When Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg proclaimed the focus on virtual worlds a year ago and gave the group the new name Meta, he was not stingy with big words. "We are convinced that the Metaverse will be the successor to the mobile Internet," he announced. The technology, he said, will create a sense of presence - "like we're right there with people, no matter how far away we actually are."
A year later, this vision seems no closer. The company 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 these things are going to be ready in one year or even two, three years," he said recently in an interview with tech blog The Verge. However, he said the group is determined to press ahead with development - "we'll do it for the next decade - or as long as it takes."
Operating loss of around $5.77 billion
The invention of the future gobbles up billions. In the first half of this year alone, Reality Labs - the Group division that bundles everything to do with the Metaverse and glasses for displaying virtual reality - accumulated an operating loss of around $5.77 billion.
That is definitely money that the Facebook Group 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, down from $28 billion a year earlier.
On the one hand, advertisers are cutting back on their marketing spending due to inflationary pressures and concerns about the economy. On the other, Apple's privacy measures are costing Meta billions. App providers like Facebook now have to ask iPhone users for permission if they want to track their behavior across different services and apps. Many refused - shattering business models in online advertising based on this permanent tracking.
Saving in other areas
However, Zuckerberg assured that investments in the future will not be cut. Instead, savings will be made in other areas. And Meta hopes to get companies excited about the idea of virtual worlds that could accommodate their operations and businesses. The roughly 200 million PCs purchased each year, mainly for professional purposes, could be replaced by Metaverse technology like glasses, he said. Eventually, anyway. Because even with the just-introduced Quest Pro VR goggles, which cost $1400, he qualified that only later generations will have reached the necessary level of maturity.
Zuckerberg summed up by saying that he was glad to have initiated the realignment in the rather ideal world a year ago, rather than under today's pressure. How long he can continue to chase 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, in the mobile Internet with today's smartphones, Meta is only a guest on the platforms of Apple and Google, which plays the key role in the Android system, despite billions of users.
However, Meta is also far from the only company that wants to gain a foothold in the metaverse. For example, Nvidia, which specializes in graphics cards and artificial intelligence, operates its "Omniverse" platform, in which companies can set up entire virtual factories to optimize processes, for example. "From our point of view, the Metaverse is the direct continuation of the Internet," says Rev Lebaredian, the Nvidia manager in charge. Except that you're moving from a two-dimensional world into a 3D environment. And for that, he says, a lot of standards will be needed, with all players having to pull together in the end.
And the Apple group, with which Meta is currently at loggerheads, has also been lining up its Metaverse components for years, although the concept may not be called that there. Apple is initially expected to develop 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, this could be possible by 2023. Then the battle for the Metaverse is likely to come to a head once again. (sda/dpa)