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What does Meta actually think about the metaverse?

When Mark Zuckerberg published his Founder’s Letter on October 28 2021, hailing the “next chapter for the internet”, it was widely believed that the world was moving to web3.0. The hype was massive. Articles, YouTube videos, blog posts and social media content were full of predictions about the future of human interaction. The Zuck had changed the world before and he was about to do it again; or so people thought. Fast forward a few years, and today many people wonder what happened to the metaverse and if the metaverse is dead.

But is the metaverse actually an afterthought? Internet tech has the somewhat unique ability in being perceived as “dead” despite experiencing growth. Tumblr, for example, is generally considered an abandoned platform, particularly after having been purchased by Yahoo for $1.1 billion in 2013 and then sold for a measly $3 million in 2019. But its visitor statistic tell a different story, having received on average over 200 million visitors per month in the latter half of 2023. Facebook similarly gets the question, “Does anyone use Facebook anymore?” despite receiving 3 billion monthly active users.

So, what does Meta think about the metaverse itself?

On the surface it appears Meta is still gung ho about the metaverse, referring to it as the future of digital connection. But what about when we dig a little deeper? Fortunately, with Meta being a publicly-traded company, we have access to various reports and public statements. Can we glean some insight into Meta’s commitment to the metaverse from the extent to which they talk about it? Let’s take a look.

First up are Meta’s quarterly Earnings Calls. In the transcripts of these calls we can analyse the number of times the word ‘metaverse’ is mentioned as a gauge of the company’s interest. The rationale is simple. If Meta is committed to the metaverse, chances are they’ll want to talk about it.

Earnings Call TranscriptNumber of times ‘metaverse’ is mentioned
1Q 20210
2Q 202120
3Q 202111
4Q 202115
1Q 202211
2Q 202210
3Q 202213
4Q 20227
1Q 202310
2Q 202312
3Q 20233
4Q 20237
References to the metaverse reached its lowest point in 3Q 2023.

Interestingly, Meta’s interest and excitement about the metaverse appeared highest in 2Q 2021, presumably in anticipation of communicating the next step in the company’s journey. Since then the metaverse has featured fairly consistently in conversations during Meta’s quarterly earnings calls, experiencing a considerable dip in 3Q 2023.

A graph depicting the number of times 'metaverse' is mentioned in Meta's quarterly Earnings Reports.
The mention of the ‘metaverse’ is seeing a gradual decline.

The dip in 3Q 2023 wasn’t followed by a significant rebound in 4Q 2023, indicating that the company’s interest in the metaverse is seeing a gradual decline and their focus is elsewhere. Another source of information about Meta’s intended focus are Follow Up Calls to the quarterly Earnings Calls, in which investors ask specific questions related to the Earnings Call presentations they listened to. Remarkably the word ‘metaverse’ is mentioned only once in the Q4 2023 Follow Up Call and zero times in the Q1, Q2 and Q3 2023 Follow Up Calls.

To put things in perspective, AI was mentioned 12 times in Meta’s Q4 2023 Follow Up Call. One can assume, therefore, that Meta’s focus for the time being appears to be on artificial intelligence. There have been some comments by senior leadership within the company pointing out that AI and the metaverse aren’t projects that should be looked at in isolation, but rather that they will work in tandem. A lot of the metaverse’s features, for example, will leverage AI technology. However, from the data, we can see a noticeable shift; at least from a PR and conversational perspective. The metaverse was an exciting prospect in 2021 and 2022. While still actively promoted today, it’s not talked about as much.

And so, back to the question. What does Meta think about the metaverse? Meta still believes there is potential, but there are other things to talk about.

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