Saying Bye to Facebook: Why Companies Change Their Name
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Saying Bye to Facebook: Why Companies Change Their Name

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As anyone who’s started a company knows, choosing a name is no easy task.

There are many considerations, such as:

  • Are the social handles and domain name available?
  • Is there a competitor already using a similar name?
  • Can people spell, pronounce, and remember the name?
  • Are there cultural or symbolic interpretations that could be problematic?

The list goes on. These considerations are amplified when a company is already established, and even more difficult when your company serves billions of users around the globe.

Facebook (the parent company, not the social network) has changed its name to Meta, and we’ll examine some probable reasons for the rebrand. But first we’ll look at historical corporate name changes in recent history, exploring the various motivations behind why a company might change its name. Below are some of the categories of rebranding that stand out the most.

Social Pressure

Societal perceptions can change fast, and companies do their best to anticipate these changes in advance. Or, if they don’t change in time, their hands might get forced.

corporate name changes social pressure

As time goes on, companies with more overt negative externalities have come under pressure—particularly in the era of ESG investing. Social pressure was behind the name changes at Total and Philip Morris. In the case of the former, the switch to TotalEnergies was meant to signal the company’s shift beyond oil and gas to include renewable energy.

In some cases, the reason why companies change their name is more subtle. GMAC (General Motors Acceptance Corporation) didn’t want to be associated with subprime lending and the subsequent multi-billion dollar bailout from the U.S. government, and a name change was one way of starting with a “clean slate”. The financial services company rebranded to Ally in 2010.

Hitting the Reset Button

Brands can become unpopular over time because of scandals, a decline in quality, or countless other reasons. When this happens, a name change can be a way of getting customers to shed those old, negative connotations.

corporate name changes restart button

Internet and TV providers rank dead last in customer satisfaction ratings, so it’s no surprise that many have changed their names in recent years.

We Do More

This is a very common scenario, particularly as companies go through a rapid expansion or find success with new product offerings. After a period of sustained growth and change, a company may find that the current name is too limiting or no longer accurately reflects what the company has become.

corporate name changes broadening the scope

Both Apple and Starbucks have simplified their company names over the years. The former dropped “Computers” from its name in 2007, and Starbucks dropped “Coffee” from its name in 2011. In both these cases, the name change meant disassociating the company with what initially made them successful, but in both cases it was a gamble that paid off.

One of the biggest name changes in recent years is the switch from Google to Alphabet. This name change signaled the company’s desire to expand beyond internet search and advertising.

Square also found itself in a similar situation. The “Square” brand had become synonymous with its commerce solutions, so the parent company became Block to help the company signal a shift into other areas of business.

The Start-Up Name Pivot

Another very common name change scenario is the early-stage name change.

start-up name change

In the world of music, there’s speculation that limited melodies and subconscious plagiarism will make creating new music increasingly difficult in the future. Similarly, there are millions of companies in the world and only so many short and snappy names. (That’s how we end up with companies called Quibi.)

Many of the popular digital services we use today started with very different names. The Google we know today was once called Backrub. Instagram began life as Bourbn, and Twitter began life as “Twittr” before finding a spare E in the scrabble pile.

Trademark Problems

As mentioned above, many companies start out as speculative experiments or passion projects, when a viable, well-vetted name isn’t high on the priority list. As a result, new companies can run into trademark problems.

corporate name change trademark

This was the case when Picaboo, the precursor of Snapchat, was forced to change their name in 2011. The existing Picaboo—a photobook company—was not thrilled to share a name with an app that was primarily associated with sexting at the time.

The fight over the name WWF was a more unique scenario. In 1994, the World Wildlife Fund and the World Wrestling Federation had a mutual agreement that the latter would stop using the initials internationally, except for fleeting uses such as “WWF champion”. In the end though, the agreement was largely ignored, and the issue became a sticking point when the wrestling company registered wwf.com. Eventually, the company rebranded as WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) after losing a lawsuit.

Course Correction

To err is human, and rebranding exercises don’t always hit the mark. When a name change is universally panned or, perhaps worse, not relevant, it’s time to course correct.

name changes course correction

Tribune Publishing was forced to backtrack after their name change to Tronc in 2016. The widely-panned name, which was stylized in all lower case, was seen as a clumsy attempt to become a digital-first publisher.

Why Is Facebook Changing Its Name?

Facebook undertook this name change for a number of reasons, but chief among them is that the brand is irrevocably associated with scandals, negative externalities, and Mark Zuckerberg.

Even before the most recent outage and whistle-blowing scandal, Facebook was already the least-trusted tech company by a long shot. Mark Zuckerberg was once the most admired CEO in Silicon Valley, but has since fallen from grace.

It’s easy to focus on the negative triggers for the impending name change, but there is some substance behind the change as well. For one, Facebook recognizes that privacy issues have put their primary source of revenue at risk. The company’s ad-driven model built upon its users’ data is coming under increasing scrutiny with each passing year.

As well, there is substance behind the metaverse hype. Facebook first signaled their ambitions in 2014, when it acquired the virtual reality headset maker Oculus. A sizable portion of the company’s workforce is already working on making the metaverse concept a reality, and there are plans to hire 10,000 more people in Europe over the next five years.

It remains to be seen whether this immense gamble pays off, but for the near future, Zuckerberg and Facebook’s investors will be keeping a close eye on how the media and public react to the new Meta name and how the transition plays out. After all, there are billions of dollars at stake.

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The World’s Biggest Startups: Top Unicorns of 2021

Here are the world’s biggest startups with a valuation above $10 billion.

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World’s Biggest Startups Top Unicorns of 2021 Shareable

The World’s Biggest Startups: Top Unicorns of 2021

Many entrepreneurs start businesses around the world, but only the most successful new companies become “unicorns”—the biggest startups with a valuation above $1 billion.

Some unicorns are little-known companies making quiet but impactful strides in software, healthcare, automotive, and other fields. Others have already become well-known industry leaders, like aerospace manufacturer SpaceX and game developer and publisher Epic Games.

In total, there are more than 800 unicorn startups globally. That said, this visualization specifically hones in on the world’s decacorns (unicorns with valuations above $10 billion) as of December 2021 according to CB Insights.

Private Startups Valued at Over $10 Billion

The world’s most prominent unicorns constantly see their valuations change as they enter different rounds of funding or maturity.

In December 2021, there were 35 startups with a valuation above $10 billion, spread out across different countries and industries.

CompanyValuationCountryCategory
Bytedance$140BChinaArtificial intelligence
SpaceX$100.3BU.S.Other
Stripe$95BU.S.Fintech
Klarna$45.6BSwedenFintech
Canva$40BAustraliaInternet software & services
Instacart$39BU.S.Supply chain, logistics, & delivery
Databricks$38BU.S.Data management & analytics
Revolut$33BUKFintech
Nubank$30BBrazilFintech
Epic Games$28.7BU.S.Other
Chime$25BU.S.Fintech
FTX$25BChina (Hong Kong)Fintech
BYJU's$21BIndiaEdtech
Xiaohongshu$20BChinaE-commerce & direct-to-consumer
J&T Express$20BIndonesiaSupply chain, logistics, & delivery
Fanatics$18BU.S.E-commerce & direct-to-consumer
Yuanfudao$15.5BChinaEdtech
DJI Innovations$15BChinaHardware
SHEIN$15BChinaE-commerce & direct-to-consumer
Checkout.com$15BUKFintech
goPuff$15BU.S.E-commerce & direct-to-consumer
Plaid Technologies$13.4BU.S.Fintech
Grammarly$13BU.S.Internet software & services
Devoted Health$12.6BU.S.Health
Faire$12.4BU.S.Artificial intelligence
Brex$12.3BU.S.Fintech
SenseTime$12BChinaArtificial intelligence
Bitmain Technologies$12BChinaHardware
Biosplice Therapeutics$12BU.S.Health
JUUL Labs$12BU.S.Consumer & retail
GoodLeap$12BU.S.Internet software & services
ZongMu Technology$11.4BChinaAuto & transportation
Global Switch$11.1BUKHardware
Celonis$11BGermanyData management & analytics
Weilong$10.9BChinaConsumer & retail

Many of the most valuable startups are already giants in their fields. For example, social media company Bytedance is the developer behind video network platform Douyin and its international version, TikTok, and has amassed a valuation of $140 billion.

Financial services and payment software company Stripe jumped from a valuation of $36 billion to $95 billion over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Even less universally prominent names like Swedish fintech Klarna ($45.6 billion) and Australian graphic design platform Canva ($40.0 billion) are well known within their respective fields.

But private valuations don’t last forever. Many eventually go public, like electric vehicle maker and Tesla competitor Rivian, which had a valuation of $27.6 billion before listing on the NASDAQ.

The Biggest Startups by Industries and Countries

Breaking down the world’s biggest startups by industry highlights that tech is still king in most investing circles.

More than 77% of unicorns valued above $10 billion are categorized directly in tech-related fields, primarily in financial and commerce software.

Startups Valued Above $10B By IndustryNumber
Fintech9
E-commerce & direct-to-consumer4
Artificial intelligence3
Hardware3
Internet software & services3
Consumer & retail2
Data management & analytics2
Edtech2
Health2
Other2
Supply chain, logistics, & delivery2
Auto & transportation1

And many of the unicorns categorized in non-tech fields are still technology companies at their core. In fact, Indonesia’s logistics and package delivery company J&T Express is one of the few unicorns not directly in tech, though it still uses automated sorting in its warehouses.

It was one of the few startups to come from somewhere other than the U.S. or China, which together accounted for over 70% of the 35 biggest startups. The UK (3) was the next most-frequently listed headquarters, while Australia, Brazil, Germany, India and Sweden each had one of these unicorns on the list.

With constantly fluctuating valuations and technological breakthroughs always around the corner, the next $10 billion unicorn could come from almost anywhere.

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Ranked: The World’s Most Popular Social Networks, and Who Owns Them

When it comes to social networks, Meta is the dominant player, with a combined total of 7.5 billion MAUs across its four platforms.

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The World’s Most Popular Social Networks, and Who Owns Them

Currently, there are over 4.5 billion people around the world who use some form of social media—about 57% of the global population.

Yet, while social media’s audience is widespread and diverse, just a handful of companies control a majority of the world’s most popular social media platforms. Meta, the tech giant formerly known as Facebook, owns four of the five most widely used platforms.

This graphic highlights the biggest social networks across the globe, measured by their monthly active users (MAUs).

Note: We’ll be using terms like “social network” and “social platform” interchangeably to refer to various messaging, video, and image-sharing platforms that have social attributes built in.

Top Social Platforms by Monthly Active Users

To measure each platform’s MAUs, we dug into various sources, including the most recent company SEC filings, and quarterly earnings reports.

A majority of Meta’s user base comes from its most popular platform, Facebook—the social media giant currently has around 2.9 billion MAUs worldwide.

RankPlatform nameParent companyCountryMonthly active users, in millions
#1FacebookMeta🇺🇸 U.S.2,910
#2YouTubeAlphabet🇺🇸 U.S.2,291
#3WhatsAppMeta🇺🇸 U.S.2,000
#4MessengerMeta🇺🇸 U.S.1,300
#5InstagramMeta🇺🇸 U.S.1,287
#6WeChatTencent🇨🇳 China1,225
#7KuaishouKuaishou🇨🇳 China1,000
#8TikTokBytedance🇨🇳 China1,000
#9TelegramTelegram🇦🇪 UAE600
#10QzoneTencent🇨🇳 China600
#11QQTencent🇨🇳 China591
#12WeiboSina🇨🇳 China566
#13DouyinBytedance🇨🇳 China550
#14SnapchatSnap🇺🇸 U.S.538
#15TwitterTwitter🇺🇸 U.S.463
#16PinterestPinterest🇺🇸 U.S.454
#17RedditReddit🇺🇸 U.S.430
#18LinkedInMicrosoft🇺🇸 U.S.310
#19QuoraQuora🇺🇸 U.S.300
#20SkypeMicrosoft🇺🇸 U.S.300
#21TiebaBaidu🇨🇳 China300
#22ViberRakuten🇯🇵 Japan250
#23TeamsMicrosoft🇺🇸 U.S.250
#24imoPageBites🇺🇸 U.S.212
#25LineNaver🇰🇷 South Korea169
#26PicsartPicsart🇺🇸 U.S.150
#27LikeeBigo Live🇸🇬 Singapore150
#28DiscordDiscord🇺🇸 U.S.140

Where in the world are Facebook users located? The platform’s biggest user base comes from India, with an audience size of almost 350 million. Its second-largest user base is the United States, with 193.9 million users, while Indonesia comes in third with 142.5 million.

But Facebook isn’t the only social giant in Meta’s network of platforms. WhatsApp has approximately 2 billion MAUs, making it Meta’s second-largest platform, and the third-largest social network overall.

Like Facebook, a significant number of WhatsApp users are located in India, with roughly 390 million users. Brazil has a large portion of WhatsApp users as well, with an audience size of 108 million.

The Billion Users Club

Meta currently dominates the social network landscape, with a combined total of 7.5 billion MAUs across all four of its platforms. However, a few other companies also hit the one billion MAU mark across all their platforms on the list:

RankParent company# of companies on the listCountryCombined MUAs
1Meta4🇺🇸 U.S.7.5 billion
2Tencent3🇨🇳 China2.4 billion
3Alphabet1🇺🇸 U.S.2.3 billion
4Bytedance2🇨🇳 China1.6 billion
5Kuaishou1🇨🇳 China1 billion

After Meta, Tencent has the second-highest reach thanks to its three platforms—WeChat, Qzone, and QQ. Of the three, WeChat is currently the most popular. On average, WeChat users send about 45 billion messages a day.

Third on the list is Alphabet, thanks to its one platform, YouTube. Founded in 2005, this video streaming platform currently has over 50 million content creators, who share approximately 500 hours of video content every minute.

Close behind Alphabet is Bytedance, with a combined 1.6 billion MAUs across its two platforms—Douyin and its international counterpart TikTok. While the apps share a lot of similarities, they function as completely separate entities, with different registration, content policies, and regulations.

Global Social Networks? Not Always

While social media networks often transcend country borders, it’s worth noting that the online realm does not completely escape the constraints and regulations of our physical world.

Since 2009, Facebook has been banned in China for not complying with censorship rules. Facebook was also blocked in Iran and Syria around the same time and has been blocked sporadically since.

In 2020, the Trump administration tried to enact a similar ban against TikTok, but the order was blocked by a federal judge and eventually revoked by the Biden administration a year later.

Despite various bans and roadblocks, it’s clear that social media platforms have seeped into the lives (and onto the screens) of users across the globe. And as internet access worldwide continues to grow, so too will the number of social media users.

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