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Meta’s losses show the metaverse’s costly risk

The trend: Meta and CEO Mark Zuckerberg are having a rough year.

  • The tech giant’s market value dropped 57% this year compared with Apple’s 14% dip, Amazon’s 26%, and Alphabet’s 29%, per Yahoo.
  • With most of Zuckerberg’s wealth tied to Meta, the billionaire has lost at least half of his fortune, erasing $71 billion from his net worth this year, per Bloomberg.
  • Meta is also facing regulatory battles. The company received a blow in its appeal of a German antitrust ruling and is now subject to EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) investigations as part of the antitrust challenge.
  • In the US, a group of states led by New York is pushing an appeals court to reinstate an antitrust lawsuit against Meta’s Facebook, citing ongoing harm from the company’s actions.

Root of the problems: Several factors have driven Meta to the new low. However, the decline appears to have directly followed the tech giant’s rebranding from Facebook to Meta last fall.

  • The image makeover is part of a pivot from social media giant to metaverse pioneer that hasn’t yet delivered anything to match the hype.
  • Instead, it prompted mockery of simplistic metaverse graphics and criticism of VR hardware that has underwhelmed investors.
  • The problems aren’t solely on Meta’s shoulders. Other companies are feeling similar pain from economic headwinds, intensifying regulatory scrutiny, changes to privacy features on iOS, and the rise of competitors like TikTok.
  • But for Meta, its decision to embark on its metaverse journey was ill-timed as the present economy isn’t a good development atmosphere for revolutionary technology given inflation-burdened consumers and dwindling cash flow for R&D.

An opportunity to reverse course: The upcoming Connect event on October 11 will give Meta a chance to turn things around.

  • Meta is expected to unveil its VR headset Project Cambria, aka the Quest Pro, updates to Horizon Worlds, and other VR and AR prototypes.
  • The reception of these releases could either be another hit to the company’s reputation or a demonstration that it has responded to feedback and delivered impressive results from the $10 billion it spent on the metaverse this year.
  • Living up to its name as the metaverse frontrunner would plant the seeds of investor confidence that could mature when economic conditions improve.
  • In the meantime, focusing on rebuilding its image as a company that cares about digital privacy could help Meta improve its reputation among consumers and mitigate future legal battles.