The Metaverse was supposed to save Facebook, but Marc Zuckerberg is struggling to convince

Facebook Mark Zuckerberg

Facebook Mark Zuckerberg

Mark Zuckerberg was mocked after posting this picture of his Horizon Worlds avatar, which is part of his metaverse project.

INTERNET – In a digital amphitheater, confetti appears out of nowhere as dozens of overexcited people without lower limbs jump on benches, eyes glued to Mark Zuckerberg’s avatar. The leader and founder of the Meta group just made a big announcement during a virtual conference on Tuesday, October 11: the legs are coming soon to the metaverse.

According to Mark Zuckerberg, it was “most requested item” of users of Horizon Worlds, the digital world created by Meta, available since the end of 2021 in North America, France and Spain since last August. However, the enthusiasm of the Meta boss did not convince internet users who were quick to scoff and wonder about the usefulness of the 10 billion dollars invested in the metaverse in 2021.

These criticisms are far from isolated. Since the announcement with great fanfare of Facebook’s name change to Meta on October 28, 2021, skepticism about the metaverse, a kind of immersive digital parallel world considered to be the future of the Internet and an ambitious new project from the American company, is only increasing. And it shows in the group’s financial results; it saw its net profit melt to $4.4 billion in the third quarter (-52% year-on-year) and its revenue fell 4% to $27.7 billion, according to data presented on Wednesday, October 25 by the boss.

Horizon Worlds convinces neither Internet users nor employees

Mark Zuckerberg had already paid the price for this sarcasm a few weeks before the conference in mid-October. To celebrate Horizon World’s arrival in France and Spain, Meta’s boss had published on social networks a picture of his avatar with the Eiffel Tower and the Sagrada Familia in the background. The derisive comments poured in, comparing the design to early 2000s video games. “I know the image I posted earlier this week was pretty basic – it was done very quickly to announce the launch. Graphics in Horizon could be much better”he angrily replied to his detractors a few days later.

Worse, his project doesn’t seem to be convincing his own teams. “Many of us don’t spend that much time on Horizon”Vishal Shah, vice president of Meta in charge of the metaverse, said in a memo to its employees in mid-September consulted by The edge. A report obtained by The Wall Street Journal is not more positive. While the company hoped to attract half a million people to its universe by the end of the year, it revised its goal downward to 280,000. And instead of gaining followers, Horizon Worlds lost: They were 300,000 in February, according to the latest public figure communicated by Meta, against just under 200,000 today, according to the WSJ.

Meta, whose new metaverse project was supposed to save the company from losing momentum in the face of competition from TikTok, is making strides, helped a little by an economy in crisis. “A lot of Nasdaq-listed companies have pulled back. Some are screwing up more than others, including Meta. That means they have less confidence than average because of competitive issues, loss of Facebook followers, bad buzz, data security issues.” analysis for HuffPost Julien Pillot, digital economist at Inseec Grande École. In this context, the company has announced that it is sticking to its employment and has already warned: the 2023 budget will be “tight”.

If Meta doesn’t diversify, ‘the business will die’

Despite these problems, the course change at Facebook/Meta was significant, points out Julien Pillot. “Facebook is nothing but a social network, while the other Gafam like Amazon have diversified into their services”, he remembers. “In the future, social relationships may no longer go through computers or phones, but through virtual reality headsets. The metaverse is therefore the only way to develop for Facebook, which has reached its peak with 2 billion users. Otherwise, the company will die. ” the professor decides.

It is clear that the results are not there yet. Mocking the graphics aside, the work to be done is still massive. To go to Horizon Worlds, a virtual reality headset is actually required. It costs several hundred euros, even more than 1,700 euros for the latest high-end headphones that Meta has revealed. “Wealthy people can buy it as a toy, but it quickly ends up in the cupboard. It’s not comfortable at all, it’s not practical for glasses, makeup runs, you can quickly get a headache when you wear it… »list Fabrice Epelboin, teacher specializing in social networks and entrepreneur, also interviewed by HuffPost. “It’s not entirely to the point, but Facebook had to announce something to get rid of its old-fashioned brand image. »

Julien Pillot is more measured: “As with all pre-alpha projects, the beginning is always cheesy, but you have to start somewhere,” he reframes and cites the example of the first iPhone “which had a poor quality photo sensor and a battery that wouldn’t hold a charge”.

The metaverse reserved for professionals?

And if the timing of the announcement of the company’s name change is questionable, he understands the strategy. “She had every interest in showing that she was still innovative, that she was preparing tomorrow’s successes to tell investors: “Hey, it’s always with us that it happens”.” Especially since Mark Zuckerberg has actually been interested in this technology for several years now, Facebook bought VR headset designer Oculus (now Meta Quest) in 2014. “Although some talk about precipitation, the prospect was already there”, supports Julien Pillot.

The economics professor is therefore still optimistic. “It is not in one, two or three years that there will be results. The path Meta has chosen is dangerous and requires very long-term investments… without having the absolute certainty that it will bear fruit”, he acknowledges. Fabrice Epelboin doubts more frankly. “The Oculus headset already has two versions, but it will take at least seven to hold it for more than half an hour”, he mocks. For the entrepreneur, these are no longer “billions of dollars” that case. Meta must now find “creator who imagines a virtual world where people find themselves, to overcome the stuttering phase in which we find ourselves. » Without having the certainty of finding it one day.

The two technology specialists nevertheless agree to put an end to the utopia: the metaverse will never resemble the one described in Steven Spielberg’s film Ready Player One and may never even be available to the public. In fact, the metaverse should be used above all by producers or health professionals to perform manipulations in an immersive environment, or even for entertainment. But before you go that far, you still need legs.

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