Some new leaks of palace intrigue from Facebook (now Meta) show that Mark Zuckerberg is becoming increasingly demanding to work for as the company pivots its focus to the Metaverse, which by the way, still does not actually exist.
The most insightful thing I have read about the modern-day tech industry was written in 1990, long before the modern-day tech industry even existed, in a Kurt Vonnegut novel called Hocus Pocus: “Everybody wants to build and nobody wants to do maintenance.”
In this context, let’s consider the latest New York Times analysis of leaks front the Facebook/Meta executive suite, which show that founder Mark Zuckerberg is becoming increasingly demanding to work for. In the language of Meta, there are four internal company quotes that demand “intensity” or tell employees that “pressure is intense to move fast.” (Did he learn nothing from “move fast and break things?”)
Facebook (gah, Meta) is facing existential crises. Apple changes have robbed Facebook of many of its tracking tools. TikTok has eaten Facebook’s lunch among younger users. Facebook stock has lost more than half of its value since last August. Meta’s Q1 earnings call was a disaster, and the same is expected Wednesday, when analysts expect the company to report its first ever revenue decline.
Per the Times: “In recent months, [Zuckerberg] has reined in spending, trimmed perks, reshuffled his leadership team and made it clear he would cut low-performing employees. Those who are not on board are welcome to leave, he has said. Managers have sent out memos to convey the seriousness of the approach — one, which was shared with The New York Times, had the title ‘Operating With Increased Intensity.’”
The blame, of course, is being placed on employees, and not the executives or chief executive steering the ship
In a July all-company meeting, the Times reports that Zuckerberg told employees, “I think some of you might decide that this place isn’t for you, and that self-selection is OK with me,” and that “Realistically, there are probably a bunch of people at the company who shouldn’t be here.”
Rather than performing fixes on the company’s problems, Zuck wants to build something new, e.g. the Facebook version of the Metaverse. But just like anything labeled “Web3,” it is based on what tech executives want consumers to want, rather than what consumers say they want. (Remember curved TVs?)
Nonetheless, Zuckerberg is all in on the Metaverse, and burning company resources on it. As the Times explains, “Facebook’s Reality Labs division, which is building augmented and virtual reality products, has dragged down the company’s balance sheet; the hardware unit lost nearly $3 billion in the first quarter alone.”
And that was Zuckerberg’s call. “When Mark gets super focused on something, it becomes all hands on deck within the company,” former Facebook policy director Katie Harbath told the Times. “Teams will quickly drop other work to pivot to the issue at hand, and the pressure is intense to move fast to show progress.”
Yes, there will probably be a Web3. But there’s no guarantee that it will be what the “smartest people in the room” think it’s going to be, nor will it necessarily arrive on the timeline the investor class hopes for. The whole idea of the Metaverse might need a lot more tinkering, Or that is, maintenance.
Image: Mark Zuckerberg via Facebook