Alex Heath wrote a great piece at the Verge yesterday about how Mark Zuckerberg wants to spend big on the metaverse, but investors are skeptical. This bit in particular suprised me a little:
Meta will “slow the pace of some of our investments” due to “our current business growth levels,” Zuckerberg said during the company’s first-quarter earnings call Wednesday.
It's the "slow the pace" part that surprises me.
When Facebook changed its name to Meta and started to use "metaverse" in every sentence, lots of people in my industry widely panned it as silliness. I heard no end of: Facebook is just trying to cover over its issues. It's a distraction. The Metaverse is a joke of an idea. I was (and am) less skeptical than others.
I'll admit it – I have a bias toward "metaverse" as a concept. I think it's inevitable that some form of game-like virtual world and economy becomes more widely adopted as an aspect of the internet. It just makes sense as the web has evolved from text-centric to pictures to video that popular adoption of 3D is next. I'm not as much of a believer in the Snow Crash or Ready Player One version of the Metaverse. I just don't see people adopting headsets as everyday wear. I do, however, think that over the next several years it's possible that gaming, entertainment, and work merge in interesting ways, especially in use of virtual spaces and 3D objects.
So when Facebook, née Meta, comes along talking about this, and given they have a nearly 3 billion person user base, I just couldn't find myself as skeptical as others. They have money and a network of people to sell the idea to. I know they also have a reputation to rebuild, but I lived through the 90's and early 00's with Microsoft making it a company mission to attack open source. Now they own GitHub and are open source advocates. Times change, opinions change, and money and users give a company time to endure until that happens.
That's what I was feeling. Now the money part is in question. Read all of Heath's article on the Verge, linked above, for excellent analysis on how finanical and Wall Street pressures could be coming to bear on Meta. This makes me wonder how committed to the idea Meta and Zuckerberg really are if they're starting to dial down the funding this early in the game.
Ineveitably, the metaverse hype will wear off, while some of the ideas will prove themselves. It will be interesting to see if Meta and Zuckerberg end up being part of that pay off, of if they end up missing the opportunity by being wishy-washy on their commitment to the turn around.