Is this the end of social media?
Photo: Joël SAGET/AFP via Getty Images

Is this the end of social media?

Source Code

Good morning! This Thursday, the metaverse could change social media as we know it, the DOJ is looking into Visa's fintech ties, and Adam Mosseri has regrets.

Also, don't miss our new Diversity Tracker, with data and comparisons from across the tech industry. We'll have more analysis and data in tomorrow's Source Code, but you can see everything in the tracker on Protocol right now.

Bye bye big blue app

At Facebook Connect today, Mark Zuckerberg is expected to unveil additional details about his company's quest to build the metaverse. That includes a new generation of social media services that brings real-time communication to AR, VR and other platforms, complete with varying degrees of embodied presence (in the future, we'll all be avatars).

Facebook has been spending heavily on the metaverse, including more than $10 billion in 2021 alone. But while it starts to take shape, one question still remains: If Facebook wants to be a metaverse company, then what does that mean for Facebook, the app and service? And is there room in the metaverse for Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp?

The metaverse could replace social media as we know it. Facebook's newly announced financial reporting changes seem to support the idea: Starting in Q4, the company will break out revenue and expenses for FRL, the unit tasked with building AR and VR hardware and services as well as devices like the Portal.

  • Most of Facebook's existing business will be reported as part of a new "Family of Apps" segment that includes Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Messenger and more. It's where all the money currently comes from, but the grouping also has a strong legacy business stench to it.
  • There's already some evidence that parts of Facebook's legacy business have plateaued; daily active user metrics for Facebook, the service, have essentially been flat in Europe and North America since the beginning of 2020 — a trend that is apparently so alarming to the company that it now wants to refocus on young adults.

But Facebook has a rough track record of launching things from scratch. Some of the company's biggest services have been acquisitions, and efforts to launch new standalone media services have frequently fallen flat.

  • IGTV, for instance, launched with great fanfare and a dedicated app, in 2018. Those efforts never really paid off, and three years later, IGTV got essentially folded back into Instagram.
  • Facebook Watch, which launched in 2017 with a massive slate of originals, hasn't fared much better. Many of those originals have since been canceled, and key publishing partners have pulled back on their Watch investments.

The good news for Facebook is that the metaverse needs a lightweight social layer, and Facebook's existing family of apps may be able to provide just that.

  • Even with AR and VR improving every year, we won't be wearing headsets and glasses all day long anytime soon. Metaverse services will have to extend to mobile and ambient computing, giving people a chance to participate via videoconference or Clubhouse-like spatial audio.
  • Even when we are in AR or VR, we may not always want to commit to a fully embodied presence. Call it a social mute button, a VR incognito mode, or even the metaverse equivalent of participating in a Zoom call with your camera off: There will be times when you'll want to use the next computing platform without all the social bells and whistles.
  • To transition back and forth between different devices as well as varying levels of social participation, we'll need services that can communicate our status, as well as easily help us gather our friends or co-workers — functionality that can be easily added to apps like Messenger and WhatsApp.
  • And while the metaverse is all about real-time interaction, we'll still want spaces to share memories, both from the real world as well as all these new worlds, with friends and family across device boundaries. That's where Facebook and Instagram come in.

Zuckerberg seems to be committed to bringing these legacy properties along as the company prepares for the metaverse. The metaverse "needs to work everywhere," Zuckerberg told analysts on the company's Q3 earnings call Monday. "It needs to be able to work across our whole family of apps. It needs to be able to work on the web and on phones and on computers."

Facebook may become a metaverse company, and perhaps even change its name along the way. But for better or for worse, Facebook will still be Facebook.

— Janko Roettgers (email | twitter)

A version of this story first appeared on Protocol.com. Read it here.

Protocol event

Handling gender, diversity and difference in Chinese workplaces

China's not monolithic — and neither are its workplaces. What are China's most forward-looking workplaces, and what are they doing to become more inclusive? Join us at 5 p.m. PT Thursday, where we'll talk about some key companies leading the way for inclusion in China, identify what might port over to U.S. workplaces and highlight the obstacles Chinese companies are facing in their DEI efforts. RSVP here.

A MESSAGE FROM FACEBOOK

Jack is one of 40,000 people working on safety and security issues at Facebook. Hear more from Jack on why Facebook supports updating regulations on the internet's most pressing challenges, including reforming Section 230 to set clear guidelines for all large tech companies.

Learn more

People are talking

On Protocol | Workplace: Paradigm won't sugarcoat your inclusion efforts, Joelle Emerson said:

  • "We're trying to give companies scores against what we believe they should be doing, rather than against what actually exists in the world … which is a very, very low bar."

Sens. Ed Markey and Richard Blumenthal want more kids protections on social media:

  • "Whether your name is Facebook, YouTube, TikTok or Snapchat, these platforms all seem to operate on the same computer code of misconduct, endangering kids and teens. Big Tech has lost trust."

On Protocol | Workplace: Productivity apps are raising money like crazy right now, but ClickUp's Zeb Evans said startups should stay focused:

  • "You can't outmarket them, you can't outresource them, you really can only win on product at the beginning of your journey. It's about how fast you can put out those fires and fix things to keep the machine going."

Fidji Simo says Instacart grocers are ready to go up against Amazon:

  • "I see Instacart as the platform that grocery retailers are going to turn to in the fight against Amazon."

Adam Mosseri seems to regret giving angry emoji reactions more weight:

  • "Looking back, I would do it differently."

Making moves

Nubank filed for an IPO. The digital bank raised funds at a $30 billion valuation back in June.

Ebanx is also reportedly looking to IPO. The fintech company may seek a valuation over $10 billion.

"Buy now, pay later" can be used for air travel, too. American Airlines and Affirm are partnering to let customers pay for flights in installments.

Eric Martorano is joining Kinly as EVP and managing director of the Americas. He's a former general manager of U.S. channel sales at Microsoft.

Meredith Kopit Levien and Lily Sarafan are joining Instacart's board. Levien is The New York Times Company's CEO, and Sarafan co-founded Home Care Assistance.

In other news

The European Commission is looking into Nvidia's Arm purchase, specifically whether it may hurt competition in the chip industry. Nvidia insists that the acquisition will only help Arm and semiconductors at large.

On Protocol: Facebook is having trouble hiring engineers. The Facebook Papers show that the company is struggling to meet its recruiting goals for 2021, and has in other recent years as well. Things got bad enough in 2019, for instance, that Zuckerberg set up a dedicated team to fix the problem.

Facebook also told employees to hold onto company information since 2016, according to a report from The New York Times. The company sent an email asking workers to keep internal documents and communications as probes into the company begin.

Kids no longer need to see photos in their Google search results. People under 18 and parents can fill out a form that asks Google to delete images from search results. It's part of a series of child protections the company is rolling out.

Visa's fintech ties are being examined. The Justice Department is examining how Square, Stripe and PayPal were affected by Visa deals as part of a bigger antitrust probe into the company.

Google Cloud was Intel's secret chip helper all along. The company gave Intel some design assistance on the Mount Evans chip, which helps cloud providers manage data centers.

Spotify is winning the podcast race in the U.S. Apple Podcasts has long been the dominant platform for podcast listeners, but Spotify said it has recently taken the lead.

Living with little

We can't all be minimalists with a billion-dollar net worth like some. But we can be minimalist entrepreneurs — at least according to Sahil Lavingia, author of "The Minimalist Entrepreneur," which was released this week.

The book talks about how you can make the most of the internet to launch a sustainable business. It includes a few key lessons, including how to maintain a company during remote work, and why it's important to jump head first into a venture and learn along the way. It's a good read for anyone who wants to do more with less.

A MESSAGE FROM FACEBOOK

Jack is one of 40,000 people working on safety and security issues at Facebook. Hear more from Jack on why Facebook supports updating regulations on the internet's most pressing challenges, including reforming Section 230 to set clear guidelines for all large tech companies.

Learn more

Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to sourcecode@protocol.com, or our tips line, tips@protocol.com. Enjoy your day, see you tomorrow.

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