When Mark Zuckerberg appeared on screen at Facebook’s virtual Connect conference Thursday, smiling as he wandered through sterile rooms filled with midcentury modern furniture, he looked like a man unburdened.
Whistleblower? What whistleblower? Cascading, yearslong trust crisis that has regulators fuming, employees bailing and lawmakers comparing Facebook to Big Tobacco? Hmm, doesn’t ring a bell.
Instead, Zuckerberg and his lieutenants cheerfully laid out their vision for the so-called metaverse, the immersive virtual environment that Facebook — which, as of Thursday, has been renamed Meta, although everyone except for a few professionally obligated financial journalists will probably keep calling it Facebook — is trying to build.
As with most of Facebook’s strategy announcements, Thursday’s rebranding formalized a shift that has been underway for years. The company already has more than 10,000 people working on augmented and virtual reality projects in its Reality Labs division — roughly twice as many people as are on Twitter’s entire staff — and has said it plans to hire 10,000 more in Europe soon. Earlier this week, the company announced that it would spend about $10 billion on metaverse-related investments this year, and it has been acquiring VR startups in what could amount to a metaverse land grab.