The media savaging of Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg seems to never end. But in the haste to fire shots at Zuckerberg, the metaverse has taken more than a few stray bullets.
Here are some of the most recent examples.
Death and the metaverse
Mark Zuckerberg continues to be ridiculed in the press as surely as night follows day. MetaNews first reported this phenomenon in April as media outlets lined up to take shots at the Meta chief. Since then, media reports have only become more brutal.
One of the most savage pundits on the circuit is Ed Zitron of Business Insider.
“There is no reason that a man who has overseen the layoffs of tens of thousands of people should run a major company. There is no future for Meta with Mark Zuckerberg at the helm,” said Zitron earlier this month.
Zitron goes a step further, declaring the metaverse to be dead into the bargain.
“Zuckerberg misled everyone, burned tens of billions of dollars, convinced an industry of followers to submit to his quixotic obsession, and then killed it [the metaverse] the second that another idea started to interest Wall Street,” he said.
The metaverse is dead and I killed it. I went inside and pulled all the cables out
— Ed Zitron (@edzitron) May 8, 2023
This rhetoric of the premature eulogy is commonplace in tech journalism where obituaries are trotted out regularly, even as technologies remain stubbornly active and alive. Bitcoin has been declared dead 474 times and carries on regardless.
What is less common is for the ‘death’ to be laid at the feet of an individual, and declared a murder. As mainstream media sees Zuckerberg, he is standing over the body with blood on his hands.
Another metaverse obituary comes from John Naughton of The Guardian. Naughton laments Zuckerberg’s complete control of Meta and his inability to manage spending.
“You’d have thought someone who had just blown $36bn of his company’s money in the pursuit of a personal obsession would have been a mite apologetic, wouldn’t you? Not a bit of it. Why? Because he has absolute control over the company,” said Naughton on Saturday.
Like Zitron, Naughton declares the metaverse dead. Obituaries are a great way to grab attention in the present moment. When death never comes, these pronouncements tend to look a bit silly. That doesn’t make them any less bruising in the present.
More measured criticisms
Some journalists are wise enough to avoid eulogies. John Herrman of Intelligencer refers to Zitron in his own criticisms of the Meta CEO, but refrains from macabre pronouncements.
“The metaverse was for Facebook/Meta, as Zitron suggests, a ‘means to an increased share price,’ but it also resembled an executive crusade — it was the awkward Zuck in those metaverse announcement videos, more animated than he’s ever been — and it’s not that hard to imagine why,” says Herman.
As Herman sees it, the metaverse gave Zuckerberg a new frontier to conquer. It was the frontier of Zuckerberg’s choosing. But the conquest ultimately failed. Unlike most commentators, Herman does as least provide some excuse for the Zuck in the form of Covid.
“Empty offices and newly empowered employees drove some tech executives out of their minds, and the Metaverse promised a solution, or at least functioned as a response,” says Herman.
More substance arrives
Looking beyond rhetoric, there are some substantive criticisms to be found. Due to Meta’s exorbitant spending, the company is now cutting costs and staff. Little wonder Zuckerberg’s greatest critics are Meta’s staff.
Aaron Patrick at Financial Review covered a recent meeting between Zuckerberg and employees.
During the call, one staff member told Zuckerberg he had “shattered morale” after laying off 21,000 workers.
Patrick at least gives the Zuck credit for facing his team. But as Patrick points out, Zuckerberg is “a man whose fame is inverse to his popularity” – and Zuckerberg is very famous indeed.
The metaverse is doing fine
Mark Zuckerberg may be taking a pasting in the press but the metaverse is doing just fine.
As Tim Sweeney, CEO of Epic Games said last week, “The metaverse is dead! Let’s organize an online wake so that we 600,000,000 monthly active users in Fortnite, Minecraft, Roblox, PUBG Mobile, Sandbox, and VRChat can mourn its passing together in real-time 3D.”