A year later, Zuckerberg’s Metaverse vision remains a long way off

3 mins read
Photo: Andre M. Chang/ZUMA Press Wire/dpa

Mark Zuckerberg’s dreams of a VR world have been given a reality check. Building the so-called Metaverse takes time and will burn through a lot of money. A year after his big announcement, Zuckerberg has little to show – and yet he doesn’t seem close to stopping.

When Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg shifted his company’s focus towards virtual worlds a year ago and gave the company the new name Meta, he didn’t spare any superlatives.

”We are convinced that the Metaverse will be the successor to the mobile internet,” he proclaimed. 

The technology, he said, will create a sense of proximity – “like we’re right there with people no matter how far apart we actually are”

A year later, that vision seems no closer to becoming reality.

The group is now called Meta instead of Facebook. But its mainstay is still advertising revenue, which Facebook and Instagram bring in with their billions of users.

Zuckerberg now stresses that change will take time. “It’s not like this stuff is going to be fully mature in a year or even two or three years,” he said in a recent interview with tech blog The Verge.

But he said the group was determined to push ahead with development. ”This is what we’re here to do for the next decade – or however long it takes.”

A dream that devours billions

The invention of the future requires billions. In the first half of this year alone, Reality Labs – the corporate division that bundles everything related to the Metaverse and VR headsets – amassed an operating loss of about $5.77 billion.

That is definitely money the Facebook parent company can shoulder. However, Zuckerberg and Meta have the problem that their core business is making less money.

The Meta apps generated an operating profit of $22.65 billion in the first half of the year – a year earlier it had been $28 billion.

On the one hand, advertisers are cutting back on their marketing spending because of inflationary pressure and economic worries. On the other hand, Apple’s measures to protect privacy are costing Meta billions.

App providers like Facebook now have to ask iPhone users for permission if they want to track their behaviour across different services and applications. Many have refused – smashing business models in online advertising that relied on this permanent tracking.

Metaverse tech could replace computers

Zuckerberg, however, assures us that investments in the future would not be cut. Instead, savings will be made in other areas. Meta meanwhile hopes to attract business attention from companies who can run their operations through Meta’s planned virtual platform and hardware. 

The 200 million or so PCs that are bought each year, mainly for professional purposes, could be replaced by Metaverse technology like glasses, Zuckerberg says.

At some point in the future, at least.

Because even with the newly announced Quest Pro VR glasses for $1,400 dollars, Zuckerberg admitted that only later generations will have reached the necessary level of maturity.

Zuckerberg says that he was glad to have initiated the reorientation in the rather ideal world a year ago instead of under today’s pressure.

How long he can continue chasing the Metaverse dream, however, will largely depend on the profitability of Facebook’s business.

Zuckerberg’s desire to play the leading role in the next computing platform is understandable. After all, on the mobile internet of today’s smartphones, Meta is only a guest on the platforms of Apple and Google.

Meta is not without rivals

However, Meta is far from the only company trying to gain a foothold in the Metaverse. For example, Nvidia, which specialises in graphics cards and artificial intelligence, is running an Omniverse platform, where companies can set up entire virtual factories to optimise operations.

”The Metaverse is an extension of the internet as we know it,” says Rev Lebaredian, the Nvidia manager responsible – except that you move from a two-dimensional world into a 3D environment. And for this, a lot of standards will be needed for which all players will have to
pull together in the end.

Apple, with which Meta is currently at loggerheads, has meanwhile been lining up its Metaverse designs for years, although the concept likely will carry a different name.

Apple is initially expected to produce a pair of glasses that – similar to the Quest Pro – can record their surroundings with cameras and display them to the user with additional details.

According to media reports and analysts, they could even arrive in 2023. Then the battle for the Metaverse is likely to come to a head once again. ©dpa

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