Google’s employees are called Googlers. Amazon’s workers are known as Amazonians. Yahoo’s employees were Yahoos.
So it was a conundrum for employees at Facebook, long known as Facebookers, when the company renamed itself Meta late last year.
The terminology is now no longer in question. At a meeting on Tuesday, Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s founder and Meta’s chief executive, announced a new name for his company’s employees: Metamates.
Mr. Zuckerberg introduced the term as part of an overhaul of Meta’s corporate values, which he said needed updating because of the company’s new direction. In October, he took many by surprise by shifting Facebook toward the so-called metaverse, in which different computing platforms are connected to one another across the internet. The move de-emphasized the company’s social networking apps, like Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, which have been under scrutiny for privacy and data challenges, hateful content and misinformation.
So past Facebook values like “Be bold” and “Focus on impact”? They are gone. In their place are “Live in the future,” “Build awesome things,” “Focus on long-term impact” and “Meta, Metamates, me,” Mr. Zuckerberg said on Tuesday.
“I’ve always believed that in order for values to be useful, they need to be ideas that good companies can reasonably disagree with or emphasize differently,” he wrote in a post to his Facebook page. He added, “I think these values capture how we must act as a company to bring our vision to life.”
Silicon Valley companies have long had their own jargon and cultures. Corporate mottos like “Don’t be evil,” “Innovation leads to innovation” and “Move fast and break things” are legion. Palantir, a big data software company, even emblazoned the slogan “Save the Shire,” a “Lord of the Rings” reference, on employee T-shirts. All of that gave rise to sendups of the tech world like HBO’s “Silicon Valley.”
For Mr. Zuckerberg, the latest values represent a kind of fresh start for his company, even though the metaverse is far from formed. But Meta’s employees greeted the reset on Tuesday with a mixed reactions.
On some internal forums, hundreds of employees welcomed the changes with heart emojis. Yet in private chat messages, away from the eyes of managers, some workers expressed more skepticism.
“How is this going to change the company? I don’t understand the messaging,” one engineer wrote in a private chat viewed by The New York Times. “We keep changing the name of everything, and it is confusing.”
Another employee said being a Metamate reminded him of sailing. “Does this mean we are on a sinking ship?” the worker wrote.
Others said the new slogans had a “military inspiration” or gave a sense of being “a cog in a machine,” according to employee posts reviewed by The Times. And on Twitter, one Meta employee made fun of the new values, replacing them with “conform” and “obey.” He quickly deleted the message.
Meta did not immediately have a comment on the employee posts.
The Metamates moniker was coined by Douglas Hofstadter, a professor of cognitive science at Indiana University and author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book “Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid.” In a tweet, Andrew Bosworth, Meta’s chief technology officer, said an employee had emailed Mr. Hofstadter for ideas for a rebrand.
In an email, Mr. Hofstadter said he had originally suggested “teammate” to describe Meta’s employees, since each half of the word is an anagram of Meta. In a postscript, he recommended Metamate as an alternative. He added that he was unaware the company had adopted the name.
What Is the Metaverse, and Why Does It Matter?
The origins. The word “metaverse” describes a fully realized digital world that exists beyond the one in which we live. It was coined by Neal Stephenson in his 1992 novel “Snow Crash,” and the concept was further explored by Ernest Cline in his novel “Ready Player One.”
An expanding universe. The metaverse appears to have gained momentum during the online-everything shift of the pandemic. The term today refers to a variety of experiences, environments and assets that exist in the virtual space.
Some examples. Video games in which players can build their own worlds have metaverse tendencies, as does most social media. If you own a non-fungible token, virtual-reality headset or some cryptocurrency, you’re also part of the metaversal experience.
How Big Tech is shifting. Facebook staked its claim to the metaverse last year, after shipping 10 million of its virtual-reality headsets and announcing it had renamed itself Meta. Google, Microsoft and Apple have all been working on metaverse-related technology.
The future. Many people in tech believe the metaverse will herald an era in which our virtual lives will play as important a role as our physical realities. Some experts warn that it could still turn out to be a fad or even dangerous.
“By the way, I don’t use Facebook and never have,” he wrote. “In fact, I avoid all social media. That’s not my style at all. But email I do use!”
Mr. Zuckerberg, in his Facebook post, counseled employees to be patient with all of the company’s changes. One of the new values instructs employees to “focus on the long-term impact” as Facebook makes its transition to the metaverse.
“We should take on the challenges that will be the most impactful, even if the full results won’t be seen for years,” he wrote.
Ryan Mac contributed reporting.