Facebook is now an old and old-fashioned company. It’s a wildly successful advertising company with incredible tools for marketers.
But Mark Zuckerberg and the voices in his ear — or so I think! I don’t know him! — have to know that almost everything we’ve made in our digital world is sad and rapidly aging. The digital future can’t be just Epoch Times links and an ugly screenshotted meme that your racist uncle posts of Tony Fauci and Hillary Clinton necking in a pizza parlor.
That Facebook is dying, and it’s at least in part because that Facebook’s users are (literally) dying. And there’s nothing our tech overlords want more than (1) to be cool and (2) to achieve the melding of philosophy and technology.
Facebook, a trillion-dollar monopoly, needs to build the next Facebook.
After the Verge broke the news that Facebook may announce a new corporate name next week, tech journalist Casey Newton gathered a bunch of other tech reporters in a live audio-chat hangout on Twitter. What was notable: Nobody knew nothin’. (Or if they did, nobody was saying.)
So far, they’ve figured out:
• If it’s real, this is happening quickly — like, next week.
• This is fun! It’s just a little adventure for all of us.
But it’s also a signal about the future. And it’s true that the constellation of Instagram, Facebook, WhatsApp, and various and sundry groups from VR to currency don’t make sense as an entity named Facebook.
Many people have pointed out that Zuckerberg’s frequent invocation of the metaverse could be related to the potential renaming. While that’s all just reading tea leaves, the only reason to evolve something as huge as Facebook would be to create something as ambitious as a metaverse. A next internet that eats travel, banking, entertainment, workplaces, education, health care, maybe even religion and friendship. An Amazon for your mind. A whole world where the phrase logging out can’t even exist.
If you had all that money and infrastructure and all those grumpy, rock-climbing engineers and lobbying connections, you’d make the biggest swing imaginable.
That’s why some of the most important signals for the near future are Facebook’s early experiments with a digital wallet called Novi, for which it brought Coinbase on as a partner, and the company’s slow but steady move toward a proprietary coin called Diem.
This environment of the near future will likely incorporate all the great and all the gross elements of futurism: non-typing and nonreading communication; currencies and digital transactions, maybe even subscriptions (this may be bias — anyone in the media would say that!); and seamless connections between people and banks.
Another reason to expect a big swing related to the renaming is that conversations about how to build a company, how to execute a philosophy, and how to work now are cool again. Self-governance is the term of the year. The folks around people like Zuckerberg and Twitter honcho Jack Dorsey are talking about the future of humanity in organizational form. They are thinking about what comes after this current mess. It’s unfortunate that they’ve spent most of their careers building advertising-delivery and targeting services. But to take an optimistic stance, maybe that just means they know there could be something better.
They absolutely can’t pretend that what’s here isn’t suboptimal. The web is a gnarly cesspit, growing ever more dumb, littered with cookie pop-ups and SEO plays and so much other crap, it’s a miracle we can pay taxes or find a book. The app ecosystem is an endless war with competitors jousting over in-app purchases and carving off payouts. Who would want to have to constantly testify before the Senate about all this?
Political and social pressures don’t mean a new corporate name for Facebook is about going into hiding. Facebook doesn’t poll that well — but it never really has. Whatever ill feelings exist toward it among coastal elites or whoever do not affect its business or its usage. This isn’t an Altria situation, which is easy to think if you’re a New York City–based Facebook hater who thinks Facebook is basically cigarettes.
Facebook changed the world permanently and kind of horrifically. If Zuckerberg is still showing up to work, it’s actually because he wants to do it all again except bigger. This is how the real supervillains originate. I’m excited!