Mark Zuckerberg Picks Wild Billionaire Metaverse Fantasy Over 11,000 Jobs
In the months leading up to Meta’s decision Wednesday to lay off 11,000 employees, or about 13 percent of its workforce, CEO Mark Zuckerberg and other top executives have repeatedly made clear that at least some of the company’s problems stem from personal failings by its employees. . “Realistically, there’s probably a bunch of people at the company who shouldn’t be here,” Zuckerberg reportedly told his employees at a company meeting in June.
Next month, Meta’s Head of Remote Presence and EngineeringMaher Saba, told managers to identify and weed out those not pulling their weight.
“If the direct application is ordinary or poor, they are not what we need; they are ruining this company,” said Saba.
In both cases, what was left unsaid was that much of the problem could not be solved by rooting out the occasional lazy engineer here or there, because much of the problem was that the head of the company, one of the richest men on Earthhe bet the farm on the almost fantastical belief that the future of the Internet lay not only in the so-called metaverse, but in the purified, corporate version of it that he became convinced was the future of his company.
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Like many others in the technology sector, Zuckerberg has become convinced in the years since the start of the pandemic that the world has moved permanently to the Internet. The target engaged aggressively as a result, adding 27,000 workers in 2020 and 2021 and more than 15,000 this year, bringing the total workforce to approximately 87,000 as of September.
But by the time Meta began weeding out the bad bad apples, Meta’s stock price had already plummeted from the highs it had enjoyed the previous year, a result not only of Zuckerberg’s bet on the metaverse, but also growing competition from TikTok, fears of a recession, privacy decision by Apple which hurts businesses that depend on targeted ads, like Meta and Facebook first fall in the total number of users.
In a note on Wednesday, Zuckerberg admitted that he was too optimistic about the future, suggesting that his main mistake was not properly anticipating the changing macroeconomic environment.
“I made a mistake and I take responsibility for it,” he said.
But those are the pressures normal, non-monopolized companies deal all the time. What is less normal is the making a $15 billion bet based on faith. That’s the amount the company has spent since the start of 2021 on its metaverse and virtual and augmented reality efforts, and the costs will only increase from here on out. The company said in a statement last month that it expects Facebook Reality Labs — essentially a metaverse lab — to lose $10 billion this year and that the company will increase its investment there “for the next few years” as the company remains “committed to bringing this long-term vision to life.”
Zuckerberg repeated on Wednesday “our long-term vision for the metaverse” would remain one of a handful of “high-priority growth areas” next year, even if it meant procrastination and hiring freezes and some people no longer having their desks.
Ours is a questionable word, as it often seems that the vision is more Zuckerberg’s than Metin’s. According to long report in The New York Times last month, some Meta employees started referring to metaverse projects as “MMH” (“make Mark happy”), and one senior team member said the money spent made him “sick to the stomach”. Only 58 percent say they understand the metaverse’s strategy at all, according to an anonymous May survey of employees by the social network Blind, and others complained that the strategy seems “tied to Mr. Zuckerberg’s whims rather than a cohesive plan.”
The vice president in charge of Meta’s metaverse project, Vishal Shah, even reportedly complained internally that so few people were spending time using Horizon Worlds, Meta’s virtual reality video game. “The simple truth is, if we don’t love it, how can we expect our users to love it?” asked. That’s a good question, but at least part of the reason is that Horizon Worlds remains so “buggy” that Meta’s placed him on “quality lock” until the end of the year. That lack of quality could explain why under 200,000 people have used it since the year The Wall Street Journal article last month.
Or it could be that few people actually want the metaverse, including at least some shareholders, some of which they are already starting to complain about how much money the company is spending on this religious bet.
The one person who continues to want and believe in Matt’s metaverse is the only man who truly matters, Mark Zuckerberg, a ruthless businessman, except when it comes to his multi-billion dollar pet project. “This is not an investment that will be profitable for us in the near future,” he said last year. Another way to say it is: We have to be ruthless throughout the company, except where it suits me.
What makes Zuckerberg unique in Silicon Valley is the individual control he has over his vast organization, as he owns control package of shares in the company. “There is currently no Mark responsible but himself,” the whistleblower Frances Haugen he told Congress last year. This mainly includes his board, which has several times he rejected proposals to reduce his remit over the organization he had created.
And with that power he plunges headfirst into the metaverse, never seeming to waver in his belief that the future is a headset strapped to your face so you can sit in a virtual conference room with colleagues you hate, even after his initial metaverse avatar was mocked so roundly that he was forced to essentially apologize, retract, and then later release a second version, which, unfortunately for him, was soon followed by graphic designer Meta saying his team had made 40 different versions of their the new metaversal face of the famous leader over four weeks before one was finally approved, after which the Meta graphic designer mysteriously deleted the post.
Today’s layoffs are the first significant company-wide layoffs of Zuckerberg’s career. The decision is essentially a choice and an admission that Zuckerberg believes the metaverse is more important than the livelihoods of the people he’s released. This is how it often goes: make a bad bet, shame the people below you for failing, then let them go without admitting guilt. However, rarely has it been done as expensively, epically, or single-mindedly as Zuckerberg is doing.
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