The metaverse was supposed to save Facebook, but Mark Zuckerberg struggles to convince

Facebook Mark Zuckerberg

Facebook Mark Zuckerberg

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

INTERNET – In a digital amphitheater, confetti pops out of nowhere as dozens of overexcited people with no lower limbs jump onto the benches, eyes glued to Mark Zuckerberg’s avatar. The leader and founder of the Meta group just made an important announcement during a virtual conference this Tuesday 11 October: the legs are soon reaching the metaverse.

According to Mark Zuckerberg, it was “most requested article” by users of Horizon Worlds, the digital world created by Meta available from 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 mock and question the usefulness of the $ 10 billion invested in the metaverse in 2021.

These criticisms are far from isolated. Since the announcement with great fanfare of the change of Facebook’s name to Meta on October 28, 2021, skepticism towards the metaverse, a sort of immersive digital parallel world considered the future of the Internet and a new ambitious project of the American company, is only growing. .

And it shows in the financial results of the group; saw its net profit melt to $ 4.4 billion in the third quarter (-52% year-over-year) and its revenue fell 4%, to $ 27.7 billion, according to figures presented Wednesday by the boss. . The day after these catastrophic results, this Thursday, October 27, Meta lost 23% at the opening of Wall Street.

Horizon Worlds convinces neither Internet users nor employees

Mark Zuckerberg had already paid the price for this sarcasm a few weeks before the mid-October conference. To celebrate the arrival of Horizon Worlds in France and Spain, the Meta boss had posted a photo of his avatar on social media with the Eiffel Tower and Sagrada Familia in the background. The mocking comments spilled over, comparing the design to that of early 2000s video games. “I know the photo I posted earlier this week was pretty straightforward – it was done very quickly to advertise the launch. Graphics in Horizon can be so much better.”he replied, annoyed, to his detractors a few days later.

Worse still, his project doesn’t seem to convince his own teams. “Most of us don’t spend much time on Horizon”Vishal Shah, Meta vice president in charge of the metaverse, said in a note to his employees in mid-September consulted by The border. A report obtained from the Wall Street newspaper it is no longer positive. While the company hoped to attract half a million people to its universe by the end of the year, it revised its target down to 280,000. And instead of gaining followers, Horizon Worlds loses: they were 300,000 in February, according to the latest public figures communicated by Meta, against just 200,000 today according to the WSJ.

Meta, whose new metaverse project was to save the company from losing momentum in the face of competition from TikTok, is slipping, helped little by a failing economy. “Many Nasdaq-listed companies have pulled out. Some unscrew more than others, including Meta. This means they have lower than average trust due to competition issues, loss of Facebook followers, bad news, data security issues. “ analysis for the HuffPost Julien Pillot, digital economist at Inseec Grande École. In this context, the company has announced the hiring freeze and has already warned: the 2023 budget will be ” strict “.

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

Despite these problems, the change of course on Facebook / Meta was fundamental, emphasizes Julien Pillot. “Facebook is nothing more than a social network, while other Gafams such as Amazon have diversified in their services”, remember. “In the future, social relationships may no longer pass through computers or phones, but through virtual reality headsets. The metaverse is therefore the only way to evolve for Facebook, which reached its peak with 2 billion users. Otherwise, the company will die ” the professor decides.

It is clear that for now the results are not there. Aside from the graphics teasing, the work to be done is still huge. In fact, to go to Horizon Worlds, you need a virtual reality headset. It costs several hundred euros, even more than 1,700 euros for the latest high-end headphones unveiled by Meta. “The rich can buy it for toys, but it soon ends up in the closet. It is not comfortable at all, it is not practical for glasses, you put on make-up, you immediately get a headache when you wear it … “list Fabrice Epelboin, teacher specialized in social networks and entrepreneur, also interviewed by HuffPost. “That’s not exactly the point, but Facebook needed to announce something to get rid of its old-fashioned brand image. “

Julien Pillot is more measured: “As with all pre-alpha projects, beginnings are always mundane, but you have to start somewhere”, reformulates, citing the example of the first iPhone “which had a poor quality photographic sensor and a battery that could not hold the 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 a vested interest in proving that she was still innovative, that she was preparing for tomorrow’s successes to tell investors: ‘Hi, it’s always happening with us’. ” Especially since Mark Zuckerberg has actually been interested in this technology for several years, Facebook bought VR headset designer Oculus (now Meta Quest) in 2014. “Even if someone talks about precipitation, the prospect was already there”, claims Julien Pillot.

The economics professor therefore remains optimistic. “It is not in one, two or three years that there will be results. The path chosen by Meta is risky 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 maintain it for more than half an hour”, scoffs. For the entrepreneur, these are no longer “billions of dollars” that matters. Meta now needs to find the “Creator who imagines a virtual world in which people find themselves, to overcome the stuttering phase in which we find ourselves. ” Without being sure of finding it one day.

However, the two technology specialists agree to put an end to utopia: the metaverse will never resemble the one described in Steven Spielberg’s film Ready player one and it may not even be available to the public. The metaverse, in fact, 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 to have legs.

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