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Zuckerberg is all in on the metaverse whether you like it or not

Toward the end of Meta’s earnings call on Wednesday discussing the company’s results for Q3 2022, CEO Mark Zuckerberg took a moment to address his metaverse doubters.

“Look, I get that a lot of people might disagree with this investment, but from what I can tell, I think this is going to be a very important thing,” he said. “People will look back a decade from now and talk about the importance of the work being done here.”

“People will look back a decade from now and talk about the importance of the work being done here”

The problem is that a decade is a long time from now. And as Zuckerberg experienced on today’s earnings call, he is losing faithful supporters quickly. “I think kind of summing up how investors are feeling right now is that there are just too many experimental bets versus proven bets,” one Wall Street analyst said on the call.

The numbers are staggering (PDF): Meta’s Reality Labs division lost $3.7 billion this last quarter and $9.4 billion this year so far. It made only $285 in revenue for the quarter, a nearly 50 percent drop attributed primarily to weaker sales of the Quest 2 headset that got a $100 price hike in August. The next version of that headset is currently planned for release in the second half of next year, and Meta just released its Quest Pro this week, a pricier $1,499 version marketed for work use cases.

“We do anticipate that Reality Labs operating losses in 2023 will grow significantly year-over-year,” Meta said in its earnings press release, just a few days after a large shareholder publicly pressured the company to reign in its spending.

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Meta’s stock dropped a staggering 20 percent today after it reported a 4 percent drop in revenue growth. The results show Apple’s ad tracking prompt has cost it over $10 billion, advertising spending on its platform is continuing to weaken, and its stock is currently trading at a price not seen since the end of 2015.

Zuckerberg tried to give investors reasons to be bullish today. He said there are more daily users on Facebook than ever before. Instagram and WhatsApp both have over 2 billion users, with the latter just starting a significant marketing push in the US that takes aim directly at iMessage. Even the company’s TikTok competitor, Reels, is starting to grow dramatically, with Zuckerberg saying, “we believe we are gaining time spent share on competitors like TikTok.”

That may be true, and this could be another painful moment of transition akin to Facebook’s shift from desktop to mobile or the introduction of Stories like Zuckerberg suggested. But for now, he is experiencing a crisis of confidence.

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