Leaks of Facebook (now Meta) palace politics suggest that Mark Zuckerberg is getting harder to work for as the company shifts its focus to the Metaverse, which does not yet exist.
The most insightful thing I’ve read about the modern tech industry was written by Kurt Vonnegut in his 1990 book Hocus Pocus, which was written before the modern tech industry even existed: “Everyone wants to create, but nobody wants to do maintenance.”
Consider the most recent New York Times study of Facebook/Meta executive suite leaks, which suggests that founder Mark Zuckerberg is getting harder to work for. There are four internal corporate comments in Meta that tell staff that “pressure is high to move quickly” or ask for “intensity.” “Move fast and break things” didn’t teach him anything, did it?
Facebook is having an existential crisis (ugh, Meta). Many of Facebook’s tracking tools have been taken away by Apple updates. In terms of young people, TikTok has taken Facebook’s lunch. Since August of last year, the value of the Facebook stock has dropped by more than half. Meta’s first-quarter earnings call was a mess, and Wednesday, when the company is expected to report its first-ever drop in sales, things are likely to go the same way.
The Times says, “In recent months, [Zuckerberg] has cut spending, cut benefits, shuffled his leadership team, and made it clear that he would fire low-performing employees.” He has said that people who don’t want to take part are free to do so. Managers have sent memos that stress how serious this approach is. One of these memos was sent to The New York Times and was called “Operating with Increased Intensity.”
Of course, the employees are being blamed, not the executives or the CEO who is in charge.
The Times says that in a July all-company meeting, Zuckerberg told employees, “I think some of you could decide that this place isn’t for you, and that’s fine with me.” He also said, “Realistically, there are probably a lot of people at the business who shouldn’t be here.”
Zuck doesn’t want to fix the problems with the company. Instead, he wants to make something new, like the Facebook version of the Metaverse. But it is based on what tech executives think people want, not what people say they want. This is true of everything called “Web3.” (Remember when TVs were curved?)
But Zuckerberg is all in on the Metaverse, and his company is putting a lot of money into it. The Times says, “Facebook’s Reality Labs division, which is making products for augmented and virtual reality, has hurt the company’s finances. The hardware division alone lost about $3 billion in the first quarter.”
Zuckerberg made that choice. Katie Harbath, who used to be the head of Facebook’s policy department, told the Times, “When Mark gets focused on something, it’s all hands on deck.” “Teams will quickly drop other projects to focus on the problem at hand, and there is a lot of pressure to move quickly to show progress.”
Yes, there will be a Web3 for sure. But there’s no guarantee that it will be what the “smartest people in the room” think it will be or come when the investment class wants it to. The idea of the Metaverse as a whole might need a lot more tweaking or maintenance.