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The Metaverse Is Zuckerberg’s Escape Hatch

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.

October 29, 2021 / 09:50 PM IST
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg

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.