How Mark Zuckerberg is taking the meta to the next phase

SAN FRANCISCO – Mark Zuckerberg, the founder and CEO of the company formerly known as Facebook, called his top social media contributors this month for one last meeting in the San Francisco Bay Area. On the agenda: “work-aton” to discuss a roadmap to improve the core Facebook app, including reconstruction it would change how users view the service.

A few weeks earlier, Mr. Zuckerberg had sent out overhaul messages to his executives, pressuring them to speed up and get their work done, people with knowledge of the matter say. According to them, some executives who had to read the 122-page change presentation began to sweat at the unusual level of intensity.

According to People, Facebook leaders flew in from all over the world for the summit, and Mr. Zuckerberg and the group carefully studied every slide. A few days later, the team introduced an update to the Facebook app to better compete with the archrival. tik tak.

mr. Zuckerberg is setting a relentless pace as he takes his $450 billion company, which has been renamed Meta, to a new milestone. In recent months, he has reined in spending, cut benefits, reshuffled his leadership team and made it clear that he cut inefficient employees. He said that those who are not on board can leave. Managers sent out memos to convey the seriousness of the approach—one shared with The New York Times was titled “Intensity Work.”

mr. Zuckerberg, 38, is trying to push his company away from its social media roots and focus it on an immersive — and so far theoretical — world. the so-called metaverse. In Silicon Valley, he and other executives who created what many call Web 2.0 — a more social, app-centric version of the Internet — are rethinking and revisiting their original vision after their platforms were hit by viruses. privacy stumblestoxic compound and disinformation.

The moment is reminiscent of other betting adventures, such as when Netflix shut down its DVD distribution business in the past decade to focus on streaming. But Mr. Zuckerberg is making these moves with the Meta standing with his back to the wall. The company is looking into the barrel of a global recession. Competitors like TikTok, YouTube and Apple are on the rise.

And success is far from guaranteed. In recent months Meta Profit Drops and earnings slowed as the company spent lavishly on the metaverse and the economic downturn hurt its advertising business. His shares have fallen.

“When Mark is too focused on something, everything falls into place within the company,” said Kathy Harbat, former Facebook policy director and founder of Anchor Change, a technology and democracy consulting firm. “Teams are quickly leaving other work to focus on the current issue and the pressure is strong to move quickly to show progress.”

Meta declined to comment. The company plans to report quarterly earnings on Wednesday.

mr. Zuckerberg’s repositioning of the Meta began in earnest last year when he began reorganizing his bench.

In October elevated a longtime friend and colleague, Andrew Bosworth, known as Boz, to chief technical officer, leading the development of hardware for the metaverse. Have advanced other loyalists too, including Javier Olivan, the new chief operating officer; Nick Clegg, who became president of international affairs; and Guy Rosen, who has taken on a new role as Chief Information Security Officer.

In June, Sheryl Sandbergwho was Mr. No. Zuckerberg. 2 for 14 years, said she would retire this fall. Although she had spent over a decade building Facebook’s ad systems, she was less interested in doing the same for the metaverse, according to people familiar with her plans.

mr. Zuckerberg has transferred thousands of employees to different teams for the metaverse, teaching them how to work on promising projects such as hardware glasses, wearable devices, and a new operating system for these devices.

“It’s an existential bet on where people over the next decade will connect, express and identify with each other,” said Matthew Ball, longtime tech lead and author of the book. metaverse book. “If you have the money, the engineers, the users, and the conviction to try it, then you should.”

But the effort is far from cheap. The division of Facebook Reality Labs, engaged in the creation of augmented and virtual reality products, has reduced the company’s balance sheet; in the first quarter alone, the hardware division lost nearly $3 billion.

At the same time, the Meta struggles with Apple privacy changes which hampered its ability to measure the effectiveness of ads on the iPhone. TikTok, a Chinese-owned video app, has stolen young audiences from mainstream Meta apps like Instagram and Facebook. These concerns coincide with a tough macroeconomic environment that has forced Apple, Google, Microsoft and Twitter to freeze or slow down recruitment.

So, Mr. Zuckerberg launched his company in full force, saying: “It’s time to do more with less.”

This month, Meta lowered its plan to hire engineers for the year from 10,000 to 12,000 to 6,000 and said it would leave some open positions vacant. Budgets that were once large are being slashed and managers have been told not to expect unlimited staff on their teams. AT memo Chris Cox, director of product at Meta, said last month that the economic environment calls for “smaller, meaner, more efficient teams.”

At a staff meeting around the same time, Mr. Zuckerberg said he knew not everyone would agree with the changes. This is normal, he told employees.

“I think some of you may decide that this is not the place for you and that I’m okay with making my own choice” mr. Zuckerberg said. “In fact, there are probably a bunch of people in the company who shouldn’t be here.”

Another handout distributed to workers this month was called “High Intensity Work.” In the memo, Meta’s VP said managers need to start “thinking about every single person on their team and the value they add.”

“If the direct report is not working or not working well, he is not the one we need; they are letting this company down,” the memo says. “As a manager, you can’t let someone just be neutral or negative about the Meta.”

mr. Zuckerberg has focused the efforts of those who remain on the areas he believes will benefit the Met the most in the long run. These include the metaverse, messaging, Instagram rules, privacy, artificial intelligence, and higher revenue from products that currently bring next to nothing, according to Mr. Cox’s memorandum, which set out six “investment prioritiesfor the company in the second half of this year.

Meta is retreating in some areas, including low-selling products such as the Portal video chat device, which will no longer be offered to consumers and will instead be aimed at businesses. mr. According to people familiar with the matter, Bosworth has also put its dual camera smartwatch on hold, although the company is working on it. other prototypes. bloomberg informed previously on smartwatches.

Just days after this month’s “work race” with Facebook managers, Mr. Zuckerberg posted an update to your Facebook profile, highlighting some upcoming changes to the app. Facebook will start pushing people towards more videos with more recommended content, mimicking how TikTok works.

Meta is investing heavily in video and search, looking to beef up its AI and improve “discovery algorithms” that invite users to engage with content without having to work on finding it.

In the past, Facebook has tested major product updates with several English-speaking audiences to see how they perform before rolling them out more widely. But this time, the 2.93 billion people around the world using the social networking app will receive the update at the same time.

According to some Meta employees, this is a sign of how strong Mr. Zuckerberg means business.