How many more warning signs does Mark Zuckerberg need to see before he pulls the plug on his metaverse?
- Meta's metaverse experiment isn't off to a promising start, with plenty of recent warning signs.
- Mark Zuckerberg should be asking himself: when is enough, enough?
Mark Zuckerberg's foray into the metaverse has exhibited a growing number of warning signs in recent weeks.
Zuckerberg should pause, reflect, and ask himself one important question: When is enough, enough?
The Meta CEO said last year, when he changed the company's name from Facebook, that the metaverse would be "mainstream" in five to 10 years. But the future of his company is being put to the test right here and now, while costly initiatives appear to be generating a resounding "meh" from the public.
Zuckerberg's vision has hit severe roadblocks in a fairly short amount of time, as reported recently by multiple outlets, including The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times — and economic uncertainty has already forced Zuckerberg to freeze hiring and take other actions that have rattled employees.
All the while, Meta has spent $15 billion on Zuckerberg's passion project.
"This continues to be a risky bet by Zuckerberg and the team because, for now, they're betting money on the future while they continue to have massive headwinds on their core business," Wedbush Securities tech analyst Dan Ives told Insider last week.
For the uninitiated, the metaverse is a concept — or buzzword, depending on who you ask — that gained traction among tech and media companies in the last year-plus as the next step in virtual connectivity.
Zuckerberg himself has called it "the successor to the mobile internet." Apple CEO Tim Cook, on the other hand, isn't sure that most people could even define what the heck the metaverse is.
But Zuckerberg is all-in on the idea, even changing his company's name to reflect the big bet. He's touted that the technology already exists to launch people into virtual worlds.
That includes Meta's Quest 2 headset, which costs $400 and can plug users into the company's virtual-reality experience Horizon Worlds. But so far, the overall experience of being in Meta's metaverse is lacking — for both the public and even those within the company.
Meta paused rolling out new features for Horizon last month, WSJ reported, due to user complaints, such as lack of others to interact with and harassment.
Here are just a couple of the damning data points in WSJ's story, based on internal documents it obtained:
- Horizon has 200,000 monthly active users, below the 280,000 Meta intended by the end of the year (and this was after the company lowered its projection from 500,000).
- 9% of the worlds built on the platform are only ever visited by 50 users. Most don't get any visitors at all.
- Most users abandon the platform in the first month, and over half of headsets are out of use within six months.
The barrier to entry is increasing, too. John Carmack, consulting CTO for Meta's virtual reality efforts, recently acknowledged that the $100 price increase for the Quest headset happened because the free apps, which Meta makes little revenue from on in-app purchases, were more popular than its premium games.
So, Meta's metaverse experiment is not exactly off to a promising start. Even buzzy announcements like Mark Zuckerberg's new virtual legs turned out to be marketing fluff showing what the company wants to make, and not an actual working feature.
It's so chaotic that even the team working on the Horizon metaverse app is hardly using it, according to an internal memo obtained by The Verge.
"Why don't we love the product we've built so much that we use it all the time," the company's Metaverse VP Vishal Shah wrote in the memo, according to The Verge. "The simple truth is, if we don't love it, how can we expect our users to love it?"
A good question!
Some other good questions: How many more warning signs does Zuckerberg need to see? How long is too long to keep pouring money into an endeavor that has few tangible results so far?
And lastly, at what point do you reevaluate the mission?
Hopefully, sooner rather than later.
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