, given that Zuckerberg apparently wants to signal that the-company-formerly-known-as-Facebook is transitioning from being a social media company to "a metaverse company," and "Horizon" appears to be the metaverse brand. But for my money, it's more likely to be something blandly corporate. Or Mark Zuckerberg, Inc.

The second question: Why is Facebook doing this? There are just as many answers to that one, too.

  • A non-Facebook corporate name would actually explain the company a bit better. Facebook — "the blue app," as the company calls it now — is still the most popular product, but WhatsApp and Instagram and Oculus and Portal and Messenger all exist as well.
  • That's a fairly common move as companies broaden their scope. Google became Alphabet when companies trying to cure cancer and build internet balloons stopped making sense next to search engines and maps. Snapchat became Snap when it became "a camera company" instead of an app.
  • Plus, while the blue app is still Facebook's primary money maker, that may not be the case forever or even for much longer. Instagram continues to usurp the social throne, and Facebook clearly sees the metaverse as the next Facebook-sized opportunity.

This a U-turn in some respects. Two years ago, the company doubled down on its name, turning WhatsApp and Instagram officially into "WhatsApp by Facebook" and "Instagram by Facebook." (Though even then, it also began taking small steps to separate Facebook the company from Facebook the app, especially in its logos.)

  • Now, even as it continues to unify the back-end tech to make the apps both more interoperable and harder for regulators to peel apart, it may be taking the Facebook name off the tin entirely.

But it's clear the "Facebook" brand isn't what it used to be. Years of scandals, congressional hearings and problems on the platform have made life harder for anything that's associated with the name.

  • "Doing it inside of Facebook has a cost," David Marcus said of the Novi digital wallet just last month, "because obviously, we need to do a lot more to have the benefit of the doubt — to deserve the benefit of the doubt."
  • A lot of folks compared the move to Philip Morris changing its name to the thoroughly vague and inoffensive Altria — a way to change its image without changing the company.

Obviously, a name change doesn't change everything. Or even very much. Mark Zuckerberg is still in charge, regulators are still circling, the company is still the company even if it's called Very Good Company That Loves You Incorporated.

The metaverse shift is real, though. Facebook has reorganized its team to support building the metaverse, announced this week it will hire 10,000 people in Europe to help build it and made Andrew Bosworth, the head of AR and VR, the company's CTO. Facebook is working on smart glasses and VR headsets and all the other parts required to make the metaverse happen. While the world continues to learn what Facebook has been doing all these years, the company itself is running as fast as possible toward what comes next. And what comes next, it's been clear for a while now, isn't Facebook.

— David Pierce (email | twitter)

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People Are Talking

Ted Sarandos apologized for his response to Netflix employees about the Dave Chappelle controversy, but not for the special itself:

  • "What I should have led with in those emails was humanity. I should have recognized the fact that a group of our employees was really hurting."
  • Meanwhile, Reed Hastings kept his feelings close to the chest: "Sure, it's a no comment."

Maybe it's time to look into a world with fewer chips, Volkswagen's Scott Keogh says:

  • "Historically, we've made decision as if chips were nearly infinite."

Christian Meunier says Jeep's transition to EVs is on the horizon:

  • "When the cost of electrification goes down, which we expect between 2025 and 2030, I think slowly but surely a ramp up of the smaller segment to electrification will happen."

On Protocol | Workplace: Productivity app influencers aren't too different from mainstream creators. Just ask Kat Norton, or "Miss Excel":

  • "I get these intuitive hits of what videos will go viral, and I run to my computer and make it, and then next thing you know, there's another 50,000 or 100,000 people watching."

Making Moves

Instacart bought Caper AI for $350 million, the company's largest purchase ever. The startup makes self-checkout shopping carts.

Del Harvey is leaving Twitter after 13 years. Harvey most recently served as the VP of trust and safety.

Ariel Bardin is joining Celonis as chief product officer. Bardin's last operating role was VP of product management at Google.

Gabe Monroy is heading to DigitalOcean as chief product officer. He most recently worked at Microsoft as VP of the Azure Developer Experience group.

CFO Swayam Saurabh and COO Gaurav Porwal are leaving Ola ahead of its planned IPO, according to Reuters. The SoftBank-backed EV firm also reshuffled a few of its units.

In Other News

Google launched its own everything bundle. Pixel Pass gets you a phone and a number of Google's premium services, and could give it a rival to Apple One. Also, the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro look like Google's best phones ever.

Netflix wants to find the next "Squid Game." The company is producing original content in countries all over the world, with the aim of creating more global success stories.

Facebook will pay up to $14.25 million to settle claims that the company wouldn't recruit, consider or hire U.S. workers for certain positions. The Justice Department alleged the company saved certain jobs for temporary visa holders instead. It was also fined £50.5 million for interfering with the U.K. investigation into its Giphy purchase.

The Senate wants to grill TikTok, YouTube and Snapchat. Next Tuesday, executives will appear in front of a Senate Commerce subcommittee to talk about their impact on young users.

Activision Blizzard wants to pause its discrimination lawsuit over alleged ethical violations raised by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. It's all connected to a big tangled mess between the EEOC and California's Department of Fair Employment and Housing, which have both sued the game company.

Facebook's Novi digital wallet is getting a test run in the U.S. The company is still working on its Diem project, but this digital wallet seems to be Facebook's way of securing a place in the financial services sector.

The U.K. is eyeing music-streaming services. Britain's competition watchdog plans to look into whether an industry overtaken by Apple and Spotify is good for consumers.

Apple's unleashed beats

Apple events always feature great music. And this week's event didn't disappoint with bangers like "Romeo" by Jungle and "Brngthat" by Model 86 being played while HomePod Minis appeared on the screen.

One Apple fan compiled all of those songs in a playlist you can listen to on Apple Music, with an accompanying Twitter thread pointing out where in the video the song came in. With 21 songs, the playlist is the perfect length for you to go stand in a field, let out your inner Tim Cook and relive this week's Apple Event.

A MESSAGE FROM PROEDGE, A PWC PRODUCT

Target critical skill gaps and close them with engaging and personalized employee learning. Empower your people with ProEdge, the single solution that can upskill entire organizations and help keep them ahead of the ever-changing demands of the digital world.

Learn more

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