Facebook's Pivot To VR Has Failed

Return to the Convent, by Eduardo Zamacois y Zabala, 1868. The painting depicts a group of monks laughing while a lone monk struggles with an ass.

Facebook’s Metaverse has maybe 200,000 monthly users. And it’s actually gone down. This is nothing. I had more monthly users on my startup (a Sri Lankan food website). For something Mark Zuckerberg is dumping Sri Lanka’s entire GDP into, this is an absolute disaster.

Great products just put numbers on the board. In its first year, Facebook was adding 100,000 users a month, hitting 1 million users by year one. Facebook changed its whole-ass name to Meta one year ago, and this is all they have to show? There’s no debate about whether the Metaverse is a failure. Numbers don’t lie.

Note that I’m not saying VR isn’t cool—VRChat is still cool—I’m just saying that Facebook’s Metaverse™️ is dead. Their attempt to brand, buy, and platform an entire category just didn’t work. Not only is the category of VR not big enough, Facebook fucking sucks at it. They just figured out legs.

Many analysts dwell on why Facebook’s Metaverse sucks so much, as in the content, but it ultimately doesn’t matter. The startup game is all about user numbers and growth, and Facebook has neither. Just look at these projections. They’re both pathetic and they’ll still miss them:

According to the WSJ, Meta’s aiming to reach 280,000 monthly active Horizon Worlds users by the end of this year instead of its initial goal of 500,000. And while the company said it had around 10,000 separate worlds as of February, the WSJ reports that only about nine percent of these virtual venues are visited by more than 50 users, and that most users don’t return after one month of using the platform.

I’ve been on the board of a company watching a failed investment, and the numbers looked like this. They were low, they went lower, they just bobbed around somewhere dismal. This is not what startups look like. A startup either goes up and to the right or it’s a zombie, the walking dead. Facebook’s Metaverse is a zombie world.

I used an Oculus headset for a while (a kind reader sent me one) and it was definitely interesting, but this is not the next mobile internet, as Zuckerberg has said. The fact that Mark Zuckerberg is out there talking instead of letting the product do the talking tells you everything you need to know. Zuckerberg never sold Facebook, people demanded it, and had no idea what he looked like. That’s what a successful product looks like. Zuckerberg is out there looking like a used car salesman. Which I guess he is.

Facebook is a used vehicle. It’s out of gas. It bought some more miles by buying Instagram and WhatsApp, but—as OutKast said—

“Baby boy, you only funky as your last cut
You focus on the past, your ass’ll be a has-what

This is of course thrilling schadenfreude, to watch Facebook fail. The company has gone from a trillion-dollar company to less valuable than Home Depot in a year. It’s also terribly interesting, albeit carnage to the 12,000 people Meta has laid off.

There’s a lot to gawk and debate about, but not the fundamental fact that Meta has failed. This is as big a swing-and-a-miss as Google Plus. Remember, when Google tried to switch its entire ship into social and got nowhere? Google didn’t die and Facebook, unfortunately, won’t die, but they have now literally branded themselves with failure. It’s like Mark Zuckerberg got a face tattoo and didn’t become a rap star. It’s embarrassing.

Long live VR (it’s actually fun!) but ding-dong, the Metaverse is dead.