Two articles today, published within three hours of each other, cover much of the same ground and can be summarized in the same way: Meta is struggling in what it hopes is a transition from several social network businesses to defining the “metaverse”.
First, Alex Heath and David Pierce, the Verge:
[…] As the all-hands escalated, it became clear that Zuckerberg saw that fixing his company’s culture was critical to surviving the tough times ahead. Two years into the pandemic, his company was in a very different, more vulnerable place. It even had a new name.
The days of coddling employees would be over.
“Realistically, there are probably a bunch of people at the company who shouldn’t be here,” Zuckerberg said on the June 30th call, according to a recording obtained by The Verge. “And part of my hope by raising expectations and having more aggressive goals, and just kind of turning up the heat a little bit, is that I think some of you might just say that this place isn’t for you. And that self-selection is okay with me.”
Zuckerberg’s message to employees: sacrifice yourself to Meta or perish. What a choice.
Even if you have little interest in this topic, skim this article for the time lapses made from some fantastic custom ice sculptures. It is worth it.
Mike Isaac, New York Times:
Mr. Zuckerberg, 38, is trying to push his company away from its roots in social networking and center it on the immersive — and so far theoretical — world of the so-called metaverse. Across Silicon Valley, he and other executives who built what many refer to as Web 2.0 — a more social, app-focused version of the internet — are rethinking and upending their original vision after their platforms were plagued by privacy stumbles, toxic content and misinformation.
The moment is reminiscent of other bet-the-company gambles, such as when Netflix killed off its DVD-mailing business last decade to focus on streaming. But Mr. Zuckerberg is making these moves as Meta’s back is against the wall. The company is staring into the barrel of a global recession. Competitors like TikTok, YouTube and Apple are bearing down.
The difference between this and other bet-the-company initiatives — the iPhone also comes to mind — is the completely untested viability of augmented reality. By the time Netflix spun off its DVD rentals business in 2011 — it still offers rentals in the U.S. — the streaming movie market was clearly on an ascendency. Streaming was more popular on Netflix than DVD rentals two years prior, and Netflix was far from the only player: Amazon, Apple, Crunchyroll, and Hulu were all just a few of the established competitors at the time. Apple had a different model — it only offered digital rentals — and Crunchyroll operates in a niche market, but it is not like Netflix was stepping into unprecedented territory by focusing on streaming.
The iPhone, meanwhile, redefined a healthy and growing appetite for more capable smartphones. It was risky because Apple was a much smaller, more fragile company at the time, and its development was expensive. Had it failed, it would have seriously jeopardized the otherwise successful lines of business Apple was in. But it was not risky to bet on the smartphone market generally; Apple considered the product successful if it hit one percent of the market for all cellphones in its first full year, and it did so in a growing market.
Put another way: you saw people fiddling with smartphones in public in 2006, and you may have been using a streaming video service in 2010. But how many of us have really spent time in any kind of metaverse? IDC estimates sales of fewer than eleven million augmented and virtual reality devices last year, and growth to about fourteen million this year. Can Meta or any of the companies developing in this space — including, apparently, Apple — demonstrate why tens of millions more people should add a headset to their growing collection of devices? These are early days, but I have not yet seen a reason or even a compelling concept.