Meta Cuts 10,000 More Workers After Scrapping NFT Plans – Is Metaverse Still On?
by James · March 16, 2023
Meta’s workforce grew in recent years as Facebook’s parent company signaled his ambitions for the metaverse– But recent moves indicate that there is a sting from changing technology trends and rough market conditions. The company today announced another round of layoffs, one day after saying it was “winding up” support for NFTs.
Co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote in a post today that Meta will shed around 10,000 additional employees in the months ahead across several waves, as well as close around 5,000 current listings for open positions. The moves will affect the recruitment department this week, the technology groups in April and the business groups in May.
Meta previously laid off around 11,000 employees in November, which represented around 13% of the workforce at the time, per CNBC. As of December 31, 2022, Meta reported a headcount of 86,482 people across all divisions – a 20% jump from the previous year – but said the figure still included most of the people included in the November layoffs.
Zuckerberg framed the latest cuts as part of Meta’s broader “year of efficiency” campaign, in which the social media giant seeks to continue with a leaner team while flattening its organizational structure, “discontinuing lower-priority projects” and optimizing tools and processes across the company.
What does this mean for metaverse then? Meta made a lot of noise in 2021 around the idea of the 3D Internet of the future, and changed its company name to reflect what Zuckerberg described as a new frontier for the dominant technology company. The news helped spark interest Web3 metaverse games, too, with virtual land NFT plots increases in value.
But the metaverse buzz died down in 2022 amid a series of setbacks – until the idea of an immersive internet, Meta’s early version of itand rising costs of digital property.
Meta confirmed its focus on building the metaverse late last year, but it has increasingly focused its messaging on the renewed fervor around artificial intelligence (AI) thanks to the success of rival OpenAI’s ChatGPT. In fact, Zuckerberg’s post today mentions AI ahead of the metaverse among technologies that Meta is focused on.
“Our single largest investment is in advancing AI and building it into all of our products,” he wrote. “Our leadership in building the metaverse and shaping the next generation of computing platforms remains central to defining the future of social connection.”
IN Meta’s earnings report for the fourth quarter of 2022 On February 1, Zuckerberg said that “the big technology waves driving our roadmap are AI today and in the longer term the metaverse,” adding that the firm’s “priorities haven’t changed since last year.”
He then emphasized that Meta continues to invest in virtual reality and mixed reality headsets via its Reality Labs division to build towards a future immersive internet. However, Zuckerberg added that “most people are going to experience the metaverse for the first time on phones and start building their digital identities across our apps.”
Yesterday, Meta announced that they were “discontinuing” support for NFTs on their platforms less than a year after entering the space. Instagram first launched an NFT trial in May 2022, which allows select users of the photo-sharing app to display their own artwork and collectibles. Facebook later added the same feature.
In November, Instagram said it would let creators create their own NFTs via Polygonone Ethereum scaling network, and then launched exclusive NFT coins from well-known creators such as photographer Isaac “Drift” Wright and AI artist Refik Anadol.
Some product news: across the company, we’re taking a hard look at our priorities to increase our focus. We are discontinuing digital collectibles (NFT) for now to focus on other ways to support creators, people and businesses. 🧵[1/5]
— Stephane Kasriel (@skasriel) March 13, 2023
IN a Twitter threadMeta’s Commerce and Fintech Lead Stephane Kasriel said the firm would move away from NFT collectibles “to focus on other ways to support creators, people and businesses on our apps, both today and in the metaverse.”
How big a role NFTs and Web3 would play in Meta’s version of the metaverse was always unclear. Meta’s metaverse demonstration video in 2021 showed NFTs being sold after a digital concert, and Zuckerberg made a point of emphasizing what he saw as the benefits of interoperabilitybut the firm has yet to detail the extent of Web3 technology in its plans.
Web3 metaverse builders see NFTs as key to their vision of an open metaverse where users can bring their own avatars, clothing, and objects across web platforms. But when tech giants like Meta and Microsoft have announced metaverse plans, they’ve signaled interest in interoperable standards-but no clear embrace of blockchain networks and assets.
Meta declined further comment Decrypt regarding the impact of layoffs on its metaverse push, as well as how the NFT announcement ties into that.
Based on today’s announcement and other recent comments, Meta still says it’s building towards the metaverse. Meta has consistently framed it as a long-term process, but that message is especially reinforced as AI developments gain more prominence across the tech world – and NFTs won’t be a key factor in that push, at least for now.