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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Facebook is now Meta, as the company tries to shift into a new organization focused on virtual connectivity. Industry watchers say the new moniker — and the timing of its unveiling — is also an attempt to shine its tarnished image.

What's happening: The nearly trillion-dollar tech giant is following a familiar playbook of corporate rebranding exercises, which have generally worked out well for companies that want to move on from their pasts, Priya Raghubir, professor of marketing at NYU's Stern School of Business, tells Axios.

Memory lane reveals four main reasons for corporate name changes:

1) Simplifying...

  • Facebook itself is not new to this game, having launched as TheFacebook.com.

2) Restructuring...

  • Google renamed itself Alphabet to be organized like Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway, giving its underlying business groups more autonomy to operate.

3) Rebranding after scandal or in need of makeover...

  • Philip Morris shed its brand in favor of Altria to protect its reputation from being associated with its tobacco products.

4) Pivoting...

What they're saying: In Facebook's case, you see these reasons coalescing, Raghubir says.

  • The company may also have stepped up its timeline because the rebrand "diffuses all the negativity around Facebook" and points to a positive future, says Gene Munster, partner at Loup, a research-driven investment firm.
  • For well over a month, Facebook has been under siege by the public, lawmakers and regulators over its decisions — revealed in new leaked internal documents — to prioritize growth over social welfare.

What to watch: "I think they're still trying to figure out what the vision of metaverse is," Munster says.

  • But the rebrand shifts and "anchors" the company's energy around the concept of the metaverse, while Facebook as a business unit continues to pay the bills through advertising revenue — and to get heat from regulators for years to come, he adds.

Go deeper

A virtual world pioneer has doubts about the metaverse

Photo illustration: Axios Visuals. Photo: Courtesy of Philip Rosedale, Breakroom.

Early metaverse architect Philip Rosedale is no longer confident the metaverse will be a huge hit, despite the surging interest from Meta (fka Facebook) and many other companies.

Driving the news: Rosedale, who evangelized the concept of an immersive virtual world while overseeing the storied platform “Second Life” a decade ago, shared more tempered thoughts in an interview with Axios.

Updated 17 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus variant surveillance varies widely by state — Omicron cases confirmed in 5 U.S. states America probably won't lead the effort to understand Omicron.
  2. Vaccines: Omicron adds urgency to vaccinating world — Omicron fuels the case for COVID boosters — Moderna loses patent battles tied to COVID vaccine — Pfizer could have vaccine data for children under five by end of 2021, CEO says.
  3. Politics: Nevada to impose insurance surcharge on unvaccinated state workers — New Jersey GOP lawmakers defy statehouse COVID policy — Oklahoma sues Biden administration over Pentagon vaccine mandate — Omicron travel bans are sign of what's to come.
  4. World: WHO: Delta health measures help fight Omicron — COVID cases surge in South Africa in sign Omicron wave is coming — Germany approves new restrictions for unvaccinated people.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.
Updated 5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Prosecutors charge parents of Michigan school shooting suspect

Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

The parents of a 15-year-old accused of killing four students and wounding seven other people at a Michigan high school have been charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter, according to court documents.

The latest: Lawyers for James and Jennifer Crumbley told the Detroit News they are "returning to the area to be arraigned," after law enforcement officials announced a search for the Crumbleys had been initiated.