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A Year of Meta


Mark Zuckerberg’s avatar during the Meta Connect conference in October, 2022. (Photo: Meta)

I enter what I think is a world where I can walk around and take my time to explore Horizon worlds. But it isn’t. I entered the “Arcade.” Within seconds, about 11 people start calling out “Egg,” the first part of a longer username I will not divulge here. I panic. People start laughing. I have no idea what is happening. I press and hold the power button and everything goes dark.

My first experience in the Meta’s—formerly known as Facebook—version of the metaverse, Horizon Worlds, was a brief, but weird one. I recently acquired a VR headset, and for the last few weeks, I have sliced blue and red boxes with lightsabers, thrown virtual paper planes into the abyss and rode on a rollercoaster with T. rex.

It was a year and a month ago that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg announced that Facebook was now Meta, and that the company would move into the future of the internet, the metaverse.

Since then, Zuckerberg has — quite literally — continued to pour money into the project. More than $10 billion has been spent on it this year alone, with a lot more to come. Yet, the move to the metaverse has been bumpy.

Things started off well enough, with users really giving the metaverse a chance in the first months of release. But since then, it’s been going downhill.

For the public, just how bad Meta was doing flew a bit under the radar for a long time. That stopped, however, when the company released its quarterly earnings report for Q3 in October. Here are some of the numbers:

  • Revenue of the Reality Labs unit, where all things metaverse are housed, lost $9 billion in the first three quarters.

  • Net-income came down 52%, $4.4 billion.

  • Costs and expenses rose by 19% from last year.

But what does this actually mean, in real-life terms?

It means that the year-long tumble of Meta’s stock turned into a freefall dropping 19%. Last September, Meta was worth $1 trillion. After the earnings report, that number was down to $250 billion.

Let that sink in for a second.

That’s a loss in market value of SEVEN HUNDRED AND FIFTY BILLION DOLLARS.

This was bad news for Zuckerberg, personally, too. Much of his vast fortune is tied up in Meta shares, so when the stock plummeted, he lost $11 billion in a single day.

His net worth has now dropped $100 billion since Meta peaked in September 2021. (The stock decline also knocked him down from the spot as the 25th richest person in the world to the 29th, for those keeping track.)

Now, this staggering decline was caused by a lot of things, some not particular to Meta. The social media business is struggling overall (except for TikTok, which seems immune to world economic trends), as the economy continues to worsen.

But, undoubtedly, the leap into the metaverse is one of the culprits. Apart from spending exorbitant amounts of money on things that aren’t making profits (the Reality Lab is spending $3.7 billion more than it’s bringing in), users are just not using their goggles enough.

And those that do, stop after only a little while. After adding 300,000 users monthly in the beginning, Meta currently has less than 200,000 monthly users. The company had a goal of 500,000 monthly active users by the end of 2022, a goal that was so wildly off the mark that they quietly lowered it to 280,000 — an amount Meta is still roughly a hundred thousand users away from.

From the start, users have also had to deal with bugs and glitches, particularly in Horizon Worlds.

Not even Meta employees seem to be particularly fond of Horizon Worlds, prompting Chief Metaverse Executive Vishal Shah to send two memos to workers where he urged them to use the metaverse more.

Earlier this year, it was also reported that employees were told to conduct team meetings in Horizon Worlds, even though many didn’t have VR headsets.

The new $1,499 headset that was just released will likely not tip the scales, either.

However, not all things are bad for Meta. The company does have some intriguing partnerships going, including with Microsoft. And at some point all that spending must lead to something, right?

So we shouldn’t count out Horizon Worlds, the MetaQuest headsets or the metaverse yet. It may take some time and still become a success, years from now. But right now, Zuckerberg has his work cut out for him, both to convince his investors and users to stay on board.

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