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Meta: The end of an error. The metaverse dream sours with the loss of 11,000 jobs

13% of Meta’s workforce are laid off as Mark Zuckerberg finally bows to overspend pressure

Meta, the parent company of Facebook is laying off 11,000 employees in an effort to revitalise its business. 

After what feels like an unbearable age of watching a dear friend get beaten up by bullies, Facebook, sorry, Meta has finally decided to take action to end its unfortunate predicament… By curling up into a ball and inviting another round of industry pummelling.

In a recent barrage of blows prior to the latest roll-over, the former founder of Oculus and VR poster-manchild Palmer Luckey (who sold Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg on the whole ‘VR thing’ in the first place) described Meta’s extreme efforts as Zuck’s “project car”. Ouch.

“Mark Zuckerberg is the number one virtual reality fan in the world,” Luckey told the Wall Street Journal. No kidding. Luckey took two billion Zuck bucks for his baby, quit the VR caper and never set foot in virtual space ever again (other than to give it a bad name). Meanwhile that baby turned out not to be so much a ‘baby’ as a machine for giving its owner sleepless nights, tears and shit. 

And who said there was no money to be made in the metaverse?

Meanwhile, waiting his turn at the exact same WSJ event, casually tapping his free palm with a baseball bat, was Xbox’s Bruce Campbell Phil Spencer. While acknowledging that he would get into trouble for saying it, he went ahead and said it anyway, describing Zuck’s kingdom as “a poorly-built videogame”. “Building a metaverse that looks like a meeting room? It’s just not where I want to spend most of my time,” he mic-dropped. 

If you don’t have a dream?… 

Since ditching Facebook (the company we kind of understood) to become Meta (the company we don’t) Zuckerberg has seen his personal net worth drop by more than $70 billion. Meanwhile, right now, Meta’s shares are down over 60% year to date. And at the recent October earnings call net income was just $4.395 billion, down from $9.194 billion year over year. Ker-chong…

All in all it’s estimated that Meta has burnt through $15billion of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp’s hard-earned cash living the metaverse dream. Yup. All that pummelling our eyeballs with things that we didn’t want to see and all he bought was a lousy TV hat and the Miiverse.

To whoever made this happen. Thanks for all the good times

“This one’s for you – the believers – the people that always thought that this is where technology should go. The people who’d rather be early than fashionably late,” boasted Zuck at its Meta Connect 2022 event just one month ago, as if the wall of blank investor stares had given him even a glimmer of turning their frowns upside down.

But the writing was on the IRL wall. Now, after literally years of unflappable ‘Hey, have you tried Beat Saber?’ and ‘Trust me, you’ll all be doing it!’ comes the inevitable back-pedalling.

Meta is shedding 11,000 of its staff (13% of its workforce) who now, rather than pedalling Meta’s slow train to the metaverse, will instead be riding its rail replacement service to the job centre. Seems that after taking a leaf from the far braver and brazen madness going on over at Twitter right now, Zuck and co have chosen to chop off the company’s virtual legs before they were even attached to Horizon World’s floating torsos

Regrets? I’ve had a few…

To his credit Zuckerberg’s statement announcing the axe is full of tangy regret. “I want to take accountability for these decisions and for how we got here,” he writes. “I know this is tough for everyone, and I’m especially sorry to those impacted,” he continues, stopping short of an outright admission that he’s literally the ONLY person in the world who would pay more than $299 for a VR headset. Tops.

Meta Quest Pro: It’s powerful. It’s gorgeous. It’s $1499

Short version is that after being trapped in our homes for a couple of years, we couldn’t wait to get the hell out from under the social cosh and Facebook’s projections for a never-ending new world of upward-spiralling ad dollars turned out to be as virtual as the infinite workplace he wanted to trap us in.

“We’ve cut costs across our business, including scaling back budgets, reducing perks, and shrinking our real estate footprint. We’re restructuring teams to increase our efficiency,” he writes. And other areas – less impacted by cash-haemorrhage and piss-taking – such as “our AI discovery engine, our ads and business platforms” will be getting more love as “high-priority growth areas” along with – you guessed it – [cough] “our long-term vision for the metaverse.”

See? He couldn’t let it lie. (Though that’s the only single word mention of the ‘m’ word in the whole 1200 word statement.)

Downed. But not out

So, what happens now. Well, all employees who lost their jobs in the US will receive 16 weeks of pay, two additional weeks per year of service at Meta and six months paid healthcare costs. It’s unclear as to whether they get to keep the headset.

And if I’d survived the axe and was working at Reality Labs right now (aka TV Hat Central) I’d be reading a big book about AI.

Meanwhile Chief Metamate will be changing the company’s focus to building a “technology to define the future of social connection and the next computing platform”. Let’s face it. He’s still got the money, time, staff and power to make something amazing happen. More VR? Bigger VR? Smaller VR? Right now it’s unclear if future plans involve lashing something expensive to your face. 

Here’s to the crazy ones…

Of course he COULD have just carried on spending. He COULD have priced Meta Quest Pro at $99. He could have forced this through somehow, someway and that crazy hell-ride would have been FUN. But inevitably Zuck would have been stabbed in the back and given an ‘honorary advisor’ role for crippling the company at some point. Probably before Christmas.

No. At least this way he gets to stay at the top of an empire that has had its wrists slapped, but not slashed. We wish all Meta’s employees – those who are departing and those still around to make the dream a (virtual?) reality – the best of luck for the future.

Written By

Daniel Griffiths is a veteran journalist who has worked on some of the world's biggest entertainment, home and tech media brands. He's reviewed all the greats, interviewed countless big names, and reported on thousands of releases in the fields of video games, music, movies, tech, gadgets, home improvement, self build, interiors, garden design and more. He’s the ex-Editor of PSM3, GamesMaster, Future Music and ex-Group Editor-in-Chief of Electronic Musician, Guitarist, Guitar World, Computer Music and more. He renovates property and writes fun things for great websites.

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