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Meta Working to Speed Up the Metaverse: Why Success Is Far From Certain for the Social Media Giant

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A year after rebranding itself from Facebook into Meta, the social network titan is striving to make the metaverse a routine part of daily life, offering users new features and promoting new virtual reality gear.

But analysts say the company has toned down the hype a bit as it struggles to reach its goal of creating an interactive virtual world that it sees as the next phase of online activity.

The biggest announcement from this week’s Meta Connect event — the company’s giant’s annual conference focused on virtual reality — was the launch of the much anticipated Meta Quest Pro VR headset, targeted at professionals in creative fields.

But there were also legs — as in, legs for user avatars in Meta’s Horizon World virtual realm, as well as facial expressions.

Is this the future? The company says yes.

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“The metaverse is going to sneak up on us,” Meta Reality Labs vice president Mark Rabkin predicted.

“I think it’s going to feel really far away and then there’ll be certain pockets and niches that are suddenly really useful — and then we’ll realize that the gaps…are getting smaller, and suddenly it’s here.”

For Rabkin, executives can save time and money by meeting in the metaverse, and artists can embrace virtual venues for concerts, comedy shows and other entertainment.

Bridges, skyscrapers, footwear,r and more could be designed in 3D using digital tools in the metaverse.

“We’re building things that power the metaverse and will be part of the metaverse,” Rabkin said.

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“We are investing heavily to pull the future forward a little bit.”

See also  Meta Halts Development of Smartwatch Carrying Dual Cameras; Plans to Continue Focus on Wrist Wearables: Report

Smiles and nods

A year ago, Facebook renamed itself Meta to signal its devotion to a metaverse future.

In a small step on that path, the $1,500 (roughly Rs. 1,25,000) Quest Pro headset — aimed at architects, engineers and designers, among others — boasts new features that are meant to improve users’ perception of actually being in the presence of others.

“The moment that they begin to break into a smile or when they raise their eyebrow… your avatar should be able to express all of that and more,” Meta chief Mark Zuckerberg said at Meta Connect.

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The company said it is partnering with Microsoft, Adobe, Accenture, and others to sync up popular work software with virtual worlds using Quest Pro.

“At Microsoft, we’re incredibly excited about the metaverse and how digital and physical worlds are coming together,” Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said during the presentation.

Microsoft is “really leaning in” to make its widely-used productivity software, as well as tools built for its own HoloLens augmented reality headset, compatible with Quest Pro, according to Rabkin.

Zuckerberg stressed that Meta wants its VR platform to dovetail with offerings from other companies.

“Not only will our stuff run on a variety of devices, including not our own, but there will inevitably be multiple universes joined together in a variety of ways,” Rabkin explained.

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Technical advances built into Quest Pro are expected to eventually be incorporated into lower-priced headsets destined for average consumers.

Handling the hype

Zuckerberg was quoted by tech news website The Verge as saying he didn’t expect the metaverse to make the company a meaningful amount of money for years, setting up a “trough of disillusionment.”

See also  Hate Crimes in US: Experts Highlight Increasing Online Videos on Gun Violence to Spread Radicalisation

For Creative Strategies analyst Carolina Milanesi, Meta has de-emphasized the hype of the metaverse in favour of talking more about the nuts and bolts of how it will work.

“I’m assuming it’s because they figured out how hard it is to actually make this stuff in terms of actually creating that world,” Milanesi told AFP.

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Companies are investing billions of dollars in building blocks of the metaverse, with Meta leading the pack, VRDirect managing director Rolf Illenberger told AFP.

Microsoft, Sony, and HTC are among the players, and Apple is rumoured to be planning to release its own virtual reality headset.

“On the one hand, Mark Zuckerberg needs to be acknowledged as a hero, as a visionary because he’s pushing the industry like no one else,” Illenberger said.

“But on the other hand, his bad reputation also kind of, to some extent, puts blame on the metaverse as a technology.”

Critics have said rebranding Facebook as Meta was a move to distance the tech firm from scandals including a whistleblower who said it valued profit over user safety.

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Mark Zuckerberg Calls Apple’s App Store Moderation Rules a ‘Conflict of Interest’

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Meta Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg said that Apple’s App Store presents a conflict of interest, adding his voice to a flurry of criticism of the iPhone maker’s software policies. “It is problematic for one company to be able to control what app experiences end up on a device,” Zuckerberg said Wednesday in an interview at the New York Times DealBook conference. The “vast majority of profits in mobile ecosystem go toward Apple,” he added.

App Store policies and fees implemented by Apple, and to a lesser extent Google parent Alphabet, have long been a point of contention for technology companies looking to reach broad mobile audiences. Billionaire Elon Musk added to the chorus after his acquisition of Twitter, sending a flurry of tweets this week denouncing Apple’s fees and restrictions on what apps can be sold.

Zuckerberg echoed some of Musk’s points. He called Apple’s content moderation rules for apps a “conflict of interest” since they are often pointed at rivals. It makes Apple “not just a governor looking out for people’s interests.” Revenue at Meta, which owns social networks Facebook and Instagram, has taken a hit since Apple tightened its privacy policies to restrict how users can be tracked and targeted with advertising.

Though Zuckerberg seemed to back up his objection to Apple’s policies, Musk on Wednesday walked back some of his criticism of the iPhone maker, saying he met with CEO Tim Cook at the company’s headquarters and had a “good conversation” that resolved a “misunderstanding” about Twitter’s place in the App Store.

As for Musk’s approach to running Twitter, Zuckerberg hedged his comments — he said he guesses that some approaches will work and others won’t. “I think it’ll be very interesting to see how this plays out,” he said.

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On whether Meta would allow former US President Donald Trump back onto Facebook, Zuckerberg didn’t answer, but pointed to prior guidance the company has gotten from its external Oversight Board, weighing in on difficult content decisions. Meta is expected to make a decision in January.

See also  Elon Musk Said to Question Twitter Employees Responsible for Counting Bots, Spam Accounts

Wall Street has become increasingly bearish on Meta’s investment in its money-losing virtual reality business amid slowing ad revenue. Earlier this month, Zuckerberg said the company would slash more than 11,000 jobs, and took personal responsibility for decisions that led to the need to cut costs. In April, Meta reported its first-ever quarterly revenue drop.

The interview Wednesday began with a recorded conversation between Zuckerberg and the moderator as avatars in the immersive digital world the company calls the metaverse. Still, Zuckerberg said the idea that Meta is wholly focused on the metaverse is “basically wrong.” Messaging program WhatsApp will be his next major monetization target, he said, as that platform is “largely untapped.”

He cited progress in Reels, the company’s short video feature, saying some estimates show it has half the traffic of viral video-sharing app TikTok outside of China.

Zuckerberg also raised the issue of TikTok’s ownership by Beijing-based ByteDance, adding that there are “real questions” about the influence of China’s government on TikTok. “In a lot of countries, all data goes to the government,” the CEO said.

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© 2022 Bloomberg L.P.


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Twitter Faces Ban Over Content Moderation, EU Chief Warns Elon Musk: Report

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The European Union has threatened Elon Musk’s Twitter with a ban unless the billionaire abides by its strict rules on content moderation, setting up a regulatory battle over the future of the social media platform, the Financial Times reported on Wednesday.

EU industry chief Thierry Breton made the threat during a video meeting with Musk on Wednesday, the FT reported, citing people with knowledge of the conversation.

Breton told Musk he must adhere to a checklist of rules, including ditching an “arbitrary” approach to reinstating banned users and agreeing to an “extensive independent audit” of the platform by next year, according to the report.

Twitter and the EU did not immediately respond to Reuters’ requests for comment.

Breton had previously urged Musk to comply with landmark EU rules against online hate speech and disinformation. The European Commission’s justice chief Didier Reynders had also voiced similar comments.

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Reuters reported in October that Elon Musk had assured the European Commission that Twitter will continue to abide by tough European rules on illegal online content policing now the social network has passed under his ownership.

The assurances from Musk appeared to suggest a pragmatic attitude from the CEO of electric car maker Tesla, who has previously expressed his desire to see Twitter have fewer limits on content that can be posted.

In May this year, EU industry chief Thierry Breton met Musk in Texas and the two signalled agreement on EU digital media regulation ahead of Musk’s purchase of Twitter.

The previous meeting came weeks after the world’s richest man clinched a deal to buy the social media company for $44 billion (roughly Rs. 3,40,270 crore) in cash.

See also  Meta Working to Speed Up the Metaverse: Why Success Is Far From Certain for the Social Media Giant

In a video with the two men posted on Twitter by Breton, the EU official tells Musk that he explained the Digital Services Act to Musk. “It fits pretty well with what you think we should do,” Breton tells Musk in a tweet that included the hashtag #DSA.

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“I think it’s exactly aligned with my thinking,” Musk responds.

The two did not go into detail on the new law, which levies hefty fines on companies if they do not control illegal content. The rules ban advertising aimed at children or based on religion, gender, race, and political opinions, for example.

© Thomson Reuters 2022


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Twitter Not Safer Under Elon Musk Leadership, Says Former Head of Trust and Safety

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Twitter’s former head of trust and safety Yoel Roth on Tuesday said the social media company was not safer under new owner Elon Musk, warning in his first interview since resigning this month that the company no longer had enough staff for safety work.

Roth had tweeted after Musk’s takeover that by some measures, Twitter safety had improved under the billionaire’s ownership.

Asked in an interview at the Knight Foundation conference on Tuesday whether he still felt that way, Roth said: “No.”

Roth was a Twitter veteran who helped steer the social media platform through several watershed decisions, including the move to permanently suspend its most famous user, former US President Donald Trump, last year.

His departure further rattled advertisers, many of whom backed away from Twitter after Musk laid off half of the staff, including many involved with content moderation.

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Before Musk assumed the helm at Twitter, about 2,200 people globally were focused on content moderation work, said Roth. He said he did not know the number after the acquisition because the corporate directory had been turned off.

Twitter under Musk began to stray from its adherence to written and publicly available policies toward content decisions made unilaterally by Musk, which Roth cited as a reason for his resignation.

“One of my limits was if Twitter starts being ruled by dictatorial edict rather than by policy … there’s no longer a need for me in my role, doing what I do,” he said.

The revamp of the Twitter Blue premium subscription, which would allow users to pay for a verified checkmark on their account, launched despite warnings and advice from the trust and safety team, Roth said.

See also  Former Twitter Employee Convicted of Spying for Saudi Arabia, Accessing Private User Data

The launch was quickly beset by spammers impersonating major public companies such as Eli Lilly, Nestle and Lockheed Martin.

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Roth also said Tuesday that Twitter erred in restricting the dissemination of a New York Post article that made claims about then-Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s son shortly before the 2020 presidential election.

But he defended Twitter’s decision to permanently suspend Trump for risk of further incitement of violence after the riot at the US Capitol on January 6, 2021.

“We saw the clearest possible example of what it looked like for things to move from online to off,” Roth said. “We saw people dead in the Capitol.”

Musk tweeted on November 19 that Trump’s account would be reinstated after a slim majority voted in favour of the move in a surprise Twitter poll.

© Thomson Reuters 2022

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