Skepticism, Confusion, Frustration: Mark Zuckerberg’s Metaverse Struggles From the Inside

Last October, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that the company would change its name to Meta and become a “metaverse company.” He envisioned a utopian future in which billions of people would spend hours in immersive digital environments working, socialising, and playing games in virtual and augmented worlds.

Meta has spent billions and hired thousands to realise Mr. Zuckerberg’s dream in the year since. Meta’s metaverse attempts started poorly.

Horizon Worlds, Meta’s flagship virtual-reality game, remains problematic and unloved, prompting a yearlong “quality lockdown” while the business reworks it.

Meta workers have grumbled about Mr. Zuckerberg’s frequent strategic shifts that seem unplanned.

One senior Meta executive said that the company’s spending on unproven projects made him “sick to my stomach.”

Mark Zuckerberg Metaverse

The New York Times obtained internal documents and interviewed more than a dozen Meta employees about the company’s battle to reorganise. They talked anonymously because they were not permitted to discuss internal concerns.

At a developer conference on Tuesday, Meta will introduce a new V.R. headset and other metaverse features. The company must shift quickly to make up for losses in other areas.

Meta’s two biggest revenue generators, Facebook and Instagram, are losing younger users to TikTok, and Apple’s privacy reforms have cost Meta billions in advertising revenue.

The company’s stock price has fallen over 60% in the previous year, reflecting market instability and investors’ scepticism that the metaverse could be profitable soon. Mr. Zuckerberg warned employees of layoffs after the business froze most recruiting in late September.

“The constraints Meta’s business is facing in 2022 are acute, considerable and not metaverse-related,” said investor and metaverse expert Matthew Ball, who advised Mr. Zuckerberg. “There is a possibility that practically everything Mark has stated about the metaverse is correct, but the timing is farther out than he imagined.”

Meta spokesman Andy Stone said the company was still on the right track.

“Being cynical about new and inventive technology is easy,” Mr. Stone added. “Building it is tougher, but we believe the metaverse is the future of computing.”

A decade ago, Mr. Zuckerberg transformed his company to focus on smartphones rather than desktops. Last year, he said investment in the metaverse will help Meta transition to a new technology era.

Meta may have beaten opponents with its gamble. According to outside estimates, the Quest 2 is the most popular consumer VR headset, selling over 15 million units. Sensor Tower estimates that its Oculus V.R. software, now called Meta Quest, has been downloaded over 21 million times on iOS and Android smartphones.

Meta’s success rests on its capacity to expand access to virtual and augmented reality capabilities.

Meta said in February that Horizon Worlds had 300,000 monthly active users, up from a few months earlier but still little compared to Facebook’s 2.9 billion. The firm declined to update Horizon Worlds data.

U.S. regulators appear determined to stop Meta from buying its way to success, as it did with Instagram and WhatsApp. Meta was sued by the FTC in July to prevent it from acquiring Within, a popular VR fitness programme. Meta is opposing the agency’s case, calling it “wrong on the facts and the law.”

After years of criticism of Facebook’s political speech policies, Mr. Zuckerberg startled several colleagues by becoming the metaverse’s pioneer. Mr. Zuckerberg fences and hydrofoils in Meta’s latest metaverse technology demos. On Joe Rogan’s show, the CEO called creating an immersive metaverse his “holy grail.”

Mark Zuckerberg Metaverse

His involvement has backfired. Mr. Zuckerberg announced that Horizon Worlds was expanding to France and Spain on his Facebook page in August with a screenshot of his avatar. The avatar’s flat, cartoonish appearance was ridiculed. One commenter called it “a 2002 Nintendo GameCube release.”

According to two employees, Mr. Zuckerberg and other management urged employees to prioritise avatar looks after that reaction. The Facebook spokesman, Mr. Stone, called Mr. Zuckerberg “frustrated” with the avatar backlash but did not elaborate.

The two employees said Mr. Zuckerberg’s digital visage and other Horizon Worlds avatar modifications were expedited.

Four days after his initial post, Mr. Zuckerberg released that improved digital representation of himself, admitting that his first avatar was “very rudimentary” whereas the “graphics in Horizon are capable of considerably more.”

Also Read:-Metaverse Mod Squad’s New Co Derry Centre Will Create 100 Employees

In a LinkedIn post that has since been deleted, a Meta graphic artist said he and his colleagues developed 40 variants of Mr. Zuckerberg’s face over four weeks before approving one.

Some Meta employees doubt Zuckerberg’s metaverse enthusiasm. He advised teams to meet in Meta’s Horizon Workrooms programme, which provides virtual conference rooms, this year.

One individual familiar with the events said many employees didn’t have V.R. headsets or hadn’t set them up, so they had to rush to buy and register them before managers caught on.

Blind, an anonymous professional social network, polled 1,000 Meta employees in May and found that just 58% understood the metaverse plan.

As Mr. Zuckerberg’s goals change, employees have complained about high turnover and frequent shuffles. Two Meta staffers stated some now joke about metaverse projects as M.M.H., an acronym for “making Mark happy.”

According to The Times, Vishal Shah, Meta’s metaverse division vice president, posted on an internal message board in September that he was unhappy with how few Meta employees were using Horizon Worlds.

In his message, first reported by The Verge, Mr. Shah said managers would start tracking Horizon Worlds use and that testing their own technologies was crucial.

“Why don’t we use our product all the time?” Shah asked. “If we don’t enjoy it, how can we expect our users to love it?”

Also Read:-What is Metaverse Facebook? Facebook’s Plan for Total Social Domination is the Metaverse!

In his article, Mr. Shah, who declined to respond to The Times, said Horizon will undergo a “quality lockdown” for the remainder of the year to “improve the overall craft and delight of our product.”

Meta has struggled to extend its metaverse, therefore some employees have offered unusual ways to attract new members. According to an internal message seen by The Times, three Meta employees advocated marketing V.R. headsets to Americans who received student debt relief from the Biden administration this summer to raise sales by 20%.

“This is a chance for Meta Quest expansion, given there is evidence that past Federal Stimulus stimulated growth,” the research read. The corporation did not follow the recommendations.

John Carmack, a famous game developer and former CTO of Oculus, the V.R. startup Facebook acquired for $2 billion in 2014, has criticised Mr. Zuckerberg’s metaverse strategy. He advises Meta part-time.

In an August podcast, Mr. Carmack said he was “sick to my stomach thinking about that much money being wasted” on Meta’s metaverse bet, which last year lost $10 billion in its A.R. and V.R. segments. Big-company bureaucracy and privacy and diversity concerns have slowed Meta’s metaverse development.

Mr. Carmack has also posted on Meta’s Workplace. Mr. Carmack, who is speaking at the developer conference on Tuesday, called the requirement to perform software updates before using the company’s V.R. headsets “very horrible for user enjoyment” in posts seen by The Times.

Mr. Carmack declined to comment.

Mr. Carmack has clashed with Meta’s CTO, Andrew Bosworth, who supervised the company’s V.R. operations for years and is a close Zuckerberg ally. According to four individuals who have worked with him, Mr. Carmack has encouraged the corporation to think about the metaverse largely from the immediate user experience, while Mr. Bosworth has focused on commercial potential.

Mr. Zuckerberg has told Meta staff to join or go as pressure mounts. The 38-year-old entrepreneur told Reuters in a June meeting that “there are definitely a handful of individuals at the company that shouldn’t be here” and that he would “turn up the heat” on expectations and targets.

Also Read:-Metaverse Character Rigging: How is a Metaverse Character Created And Update?

The Times received records of his statements. Since then, the business has suspended most recruiting, and cut spending, and Mr. Zuckerberg instructed managers to identify underperformers.

Some Meta employees have become more enthusiastic about the metaverse due to layoffs. Several employees reported Horizon Workrooms have been hosting more team meetings lately.

The change has been rough. According to a witness, Mr. Bosworth attempted to lead a Horizon Workrooms staff meeting earlier this year.

Comments are closed.