Why did Facebook become Meta?

When Marc Zuckerberg appeared on screen during Facebook’s Connect virtual conference on Thursday, smiling as he strolled through steril...


When Marc Zuckerberg appeared on screen during Facebook’s Connect virtual conference on Thursday, smiling as he strolled through sterile rooms filled with mid-century modern furniture, he looked like a discharged man.

Alert launcher? Which whistleblower? A cascade of confidence crisis that has been going on for years and that has raged regulators, bailed out employees and lawmakers comparing Facebook to Big Tobacco? Hmm, that doesn’t ring a bell.

Instead, Mr Zuckerberg and his lieutenants gleefully laid out their take on the so-called metaverse, the immersive virtual environment that Facebook – which, as of Thursday, has been renamed Meta, although everyone except a few professional financial journalists will likely continue to call it Facebook – trying to build.

As with most of Facebook’s strategic announcements, Thursday’s rebranding formalized a change that has been going on for years. The company already has more than 10,000 people working on augmented and virtual reality projects in its Reality Labs division – roughly twice as many people as all Twitter staff – and said so. considering hiring 10,000 more in Europe soon. Earlier this week, the company announcement that he would spend around $ 10 billion in metaverse-related investments this year, and he was acquisition of VR start-ups in what could amount to a land grab from the Metaverse.

There are several types of questions that can be asked about this metaverse strategy. The first and most basic is: What is a metaverse, and what will the Facebook version of one of them look like?

This question was answered, at least partially, by Thursday’s presentation. Mr. Zuckerberg painted a picture of the metaverse as a clean, well-lit virtual world, entered with virtual and augmented reality hardware early on and more advanced body sensors later, in which people can play virtual games, witness go to virtual concerts, shop for virtual goods, collect virtual art, spend time with each other’s virtual avatars and attend virtual business meetings.

This vision of an immersive digital realm is not new – it has been sketched out almost 30 years ago by sci-fi author Neal Stephenson – but Zuckerberg is betting Facebook’s future on the bet that it will become real, claiming the metaverse will be a “successor to the mobile internet.”

Another obvious question you might ask is “Will this work?” It’s impossible to say for sure, of course, although I personally am skeptical that Facebook – a cumbersome bureaucracy whose greatest breakthroughs over the past decade have mainly come from the purchase of apps. competing or copying their functionality, rather than developing their own ideas in-house – will create an immersive digital world that people really want to spend time in.

But the most interesting question, in my opinion, is: why Does Mr. Zuckerberg do this? After all, this isn’t the prelude to a big corporate reorganization or the sign of a CEO who wants to make his job easier, as it did when Google rebranded itself as Alphabet in 2015 and Larry Page has ceded control on a daily basis. from Google to Sundar Pichai. And while some have speculated that the Meta rebranding is meant to deflect attention from Facebook’s latest round of scandals, it’s bizarre to think that announcing a radical plan to reinvent the digital world would draw criticism. less skeptical of the company’s motives.

To understand why Mr. Zuckerberg is going all-in, it helps to understand that a successful metaverse pivot could help solve at least four big, thorny issues Facebook faces here in the Earth world.

The first is the one I have written beforeThat is, Facebook’s core business in social media is aging and young users are abandoning its apps in favor of TikTok, Snapchat and other cooler apps. Facebook’s youth problem hasn’t hurt it financially yet, but ad revenue is a lagging indicator, and there’s plenty of evidence that even Instagram – the supposedly healthy app in Facebook’s wallet – is quickly losing momentum. attention of adolescents and young people in their twenties.

The darker version of what Facebook could become over the next few years, if current trends continue – a baby boomer-dominated sludge pit filled with cute animal videos and hyperpartisan garbage – is clearly not the kind of thing the company wants as a flagship product. (Mr Zuckerberg explicitly endorsed a youth-focused strategy this week, saying the company’s new goal is to attract and retain young users.)

The Metaverse could help cope with the company’s demographic crisis, if it encourages young people to strap on their Oculus headsets and hang out in Horizon – Facebook’s virtual reality social app – instead of watching TikTok videos. on their phones.

Another problem that Facebook’s metaverse strategy could solve, if it works, is platform risk. For years Mr. Zuckerberg has been annoyed that because Facebook’s mobile apps run on iOS and Android, its success depends heavily on Apple and Google, two companies whose priorities are often diametrically opposed to its own. Apple’s changes to “application tracking transparency” this year, for example, have taken a heavy toll on Facebook’s advertising business by making it harder for the company to collect data on mobile activity. users. And if smartphones remain the dominant means by which people interact online, Facebook will never truly control its own destiny.

Mr. Zuckerberg has been talking about the strategic advantages of the Metaverse since at least 2015, when he wrote to his lieutenants that “we must succeed in creating both a major platform and key applications to improve our strategic position on the next platform”.

A metaverse strategy, if it worked, could finally get Facebook out of the thumbs of Apple and Google by directing users to Facebook-owned platforms like Oculus, where it doesn’t have to worry about being kicked out of the way. ‘App Store for spy on user activity Where aid in the illegal trafficking of domestic workers. And that would mean that if Facebook wanted to charge for, say, virtual clothes in one of its metaverse apps, it could do so without paying a 30% fee to a rival. (Mr. Zuckerberg indirectly criticized Apple and Google on Thursday, saying their control of the mobile app ecosystem “is stifling innovation, preventing people from creating new things, and holding back the entire internet economy. . “)

The third problem Facebook faces is regulatory risk. Facebook isn’t set to be dismantled, exactly, but regulators are making enough noise to restrict its growth (by establishing new privacy laws or preventing it from acquiring the next Instagram, for example) that it makes sense to place bets in some of the areas, like virtual reality and augmented reality, which are less likely to be regulated anytime soon. Plus, given that many of Facebook’s regulatory issues stem from how its apps are used for heated political debates, the Metaverse could allow it to point to a nicer, gentler social universe that hasn’t yet been made. co-opted by angry supporters. (A group that obviously was not pictured hanging out in the Metaverse during Thursday’s presentation? The politicians.)

The fourth issue, of course, is the reputational damage Facebook has suffered due to its many missteps and scandals over the years. For years, everything Facebook does, even projects that have nothing to do with social media, like introduction of a cryptocurrency wallet – was tainted by association. And given that dozens of media are still examining a year of damning internal research, the public image of the company is likely to deteriorate before improving.

Mr. Zuckerberg, whose new public figure is something like “futuristic above all,” declares not to have been motivated to rename Facebook out of a desire to escape the company’s baggage. But Facebook’s toxic brand has had real consequences. This demoralized the company’s workforce and made it harder for Facebook to attract and retain talented employees. He drowned out partnerships, put advertisers on edge and made Mr. Zuckerberg – who, despite his overt ambivalence, wants him to be remembered as a visionary technologist rather than a destroyer of democracy – into a villain of world history.

Building the Metaverse won’t fix any of these issues overnight. It probably won’t solve them at all and could, in fact, invite new kinds of reviews that Facebook wouldn’t have faced if it had simply spent the next few years focusing all of its attention on solving problems with its. existing products.

But it would be wrong to view Facebook’s metaverse as just a marketing gimmick or a strategic ploy to give the company more leverage over its rivals. (Although it’s both.) If it works, Mr. Zuckerberg’s metaverse would usher in a new era of domination – one that would extend Facebook’s influence to entirely new types of culture, communication, and commerce. And if it doesn’t, it will be remembered as a desperate and expensive attempt to give a futuristic facelift to a geriatric social network while distracting attention from pressing societal issues. Either possibility is worth taking seriously.

Either way, this is not a stroke of vanity for Mr. Zuckerberg. In the metaverse, he found what could be an escape route – a way to kick himself out of Facebook’s messy and troubled present and innovate on a new untouched frontier. No wonder he looks so happy.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Why did Facebook become Meta?
Why did Facebook become Meta?
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