When Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg unveiled a first look at his company’s multi-billion dollar virtual reality metaverse gamble, Horizon Worlds, the internet mockingly derided the platform’s graphics—to the extent that Zuckerberg soon after issued a wounded apologyclaiming Horizon was “capable of much more” and “improving quickly.”
It appears that even the Meta employees working to make those improvements don’t hold the platform in the highest regard, either.
According to internal company memos obtained by The Verge, Meta’s Horizon Worlds team has been repeatedly chastised by department leadership for rarely using the platform, despite repeated orders to do so both at work and at home. Further memos reveal the Horizon Worlds team has been instructed to remain in a “quality lockdown” for the rest of the year to address enduring issues with the platform’s appearance and functionality.
“For many of us, we don’t spend that much time in Horizon and our dogfooding dashboards show this pretty clearly,” Meta’s VP of Metaverse Vishal Shah wrote to employees on September 15. “Why is that? Why don’t we love the product we’ve built so much that we use it all the time? The simple truth is, if we don’t love it, how can we expect our users to love it?”
Two weeks later, Horizon Worlds leadership found its team members’ engagement with the platform to still be unsatisfactory. In a memo dated September 30, Shah wrote that a plan was being drafted to “hold managers accountable” for enforcing mandatory Horizon sessions for Meta employees to use the platform and encouraging them to share it with non-work friends.
“Everyone in this organization should make it their mission to fall in love with Horizon Worlds. You can’t do that without using it,” said Shah. “Get in there. Organize times to do it with your colleagues or friends, in both internal builds but also the public build so you can interact with our community.”
Shah did concede that the platform’s onboarding experience “is confusing and frustrating for users,” and that “the aggregate weight of papercuts, stability issues, and bugs is making it too hard for our community to experience the magic of Horizon.”
For these reasons, the Horizon Worlds team was instructed by Shah on September 15 to remain in a “quality lockdown” through the end of the year to “ensure that we fix our quality gaps and performance issues before we open up Horizon to more users. ”
A Meta spokesperson told decrypt that “of course we are always making quality improvements and acting on the feedback from our community of creators.”
“This is a multiyear journey, and we’re going to keep making what we build better,” the spokesperson said.
Horizon Worlds’ woes are particularly notable in light of the exceptional amount of money Zuckerberg has directed at the division, which the CEO has repeatedly framed as the future of his company. In July, Meta’s metaverse division posted a whopping $2.8 billion loss for Q2, bringing year-to-date losses for the group to $5.77 billion. In 2021, the division lost $10.2 billion.
On Meta’s Q2 earnings call in July, Zuckerberg repeatedly defended his metaverse division, Facebook Reality Labs (FRL), to shareholders.
“This is obviously a very expensive undertaking over the next several years,” Zuckerberg conceded at the time. “But as the metaverse becomes more important in every part of how we live[…] I’m confident that we’re going to be glad we played an important role in building this.”
Meta has been all-in on dominating the metaverse—an immersive, future version of the internet navigated by digital avatars—since changing the company’s name from Facebook last fall. Butt wcheating Zuckerberg has been on a voracious spending spree in the metaverse, results have yet to materialize.
Leaders in Web3 have expressed skepticism about the company’s metaverse campaign. In late July, Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin stated that “the metaverse is going to happen,” but that he didn’t believe “any of the existing corporate attempts to intentionally create the metaverse are going anywhere.”
“It’s far too early to know what people actually want,” Buterin said at the time. “So anything Facebook creates now will misfire.”
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