As I’ve written before, I do not think much of Mark Zuckerberg as a CEO. In the most charitable interpretation of the events of the last ten or so years, he has overseen a company grow from “catch up with what your friends are up to!” to a discordant social network experience where algorithms constantly attempt to trick you into doing stuff. It’s fair to say that Instagram and Facebook have become platforms that use their users, with your feed feeling like some sifting through cat litter for whatever nuggets of whatever it is you logged on to see, a thing that is becoming increasingly hard to remember.
As someone who bought a Quest back in the day and has mostly thoroughly enjoyed the experience, I can't help but notice that the main reason I stopped using it was Meta's involvement. It soured the experience and made it more fiddly, too. For a company so dedicated to VR and the Metaverse, that's not a great end result.
I'm still interested in VR, and if Valve make something affordable I'll be right back there. But I've no interest in Meta VR products.
And that's before you get into the social ickiness of Meta's overall offering. The idea of the people behind Facebook being in control of a metaverse and me voluntarily putting a thing on my head to be in a space controlled by them is laughable. VR inherently requires a huge amount of trust from the user, just from a practical sense if nothing else ("I hope I don't walk into my wall"), and Meta don't really have any trust from people.
The other aspect that has struck me is how disposable all of Meta's products are. Facebook was great for connecting with family and distant friends, but it's now easier to do that via chat groups (or even email). Instagram was fun for sharing pics, but that's now a faff, and it was hardly essential in the first place.
Compare it to another tech mega-corp, like Google, who have deliberately built services that are genuinely useful and hard to do without. Maps, email, search. Relying on one company for all of that isn't great, of course, but they've been far more sensible about creating an essential foundation for their business. I'd find it practically very difficult to stop using Google products; stopping using Meta products is easy and I don't miss them in the slightest. In fact, it feels like an improvement.
In all fairness to the Titanic, there is speculation that it would have survived had it run into the iceberg head-on, as it was the long, slow gash along its side as it tried to change course that compromised enough watertight compartments to doom the ship.
What does this have to do with Mark Zuckerberg? Well, I’m not sure that flooding all of the ship’s compartments one at a time rather than all at once is going to help the HMS Meta complete its voyage through the chilly Atlantic night.
Zuckerberg is very conspicuously the face of this massive investment in metaverse nonsense. It's not just that it's his company, he's the mascot for it, his creepy cybernoggin is in every promotional demo, etc. He also famously has complete control of the company, 51% voting shares, etc.
So let's say you're another Facebook exec. You want to wrest control of America's largest propaganda organ from it's dorky, semi-idealistic tyrant. Your only option is for Zuckerberg to voluntarily give up control and resign. How can that possibly happen?
Shame, infamy, and the prospect of his shares going up in value by billions of dollars if he resigns.
So when he has a dumb idea, why not encourage him a little? Suggest he promote it himself? Talk about how cool and futuristic and startuppy he gets to be? Stay out of the way, but make sure it's his baby. Whatever you do, don't make him slow down when things look like they're turning sour.
Excellent analysis. Another issue I see that have read about elsewhere so not really my original thought is that the Metaverse faces a fundamental structural problem. The hugely immersive detailed rendering that would make it worthwhile to users as a totally different paradigm is not scalable to even the million level much less billions, the scalable model is childish. So he is promising something that is virtually physically impossible to deliver wihout covering the earth in server farms.
This is taking aside a bunch of questions that I just thought up on a driver around town: How will metaverse prevent virtual murders/mobs? How will it stop child sex predation? How will it stop criminal money laundering and cross-border illegal misconduct? Will it be illegal to be trans in the metaverse if your red state has a law against such a program as "grooming"? Will it be a tax dodge? Will addiction to the metaverse be covered by health insurers for treatment?
I often think of Instagram as an overengineered product. They are just trying to hook up as many features on a single product to the point it becomes bloated enough to even make some sense out of it. I used to run an IG page but the changing standards and the platform's attempts to go above and beyond to control my attention lead me quitting it.
Kudos to Zuck for making Facebook a success that led to his billions, cuz as PT Barnum allegedly said, "There's a sucker born every minute". But now reality sets in and your "connecting the world" vision had turned into profit and control mode. Zuck, you reap what you sow. May you and your "vision" be thrown into the trash heap of history. Mazel Tov!
Trust, as a former employee, the brain drain has LONG been happening. The current crop is C-rated at best and only there because they know nothing better (lifers) or came from somewhere much more miserable (think similar job dissatisfaction for less pay). It's BAAAAD and won't be getting better anytime soon ..
That Metaverse Superbowl ad last year was the most depressing thing I'd seen in a long time (and the bar is high.)
Only $50 billion? Ed, this has to be one of your most optimistic columns.
Wow, what a great sequel to The Social Network.
(Speaking of movies: why does this remind me of Citizen Kane?)
It's pretty amazing. Microsoft shouldered their way into what was thought to be a saturated industry with Xbox, became a major player, popularized the industry with frat bros and then won their second hardware generation. All for less money than meta has spent on a bad chatroom.
Great read! While I believe there's something to the metaverse in the long run, Meta won't be the company that makes it happen...
that are so desperate to try and trick you into consuming content that they’ve forgotten that real people even use the app. And Tiktok doesn't do this as you suggest?
DAUs are at saturated levels, I don’t think users are turning off due to incessant ads, they just want a new experience. E.g. less ads won’t grow user base any larger. Company doesn’t have option apart from metaverse investing, perhaps more cost control needed however.