Mark Zuckerberg Is A Liar, And He's Lying To You About The Metaverse
Mark Zuckerberg is not Steve Jobs.
Harry McCracken, a technology editor at FastCompany, made the most hackneyed defense of the metaverse yet - the suggestion that the rejection (was there a rejection?) of mobile phones in 1994 and the success of the iPhone about some 13 years later is some proof point for the metaverse.
The problem with this logic - as common as it is - is that it conflates “Steve Jobs took big swings with the iPad and iPhone” with “sometimes we just have to trust CEOs that are spending billions of dollars on nothing.” Jobs was not pushing something that didn’t exist; he was simply taking a form factor of something we had on us a lot - our phone and our MP3 player or walkman - and combining it into a more consumer-friendly format. The user experience on the iPhone was innovative and, specifically, a breath of fresh air in a cellphone industry that felt several leagues behind personal computing.
What Jobs was not selling us was a new and foreign concept. We might have had to relearn how we did certain things, but we were not learning new things to do - we were making phone calls, listening to music, and browsing the web. These were all things we did before, done on a new device, in a new way, pitched to us by a charming sociopath. The “new” thing was the idea of a persistent, portable internet connection that was remotely affordable for consumers. While Jobs challenged us to think differently, he didn’t have to spend multiple interviews explaining what the hell an iPhone did.
Another thing Jobs didn’t do was massively misrepresent what a product could do or promise impossible things.
Zuckerberg, on the other hand, is a charlatan and a liar. He has used his vast wealth and influence to spread a non-specific metaverse gospel to distance himself from Facebook's damage to society. And his cronies are doing the same thing:
The utter vapidity of this paragraph fills me full of bile. In this scenario, what exactly is Meta creating? What is Meta’s product? What are you doing for money? If you were hoping that Zuckerberg himself would answer this, you would be wrong:
I think a lot of people, when they think about the metaverse, they think about just virtual reality — which I think is going to be an important part of that. And that’s clearly a part that we’re very invested in, because it’s the technology that delivers the clearest form of presence. But the metaverse isn’t just virtual reality. It’s going to be accessible across all of our different computing platforms; VR and AR, but also PC, and also mobile devices and game consoles. Speaking of which, a lot of people also think about the metaverse as primarily something that’s about gaming. And I think entertainment is clearly going to be a big part of it, but I don’t think that this is just gaming. I think that this is a persistent, synchronous environment where we can be together, which I think is probably going to resemble some kind of a hybrid between the social platforms that we see today, but an environment where you’re embodied in it.
If I were the interviewer in question - and they should be ashamed of themselves! - I would respond to this with “what are you actually describing, Mark?” because, depending on how you read this paragraph, he’s describing apps, virtual reality, gaming, and several other things. One could argue that he is simply describing the internet, in which case he is creating nothing (which is Facebook’s modus operandi) and wants to…be the web’s portal? I don’t even know.
Even the analysts are getting in on the hype, with Gartner’s most spurious analysis yet claiming that “25% of people will spend at least one hour per day in the metaverse by 2026:
Gartner defines a metaverse as a collective virtual shared space, created by the convergence of virtually enhanced physical and digital reality. It is persistent, providing enhanced immersive experiences, as well as device independent and accessible through any type of device, from tablets to head-mounted displays.
Because no single vendor will own the metaverse, Gartner expects it to have a virtual economy enabled by digital currencies and nonfungible tokens (NFTs). The metaverse will impact every business that consumers interact with every day.
Wow, that’s wild! It also is either totally made up or something that has already happened, a vacuous catch-all that lets everybody pretend we’re participating in science fiction while nothing changes. A persistent, immersive experience? That’s an MMO. “Virtually enhanced physical and digital reality”? That could mean anything from “I put on the headset, and I can smell Narnia” to “this Snapchat lens makes me look like a dog.” This vague definition is precisely what Mark Zuckerberg wanted - for other people to do the hard work of filling in the gaps he deliberately left. It’s like he’s writing Lost, except he’s tricking half the tech industry into writing fan theories.
The Meaningless Metaverse
Jokes aside, this whole situation is terrible. The media is engaging in 2015 Indiegogo-esque speculation, smiling and nodding as millionaires and billionaires increasingly find ways to monetize you. The intermingling of NFTs and cryptocurrency into the metaverse is a natural combination of different kinds of hot air built for exploration - Zuckerberg created this conversation to distract from his problems and made fertile ground for truly evil people to profit.
If you need proof that Zuckerberg is engaging with this stuff as a distraction, look no further than his interview with hustle-goon Gary Vaynerchuk. He is actively and deliberately looking for ways to create more confusion about what his core product is and does. And by talking about Web3 and cryptocurrency, two things that are totally unsupported by any Meta product (anymore), Zuckerberg is making sure he has the air cover of an entire industry of people that will spend money on stuff built on lies, an industry that they will defend to the death.
And yet the media seems genuinely scared of calling out Zuckerberg’s extremely public fibbing. The Wall Street Journal - the same one that exposed the fraud of blood testing starting Theranos - is desperate to tell you that the metaverse will change the world of work. The New York Times along with every other outlet has a quizzical “hmm, what is the Metaverse?” piece that gives air cover for Zuckerberg by saying that “the biggest ideas in tech often lurch into the lexicon before they are truly coherent.” As I mentioned above, the Verge totally failed to hold Zuckerberg accountable in their interview, accepting his worldview as if it was reasonable and acting as such.
To me, reporters covering Zuckerberg and his “metaverse” are more worried about not being right than they are about being wrong. They are gambling that Zuckerberg knows what he’s doing, that he’s the innovative genius that they’ve thought he was the whole time, as opposed to the CEO of a company that has acquired all of its “innovation.”
It is a massive problem that many prominent reporters are blindly accepting that the CEO of one of the most valuable companies in the world is shoving $10 billion into a concept he cannot describe. And instead of reacting with the incredulity and suspicion that Zuckerberg deserves, they’re asking us to take a minute and “take the metaverse seriously.”
Let me give you an alternate take: the reason that so many people wrote about and funded Theranos was that lots of big names had put money behind it. They believed that such a vast amount of capital couldn’t possibly go into a non-existent concept, and thus many failed to interrogate the validity of any of their promises.
The difference is that the media knows better. Facebook and Zuckerberg have done very little to earn the benefit of the doubt they are so regularly given, and the zombie-like acceptance and adoption of “the metaverse having its moment” is utterly pathetic. I think it’s partially because it’s so hard to believe that someone with such power, influence and supposed business acumen would so brazenly lie, and have so many people lie on his behalf.
The thing is…they’ve done it before. Facebook loves lying. They make money on other people’s lies, lots of money, and Zuckerberg is a liar himself. There is little historical data to prove that you should trust what Zuckerberg is promising and a wealth of proof that he is absolutely willing to do whatever it takes - which includes lying - to make money.
The magic of the vacuousness of Zuckerberg’s metaverse is that it’s imminently defensible. When you ask him in five years why he has made no meaningful progress toward any of the promises he made, he can say “well, what I actually meant,” and point to one of his many servings of word salad that access journalists have happily printed. And when you ask what the hell this is, or why Zuckerberg pretended any of this was possible, he’ll be able to say that “it’s still the beginning.”
Why will he be able to do that? Because instead of being faced with opposition to his lies, so many people have sought to explain his idea for him. You would think that they would be suspicious of a liar that propped up other liars, that lied to make people angry and make money and may have lied to congress, Instead, Zuckerberg was met with optimism and curiosity.
The funny part is that he may still lose. While members of the media may be willing to prop up Zuckerberg’s fan fiction, Wall Street has pummeled Meta’s stock. Facebook’s quarterly growth has declined for the first time in history, and Meta has yet to create any meaningful product outside of Facebook itself. If anything, Meta is best known as a private equity firm, gobbling up companies like Instagram and WhatsApp. Hell, even Oculus, a product at the core of their vision of “the metaverse,” was something that they acquired.
Zuckerberg and Meta should no longer be treated as acting in good faith. Their previous actions - from the very beginning of Facebook - have only proven that they’re deeply untrustworthy and will do just about anything to make a buck. They have coasted for years off of mewling defensive access journalism and the general sense that they are too big to actually fail, an image that has increasingly started to crumble under the scrutiny of the government and investors.
If you are blindly writing a “what is the metaverse?” or “why you need to take Meta seriously” piece, you are a willing participant in Zuckerberg’s propaganda. Every company following Zuckerberg’s lead and talking about how “the metaverse is the future” by repackaging old things is engaging in a vile form of disinformation - a conscious attempt to mislead the public into believing something old is new, or something impossible is happening today.
In truth, Meta and Zuckerberg are no better than Magic Leap, an Augmented Reality company that famously lied through its teeth about the capabilities of its headset. They are telling the same lies, in the same way, and are being met with the same hopeful optimism that conned investors out of millions of dollars.
Zuckerberg is desperate and scared, and he needs you to ignore what’s happened and what’s happening, and focus on what he says might happen.
Otherwise you might realize he’s full of shit.