When Mark Zuckerberg announced last month that Facebook was changing its name, the company published a sleek animation online that showed logos of all its apps and products fusing together to form a shimmering vision of the future: a two-tone blue infinity symbol next to the word “Meta.”
The new symbol and name change were nods to Mr. Zuckerberg’s plans to refocus the Silicon Valley giant toward what he sees as the unification of disparate digital worlds into the so-called metaverse, the immersive, interconnected online space largely enabled by augmented and virtual reality. “The metaverse is the next frontier in connecting people,” he said in an announcement.
To design experts, the change by a scandal-plagued company was the latest example of efforts by corporate America to create brands that are less unique and ultimately less offensive. It was also a reflection of the growing challenge for corporate identities to exist in many different sizes and digital settings at once, from V.R. headsets to smartwatches — a challenge that is magnified for Meta as it tries to establish an identity for something that largely doesn’t exist yet.
“It checks a lot of boxes,” said Michael Evamy, the author of “Logo,” an anthology of corporate brands and logos. “It’s very simple. It’s very visible at all scales. It’s blue.” (Blue, he noted, is historically a color associated with safety and trustworthiness. The infinity symbol, devoid of corners and jagged edges, can be seen as nonthreatening.)
“But in a way it kind of looks exactly like you’d expect,” Mr. Evamy added. “Kind of underwhelming and risk-averse.”
Users and lawmakers worldwide are increasingly scrutinizing the wide reach of Facebook, whose products — including Instagram and WhatsApp — are used by more than 3.6 billion people every month. Even as Facebook grew to become one of the most valuable companies in the world, it spent the last several years moving from one embarrassing scandal to the next. Most recently, a former employee turned whistle-blower released a vast trove of internal documents, arguing that Mr. Zuckerberg and Facebook routinely placed profit over the well-being of people.
Mr. Zuckerberg said last month that the name change was a reflection of how much Facebook had evolved. “Right now our brand is so tightly linked to one product that it can’t possibly represent everything we’re doing today, let alone in the future,” he said.
Facebook has long been associated with its lowercase “f” logo — a simple mark but one that became globally recognizable as Facebook grew. The company’s other apps also have bold and colorful logos, which are staying as part of the rebranding.
Because Mr. Zuckerberg’s future vision rests on virtual reality, the company wanted a new logo that felt more dynamic and immersive. In March, the company began developing a logo by focusing “solely on exploring concepts with motion, dimensionality and perspective,” Zach Stubenvoll, Sam Halle and Marian Chiao, members of its internal design team, said in an email.
When using a V.R. headset, people often use a controller to draw boundary lines of their virtual experience. Meta’s designers said the color loop in the new logo that eventually twists into the infinity symbol was inspired by those boundary lines.
The design community’s response to Facebook’s change has been largely muted.
“This symbol just doesn’t get you excited about the metaverse,” Mr. Evamy said. “The opportunity they’ve missed is to produce something really exciting and transformative in its own way.”
Many other brands have very similar infinity-symbol logos, including those of web development software sold by Microsoft, a model of Top Flite golf balls, a wealth management firm and the rock band Hoobastank. A service owned by Meta called Boomerang also uses an infinity symbol.
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“An infinity loop is not very unique,” said Jessica Walsh, the founder and creative director of the design studio &Walsh. “However, unlike many brands, they’re in a privileged position where they don’t need to rely on their logo being distinct for it to be memorable.”
Paula Scher, a partner at Pentagram, a design consultancy whose clients include Bloomberg, Citibank and Tiffany, said she had seen a growing push for corporate brand logos to have motion and be multidimensional. Several years ago, for example, Google added animation to its logo. But Ms. Scher pointed out that making a logo more flexible risked making it less recognizable.
Rodrigo Corral, a book cover designer who has also worked with the rapper Jay-Z and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, often incorporates animation in his design work for clients. “But the logo has to stand on its own,” he cautioned. “It has to work without motion first.”
In recent years, brands have had to adapt their logos and identities to a wider array of digital platforms. As websites once solely viewed on desktop computers gave way to smartphone apps, logos had to function in smaller and smaller contexts — tiny squares and circles in social media feeds or miniature dots on smartwatches. Virtual reality offers yet another platform for brands to adapt to, one that is inherently defined by motion and 3-D.
Mr. Evamy noted that the new Meta logo was a departure from an era when corporate branding was much more evocative. “Big companies used to produce very brave, exciting, striking and stop-you-in-your-tracks symbols,” he said, pointing to the iconic stripes of IBM or the arrow hidden inside FedEx’s name.
But whereas a company like FedEx traditionally had to concern itself with branding on the side of a delivery truck and in TV commercials, Meta lives predominantly in the digital world across various platforms.
It is relatively uncharted territory. There is little precedent for corporate logos that can exist in 3-D within a virtual space where they can be interacted with and manipulated by a user.
“Our Meta design system is designed to grow and change with the company and as the metaverse is created,” Meta’s design team said in the email. “We needed to future-proof the symbol.”
Facebook Adds New Trend Insights in Creator Studio, Which Could Help Shape Your Posting Strategy
Facebook’s looking to provide more content insight within Creator Studio with the rollout of a new ‘Inspiration Hub’ element, which highlights trending content and hashtags within categories related to your business Page.
As you can see in these screenshots, posted by social media expert Matt Navarra, when it becomes available to you, you’ll be able to access the new Inspiration Hub from the Home tab in Creator Studio.
At the right side of the screen, you can see the first of the new insights, with trending hashtags and videos from the last 24 hours, posted by Pages similar to yours, displayed above a ‘See more’ prompt.
When you tap through to the new hub, you’ll have a range of additional filters to check out trending content from across Facebook, including Page category, content type, region, and more.
That could be hugely valuable in learning what Facebook users are responding to, and what people within your target market are engaging with in the app.
The Hub also includes insights into trending hashtags, within your chosen timeframe, which may further assist in tapping into trending discussions.
How valuable hashtags are on Facebook is still up for debate, but you’ll also note that you can filter the displayed results by platform, so you can additionally display Instagram hashtag trends as well, which could be very valuable in maximizing your reach.
Much of this type of info has been available within CrowdTangle, Facebook’s analytics platform for journalists, for some time, but not everyone can access CrowdTangle data, which could make this an even more valuable proposition for many marketers.
Of course, overall performance really relates to your own creative, and thinking through the action that you want your audience to take when reading your posts. But in terms of detecting new content trends, including hashtag usage, caption length, videos versus image posts, and more, there’s a lot that could be gleaned from these tools and filters.
It’s a significant analytics addition – we’ve asked Facebook for more info on the rollout of the new option, and whether it’s already beyond test mode, etc. We’ll update this post if/when we hear back.
Meta Updates Policy on Cryptocurrency Ads, Opening the Door to More Crypto Promotions in its Apps
With cryptocurrencies gaining momentum, in line with the broader Web 3.0 push, Meta has today announced an update to its ad policies around cryptocurrencies, which will open the door to more crypto advertisers on its platforms.
As per Meta:
“Starting today, we’re updating our eligibility criteria for running ads about cryptocurrency on our platform by expanding the number of regulatory licenses we accept from three to 27. We are also making the list of eligible licenses publicly available on our policy page.”
Essentially, in order to run any crypto ads in Meta’s apps, that currency needs to adhere to regional licensing provisions, which vary by nation. With crypto becoming more accepted, Meta’s now looking to enable more crypto companies to publish ads on its platform, which will provide expanded opportunity for recognized crypto providers to promote their products, while also enabling Meta to make more money from crypto ads.
“Previously, advertisers could submit an application and include information such as any licenses they obtained, whether they are traded on a public stock exchange, and other relevant public background on their business. However, over the years the cryptocurrency landscape has matured and stabilized and experienced an increase in government regulation, which has helped to set clearer responsibilities and expectations for the industry. Going forward, we will be moving away from using a variety of signals to confirm eligibility and instead requiring one of these 27 licenses.”
Is that a good move? Well, as Meta notes, the crypto marketplace is maturing, and there’s now much wider recognition of cryptocurrencies as a legitimate form of payment. But they’re also not supported by most local financial regulators, which reduced transaction protection and oversight, which also brings a level of risk in such process.
But then again, all crypto providers are required to clearly outline any such risks, and most also highlight the ongoing market volatility in the space. This expanded level of overall transparency means that most people who are investing in crypto have at least some awareness of these elements, which likely does diminish the risk factor in such promotions within Meta’s apps.
But as crypto adoption continues to expand, more of these risks will become apparent, and while much of the crypto community is built on good faith, and a sense of community around building something new, there are questions as to how much that can hold at scale, and what that will then mean for evolving scams and criminal activity, especially as more vulnerable investors are brought into the mix.
Broader promotional capacity through Meta’s apps will certainly help to boost exposure in this respect – though again, the relative risk factors are lessened by expanded regulatory oversight outside of the company.
You can read more about Meta’s expanded crypto ad regulations here.
Meta Outlines Evolving Safety Measures in Messaging as it Seeks to Allay Fears Around the Expansion of E2E Encryption
Amid rising concern about Meta’s move to roll out end-to-end encryption by default to all of its messaging apps, Meta’s Global Head of Safety Antigone Davis has today sought to provide a level of reassurance that Meta is indeed aware of the risks and dangers that such protection can pose, and that it is building safeguards into its processes to protect against potential misuse.
Though the measures outlined don’t exactly address all the issues raised by analysts and safety groups around the world.
As a quick recap, back in 2019, Facebook announced its plan to merge the messaging functionalities of Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp, which would then provide users with a universal inbox, with all of your message threads from each app accessible on either platform.
The idea is that this will simplify cross-connection, while also opening the door to more opportunities for brands to connect with users in the messaging tool of their choice – but it also, inherently, means that the data protection method for its messaging tools must rise to the level of WhatsApp, its most secure messaging platform, which already includes E2E encryption as the default.
Various child safety experts raised the alarm, and several months after Facebook’s initial announcement, representatives from the UK, US and Australian Governments sent an open letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg requesting that the company abandon its integration plan.
Meta has pushed ahead, despite specific concerns that the expansion of encryption will see its messaging tools used by child trafficking and exploitation groups, and now, as it closes in on the next stage, Meta’s working to counter such claims, with Davis outlining six key elements which she believes will ensure safety within this push.
Davis has explained the various measures that Meta has added on this front, including:
- Detection tools to stop adults from repeatedly setting up new profiles in an attempt to connect minors that they don’t know
- Safety notices in Messenger, which provide tips on spotting suspicious behavior
- The capacity to filter messages with selected keywords on Instagram
- More filtering options in chat requests to help avoid unwanted contact
- Improved education prompts to help detect spammers and scammers in messages
- New processes to make it easier to report potential harm, including an option to select “involves a child”, which will then prioritize the report for review and action
Which are all good, all important steps in detection, while Davis also notes that its reporting process “decrypts portions of the conversation that were previously encrypted and unavailable to us so that we can take immediate action if violations are detected”.
That’ll no doubt raise an eyebrow or two among WhatsApp users – but the problem here is that, overall, the broader concern is that such protections will facilitate usage by criminal groups, and the reliance on self-reporting in this respect is not going to have any impact on these networks operating, at scale, under a more protected messaging framework within Meta’s app eco-system.
Governments have called for ‘backdoor access’ to break Meta’s encryption for investigations into such activity, which Meta says is both not possible and will not be built into its future framework. The elements outlined by Davis do little to address this specific need, and without the capacity to better detect such, it’s hard to see any of the groups opposed to Meta’s expanded encryption changing their stance, and accepting that the merging of all of the platform’s DM options will not also see a rise in criminal activity organized via the same apps.
Of course, the counterargument could be that encryption is already available on WhatsApp, and that criminal activity of this type can already be undertaken within WhatsApp alone. But with a combined user count of 3.58 billion people per month across its family of apps, that’s a significantly broader interconnection of people than WhatsApp’s 2 billion active users, which, arguably, could open the door to far more potential harm and danger in this respect.
Really, there’s no right answer here. Privacy advocates will argue that encryption should be the standard, and that more people are actually more protected, on balance, by enhanced security measures. But there is also an undeniable risk in shielding even more criminal groups from detection.
Either way, right now, Meta seems determined to push ahead with the plan, which will weld all of its messaging tools together, and also make it more difficult to break-up its network, if any antitrust decisions don’t go Meta’s way, and it’s potentially pressed to sell-off Instagram or WhatsApp as a result.
But expect more debate to be had, in more countries, as Meta continues to justify its decision, and regulatory and law enforcement groups seek more options to help maintain a level of accessibility for criminal investigations and detection.
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