Mark Zuckerberg and his gang are among the hottest headlines of the past few years. From getting hit with the largest fine ever issued under the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (close to $1.3 billion) for exporting EU user data to the United States, to falling stock prices, mass layoffs, and ultimately, a failed Metaverse project.
Meta’s dramatic downfall shows that the ambitious and untouchable CEO and Facebook co-founder is in serious trouble. One of his grand projects, the Metaverse – with a capital M – is ready to be laid down to rest in the tech industry’s pet cemetery.
At the end of 2022, the once trillion-dollar tech giant closed the year in a 70% freefall drop. This made it the worst-performing stock in the entire S&P 500. The company is in serious trouble. And the tricky transition from social networking giant Facebook into the virtual reality world of the Metaverse is taking its toll.
However, to begin understanding what happened with former Facebook and the Metaverse, we can start by naming the main cause that led the big tech firm into its current hole.
The biggest issue wasn’t Mark Zuckerberg’s fool’s bet on the Metaverse. In fact, whichever product Meta decided to bet on next was likely to fail. As the author and writer Ted Gioia pointed out, “to Facebook, the user is always wrong.”
For those in any type of business, it’s a no-brainer knowing that the focus of any company – regardless of its size – should be serving its customers. Facebook – and its affiliates, Instagram and WhatsApp – and now Meta, serve one purpose and only: profits for the apps and people involved. And that’s what’s killing Zuckerberg’s Meta empire.
The False Promise
Zuckerberg’s tunnel vision about making the Metaverse the next big thing lured virtually everyone around him. He claimed the virtual world would be an “expansive and immersive version of the internet.”
The Metaverse quickly ascended to the top of the business world. And so other big companies followed suit, and Walmart, Disney, Nike and Gucci joined the Metaverse. Zuck also convinced investors, Wall Street, and the media to jump on board with his obsession.
And so they did.
The “half-backed Metaverse project,” as dubbed by the tech expert Ed Zitron, has shaken the whole tech industry in a very short period of time. But Zuckerberg’s grand promise was just… a promise. The Metaverse project has no clear business vision. Ultimately, there are no clear problems that it would solve for the general public.
The Meta CEO’s speech about his next big enterprise was filled with poetic adjectives, but it lacked a real concept of what the Metaverse would do – for real. Due to his incompetence in articulating a clear vision and what it would solve, Meta’s ambitious project suffered, without a few things that most businesses need in order to function: a clear and proper why, a specific target audience, and the market’s willingness to adopt the product.
Now let’s break these shortcomings down.
Since the product owner himself couldn’t state what issues the Metaverse would solve, he couldn’t expect the public to understand it. In his own words:
“I think a lot of people, when they think about the metaverse, they think about just virtual reality — which I think is going to be an important part of that.[…] But the metaverse isn’t just virtual reality. It’s going to be accessible across all of our different computing platforms; VR and AR, but also PC, and also mobile devices and game consoles. Speaking of which, a lot of people also think about the metaverse as primarily something that’s about gaming. And I think entertainment is clearly going to be a big part of it, but I don’t think that this is just gaming.”
Well, when I read this, I still think, “what is he talking about?” Here, he describes nothing. From what he says, the Metaverse could be anything. One could say that he’s describing the internet. Or a game? Or an app? A virtual world?
The second issue is connected to the first. The definition of the Metaverse breeds more confusion than explaining what it truly means. Let alone what audience it would target. Mr. Zuckerberg claimed that one billion people would use the Metaverse. Where did the data come from if there’s no clear use case? And that they’d spend hundreds of dollars each using his product.
Thirdly, if there isn’t a genuine vision of what this thing does and the issues it would address, it isn’t enough to say or to believe that the founder of the biggest social networking in the world simply “knows what he is doing.”
So, in the same way, Wall Street, the tech industry, the media, and enthusiasts bought into his story. Why wouldn’t the grand public?
Well, he was wrong about us – the most important asset in this story.
Sorry, But Not Sorry
The public grew tired of big corporations telling it what to do. If the media, the tech industry, and investors couldn’t call him out because he poured $10 billion into a product he couldn’t even describe, it would be just a matter of time before this thing would call it quits.
Metaverse users describe the Horizon Worlds as “low-quality” and “too buggy” compared to a children’s game. And certainly not what the public would expect from a multi-billion dollar company. One that claims to be the future of the internet. The idea that cartoon-like concerts and legless avatars would “change the world” is simply ridiculous.
The Business Insider writer called Zuckerberg a “liar” and the Metaverse a meaningless tool. One that offered distraction “from his problems and made fertile ground for truly evil people to profit.”
What’s hard to believe is how someone so powerful and influential would blatantly lie and blow billions of dollars as if it was nothing. The thing is, Zuck isn’t the first person to lie to make money by selling hot air and inflated lies.
Do you remember Elizabeth Holmes’s promise to revolutionize blood testing with a $9 billion business? It turned out to be a total scam. Also, this isn’t Zuck’s first time either.
Mark Zuckerberg built an empire that he will continually rule and remain untouchable, no matter what he does. That means he’s structured Meta so that he has total control over it. Not even the board members can touch him.
Despite continuous failures in numerous endeavors up to this date, such as the Facebook Phone in 2013, Meta’s CEO bought the VR company Oculus for $2 billion a year later and went all in.
Of course, his somewhat megalomaniac vision to create “the future of the internet,” the idea of a digital world using virtual reality and avatars, dates back to the 1990s. And to games such as “Meridian,” “The Realm Online,” and “Ultima.”
That suggests that the idea of the Metaverse isn’t completely wrong. It implies technology is seemingly going in a direction in which a widely used virtual reality environment will become inevitable. However, if this future is 15 or 20 years away, Mark Zuckerberg got ahead of himself. And he dragged a whole industry with him.
Our smartphones are nearly an extension of our arms. Apple broke through the market and revolutionized it with the iPhone by combining many products into a useful tool. Including a phone, an MP3 player, and an electronic organizer.
However, Mark Zuckerberg is not Steve Jobs and his Horizon World product is confusing, to say the least.
Meta was trying to sell a revolutionary means of digital socialization. But to the general public, it could mean a cumbersome way of playing video games and, to the large game industry, another massively multiplayer online game. It’s also easy to see the difference between Jobs’s and Zuckerberg’s visions of creating an innovative and revolutionary product.
Despite the hype, the short-lived project crumbled when there wasn’t market adherence. Meta couldn’t even convince its own employees to use Horizon World. The Metaverse fell seriously ill as the inflated market projections never came to fruition, while the Web3 industry turned its attention to the growing hype around AI.
Most businesses that followed suit with the false promise started to shut down their Metaverse projects. Walmart shut down its Metaverse experience on Roblox just six months after its launch. Disney closed its Metaverse division in March.
Whether the whole Metaverse idea was a complete scam created by the delusional Meta CEO to enrich his counterparts and himself, or he simply got ahead of himself on something he believed was the new era of the internet, remains unclear. But herein lies the major issue – because Zuck was king and no one could stop him, no matter which one of these options was true, he still fell victim to his own ego. In addition, Facebook’s constant focus on controlling its users instead of listening to them tops it all off.
From a business perspective, let’s be clear. Facebook is a giant multi-billion dollar corporation that has already hit its ceiling years ago. The company has hit major turbulence and has nowhere to go with its current products.
Zuckerberg’s intention to reinvent himself and save his company by simply focusing on purely increasing profit – which, as we know, is the main focus of most corporations alive today – could have been the least worst option.
Unfortunately, a man with all traits of a con artist will go unpunished. Even after misleading a whole industry, burning billions of dollars, and getting many along with him to do the same.
But we shouldn’t find this surprising – remember, he built an empire on lies. Perhaps, the untouchable king may fall victim to his own ego. And maybe, that will be the main reason for the decline and fall of his own empire.
In compliance with the Trust Project guidelines, this opinion article presents the author’s perspective and may not necessarily reflect the views of BeInCrypto. BeInCrypto remains committed to transparent reporting and upholding the highest standards of journalism. Readers are advised to verify information independently and consult with a professional before making decisions based on this content.