Facebook (FB) New CTO Andrew Bosworth is the man who builds the metaverse

Before wave of stories released on Oct. 25 revealed new details about the disturbing ways Facebook Inc. manages its social networks, the company was hoping to spend the week talking about its plans to grow beyond this business. A major theme of its annual Connect conference which kicks off on October 28 will be the company’s ambitions for the so-called metaverse, a new digital space that he says will supplant smartphone apps as the primary form of online interaction. Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg has said following this path will transform Facebook and has publicly set a goal of attracting 1 billion users to the metaverse by the end of the decade.


Photographer: Jessica Chou for Bloomberg Businessweek

The Metaverse has played a starring role in science fiction for decades – the digital worlds of novels Snow accident and Loan Player One, where the characters live digital lives parallel to their physical existences, are metaverse. Video games such as Roblox and Fortnite are also similar to what Facebook has in mind. The idea is that smartphones are reaching their limits in creating immersive computing experiences, and people will be thirsty to go further, choosing to engage in three-dimensional digital interactions, for example, instead of make video chats. “You can think of the metaverse as an Internet persona,” Zuckerberg Recount The Verge tech news website last summer, “where instead of just viewing content, you are there.” The head is Andrew Bosworth, a longtime executive and close friend of Zuckerberg, who will take up his role as CTO in early 2022. “We want to give people a glimpse of that vision, into that future,” Bosworth says, 39 years old. known within the company as Boz. He describes the conference as a “love letter to the future of the metaverse”.

Facebook has laid the groundwork for this project since at least 2014, when it acquired the maker of virtual reality headsets. Oculus. Bosworth took over Facebook’s virtual and augmented reality efforts in 2017, and his rise to CTO indicates how much of a priority the project is within the company. Facebook recently stated that it hire 10,000 people in Europe over the next five years to help create the Metaverse. In its latest earnings report on October 25, it said its operating profit would be down $ 10 billion in 2021 due to investments in the metaverse-building division, and he plans to increase that spending for years before making any real money from it.

Facebook plays both offense and defense here. If the metaverse becomes the next medium to interact online, the business will benefit from being involved in its design. Facebook has also long known that its access to users relies on companies such as Apple Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google and their devices and operating systems, a vulnerability that was highlighted by the recent Facebook post dispute with Apple over ad targeting. Facebook believes people will be accessing the Metaverse from their smartphones, but increasingly using devices like Facebook-owned Oculus VR headsets, which would be an obvious hit.

Facebook has already invested more heavily in the field than many people realize, says Tom Mainelli, vice president of device and consumer research at the research firm. IDC. He sees the metaverse as key to the company’s plans to “diversify future revenue streams, solidify its position in the next IT platform, and potentially rewrite its business narrative going forward.”

To achieve its ambitions, Facebook will likely need the cooperation of a skeptical audience and the competitors it is trying to bypass. The idea of ​​the metaverse only really works if Apple and Google users can play as well. Otherwise, says Bosworth, it’s just a bunch of universes.

The company is betting it can build the metaverse in a way that brings in other companies. Bosworth, who has worked at Facebook for over 15 years, has been instrumental in the creation of almost every one of its flagship products. He helped build The news feed, the primary means by which people interact with the social network and the main money generator of the company, as well as Facebook groups, Messenger and the network’s advertising team. For four years he has been running Facebook Reality Labs, the futuristic division of the company that makes virtual reality headsets, home speakers, and augmented reality sunglasses. Zuckerberg considers him a close friend; their children play together, and when Bosworth’s house was under construction, he rented a house in Zuckerberg, moving in next door.

Bosworth is much more visible than most Facebook executives, who generally keep public profiles low. He is a prolific Facebook user and Twitter, and (of course) it has a Podcast.

Bosworth also considers himself a malcontent and has shared provocative posts on Facebook’s internal forums. In an article he wrote in 2016 and appeared in a 2018 BuzzFeed item, he suggested that the negative impacts of Facebook’s platform – exposing people to bullies or allowing terrorist activity, for example – were just the price to pay for fulfilling the company’s mission of connecting the world. “The sad truth is, we believe in connecting people so deeply that anything that allows us to connect more people more often is * de facto * good,” he wrote.

Bosworth says he didn’t really believe it, even then, and instead tried to spark discussion. He says he was embarrassed by the way this sounded to his colleagues and the audience, and learned from it. “It was super painful for me,” he says.

Bosworth’s comments were particularly damaging as they reinforced the perception that Facebook ruthlessly pursues growth regardless of the cost, a reputation which could be a hindrance as the company seeks to build confidence in its efforts on the metaverse. Facebook will have to completely change established norms of online behavior, says Pano Anthos, founder of venture capital fund and startup accelerator XRC Labs, which attempted to create a version of the Metaverse 15 years ago. “It’s so early,” he says, and Facebook “is going to spend billions and billions trying to adapt people’s behaviors to it.

Facebook’s strategy to defuse concerns about its intentions is to talk about it before the metaverse really exists, an apparent reversal in the mindset of growing now and problem-solving later that has led to many problems with its social networks. some products. Critics have suggested that the company’s metaverse talks are primarily designed to deflect uncomfortable questions about these other products.

For his part, Bosworth says Facebook has learned about the impact of technology on society and believes he must be convinced that it can do better this time around. “The products we envision never existed,” he says. “We have to make decisions on how they’re going to be. And it just takes a certain degree of confidence to do it. —With Clara Molot

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Facebook wants to shift the use of the internet to augmented and virtual reality, and is investing billions in a strategy to do so.

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