It has been well over a year since Facebook became Meta. The social media giant announced the name change amid a flurry of corporate crises and scandals, but mainly to represent itself as a broad spectrum of technology applications rather than ‘just’ a social media platform.
Meta promised to be a pioneer in the metaverse realm, where the near future of a more connected world would bring exciting new virtual environments where users work, socialise and play. Meta, in turn, would be in the thick of it, and a leader in developing new services and products for users.
One year on, and the billions of dollars Meta has invested - and continues to invest - is yet to pay off. From the virtual reality headsets that have at best received mixed reviews, to the metaverse itself still years shy of widespread adoption. To date, the majority is still unable to put a definition on what the metaverse actually is, let alone having spent time in alternate realities.
Its strategy to invest in the metaverse has seen Meta’s stock plummet 70 percent in the past year, with many in its corporate hallways thinking the company is overspending for the small goals it has achieved. Last year Brad Gerstner, chief executive of Meta investor Altimeter, wrote in an open letter that Meta “drifted into the land of excess — too many people, too many ideas, too little urgency.” He further called on the company to limit metaverse spending to no more than 5 billion dollars per yer.
Losses of 14 billion dollars a year
If the future is to be augmented and artificial intelligence more widely adopted, Meta has a clear role and capability in developing new technologies. Yet the company’s AR and VR development group, Reality Labs, is losing 14 billion dollars a year, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. In October the New York Times wrote Meta’s shift in strategy has irked its employees, linking them “to Mr. Zuckerberg’s whims rather than a cohesive plan.”
Of course there a multiple long-term considerations when re-shaping a business that is at the cusp of another technological revolution. Like Rome, the metaverse was not built in one day, but so far any advance in innovation has been in small, incremental steps, and its VR devices and products are not yet reaching the masses.
Meta, in December, echoed the transition is still in development stage. “We think 2022 will be remembered as a year when foundational pieces of technology enabling our vision for the future made their way into the hands of developers and users for the first time.”
When that ‘first time’ will be for a wider audience, nobody knows.