Friday Five: Facebook changes to Meta in major rebrand

Zone’s Ross Basham handpicks and shares the five best new stories on digital trends, experiences and technologies…

1. Facebook changes to Meta in major rebrand

So, the secret is out — Facebook has changed its corporate name to Meta as part of a major rebrand. The company said it would better “encompass” what it does, as it broadens its reach beyond social media into areas like virtual reality (VR). Individual platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp will keep their names.

Mark Zuckerberg announced the name as he unveiled plans to build a “metaverse” — an online world where people can game, work and communicate in a virtual environment, often using VR headsets. However, critics think Facebook is trying to divert attention away from the trove of negative stories hanging around the company.

2. Google lets U18s remove images from search

Google is trying to make it easier for under-18s to remove images of themselvesfrom search results. “We know that kids and teens have to navigate some unique challenges online, especially when a picture of them is unexpectedly available on the internet,” the company said in a blog post on Wednesday.

In short, under-18s or their guardians can fill out a form with image URLs, search result queries and URLs of search result pages. Google’s post also noted that this doesn’t mean that the images are gone from the internet. This comes at a time when tech companies are facing increased scrutiny over their effects on kids.

3. Cyber-attack hits UK internet phone providers

An “unprecedented” and co-ordinated cyber-attack has struck multiple UK-based providers of voice over internet protocol (VoIP) services, according to an industry body. Comms Council UK said several of its members had been targeted by distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks in recent weeks.

VoIP providers offer internet-based calls to a range of customers, including businesses as well as public services, including the police and NHS. A Comms Council UK spokesman was unable to say how many firms were affected but added: “We have never seen anything like it since we were established back in 2004.”

4. UK to phase out multi-billion pound tech tax

Britain is to phase out a tax on revenues made by the likes of Facebook, Google and Amazon after global reforms were agreed. The UK last year launched a 2% digital services tax on sales by search engines, social media services and online marketplaces, which netted the Treasury £300m in the 2020/21 financial year.

That was a response to concerns that multinational tech giants making money in the UK were shifting their profits overseas where they could be taxed at lower rates. But now a global deal has been agreed in which the largest multinationals will be expected to pay a “fair share” of tax in the markets where they do business.

5. Flying taxis could be a reality in three years

For many people, the idea of flying taxis ferrying people around cities brings to mind the 1960s TV show The Jetsons. It depicted a family living in a futuristic metropolis where commuters headed to work in cars that soared through the air. Sixty years later those science-fiction dreams are closer than ever to becoming a reality.

With the likes of Uber and Boeing developing eVTOL (electric vertical take-off and landing) flying taxis, one report predicts that by 2040 there will be 430,000 such vehicles in operation around the world. And one California-based firm, Joby Aviation, hopes to get approval to begin commercial operations by 2024.

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