Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer of Meta Platforms Inc., speaks during the virtual Meta Connect event in New York, US, on Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2022. Zuckerberg unveiled his company's newest virtual-reality headset, the Meta Quest Pro, the latest foray into the world of high-end VR devices that Meta Platforms hopes will entice creators and working professionals to adopt its vision for a virtual future. Photographer: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Photo: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Meta’s empty metaverse

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Good morning! Horizon Worlds is supposed to be Meta’s proof that social VR is the metaverse’s killer app. So far, it’s failing.

Who is Horizon Worlds for?

Meta, a company known for scaling social products to billions of users at breakneck speed, is facing a serious, expensive, and increasingly existential challenge in growing its nascent metaverse platform, Horizon Worlds.

While Meta set out in 2022 to grow the platform to more than half a million people, it has fewer than 200,000 people logging in every month, according to a Wall Street Journal report. In Horizon’s struggles lies a central hurdle for Meta: What if Mark Zuckerberg’s metaverse flops?

Meta is gambling on a social-first vision. While most VR today revolves around gaming, Zuckerberg is pitching a version of the metaverse that’s immersive, social, and tethered to the real world, including people’s social and work lives.

  • “Back when we started working on this, we believed that over time social experiences would become the main way people would use VR. That’s coming true. Today the top apps in the Quest store are social metaverse apps,” Zuckerberg said during the Connect keynote.
  • “For the first time, we can build technology centered around people and how we actually experience the world,” Zuckerberg added. “That's why the metaverse is first-person. Right? You feel like you’re actually in it.”

But Horizon Worlds isn’t sticky enough. Unlike other social networks, Horizon Worlds is a VR playground that requires you to hang out with friends and strangers alike with a computer strapped to your face.

  • The WSJ’s report said most users stop logging back into Horizon after the first month, and only 9% of user-generated worlds are ever visited by more than 50 people.
  • “An empty world is a sad world,” read an internal document on Horizon’s population problem. The report also states that more than half of all Quest headsets sold end up unused after six months.

Ultimately, people want something different. The social experiences most users want to engage in right now are not social networks or VR versions of Microsoft software. They’re video games like Fortnite, Roblox, and Minecraft, none of which needed VR or productivity add-ons to grow.

Read more:A longer version of this story appeared in the Protocol Entertainment newsletter. Sign up here.

A conservative grab for the enterprise

Ye, the rapper formerly known as Kanye West, is buying Parler for an undisclosed sum following his suspension from Instagram and Twitter for anti-Semetic posts. But if you want to understand why the deal matters, it isn’t what Ye’s buying, but rather what Parler’s parent company — now called Parlement Technologies — is keeping.

Parlement Technologies will focus on digital infrastructure. It bought the cloud service company Dynascale last month with the intention of powering what it calls an "uncancelable" future.

  • The move signals that it’s leaving the niche of conservative social media behind as it failed to truly challenge mainstream social platforms, Protocol’s Ben Brody writes.

Companies have been caught up in controversies over content involving conservative users and platforms.

  • One recent example: In early September, Cloudflare booted Kiwi Farms from its service after “escalated” threats of violent anti-trans bigotry.

Parlement’s intentions are clear: It wants to have a say in what Ben calls the “digital choke points” that dictate what can and can’t go on the internet. Ye taking Parler off its hands frees the company to focus on that goal. But it still has a long way to go if it wants to compete with giants like AWS, which are taking up the vast majority of the market share.

Read more:The most important half of Ye's Parler deal is what he isn't buying

Thiel sets his sights on Arizona

Peter Thiel is putting money down on the Republican party. And this time, he’s supporting one of his own, Protocol’s Hirsh Chitkara writes.

Thiel’s donating up to $5 million to Blake Masters’ Arizona Senate campaign. Masters is the Thiel Capital COO and previously hadn’t gotten support from Thiel beyond a $15 million donation to the Saving Arizona PAC.

  • Thiel has already donated to tons of Congressional campaigns this midterms cycle, but Masters and J.D. Vance, another candidate he’s supported, have both worked for Thiel.
  • While Vance holds a strong lead in Ohio, Masters has a bit of catching up to do. FiveThirtyEight models give incumbent Sen. Mark Kelly an 80% chance of winning in Arizona.
  • Both candidates winning would move Thiel’s vision for the GOP — which Hirsh describes as a more “buttoned-up” version of Trumpism — closer to a reality.

One of Thiel’s more prominent views is that Democrats rode their way to the top of Big Tech and hurt the American middle class along the way.

  • He’s described, for example, a so-called “tech curse” in which the tech industry is “associated with social dysfunction rather than progress.” Thiel believes that’s translated into distorted political dynamics and contributed to the real estate crisis.
  • Thiel has criticized the Republican party, as well, for pushing itself too far to the other side of “wokeism” and broader California politics.

Thiel wants less regulation and more investment in non-software companies, but Hirsh pointed out that he doesn’t want to destroy Big Tech to solve the issues that come with it. Rather, political power would be a means of breaking down the political dysfunction surrounding companies like Apple and Google.

Read more:Peter Thiel’s gamble against the “somewhat fake California thing”


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People are talking

Rajesh Gopinathan, CEO of Indian IT provider TCS, said funding commitments toward “digital transformation” are still hot, though excitement has died down:

  • “What we are getting into is the second leg of these transformation journeys, which is very critical.”

Making moves

Darren Burton joined Eightfold AI as chief people officer. Burton previously held the same role at KPMG and worked at IBM and Raytheon before that.

David DeRuff joined GoSecureas CFO. He was most recently a partner at DBO Partners.

Ankur Mehrotra is joining Julo, an Indonesian fintech startup. Mehrotra was Grab's head of lending.

Wesley Bush joined Red Cell Partners as a director and adviser. He’s also on the board of General Motors, Dow, and Cisco and has served as chairman and CEO of Northrop Grumman.

G4 is shutting down. The gaming channel and online network created by Comcast had already endured layoffs and its biggest creators leaving the platform.

It's not privacy vs. security anymore

In the last few years, the roles of privacy and security executives — and the budgets they control — have grown significantly as organizations have worked to stymie the growing threat of cyberattacks and navigate the ever-changing landscape of data regulation.

In this event we will explore how the chief privacy and chief information security officer roles will evolve and how each can support the other best when the company needs it most. Join us 11 a.m. PT Oct. 27. RSVP here.

In other news

Microsoft is the latest to lay off staff. The company didn't say how many jobs had been cut, but one person told Axios it's around 1,000.

Elizabeth Holmes's trial is taking more twists. Holmes asked for a new trial again yesterday, this time on the basis of a key witness visiting her home in August.

Discord unveiled a suite of new featuresand an additional, cheaper subscription tier to its Nitro service. The company hopes that the new features, called Activities, will make users think of Discord as a destination, not just a chat app.

Mastercard is launching the Crypto Source programallowing bank partners to help customers buy and sell crypto through a partnership with crypto investment services company Paxos.

Climate tech made up a substantial portion of VC funding in the third quarter, claiming five of the top 10 biggest deals during the period.

Netflix is rolling out a new feature that will let people transfer viewing data to new accounts to help people untangle their viewing recommendations when they leave a shared account.

TikTok is raising its age requirementfor livestreaming from 16 to 18. Creators will also soon be able to target adults only for streams.

Triller is launching its own metaverse. The platform, titled Metaverz, will host its first event on Saturday: a DJ set in a virtual nightclub.

Lyft is hiking service fees for U.S. riders to cover increasing insurance costs. The increase on average will be less than 50 cents per trip.

All Gas no breaks

It’s time to move on from the BeReal hype, because the next popular social media app isn’t all about being authentic; it’s about compliments. As of Friday, an app called Gas, which prompts users to “gas each other up,” became the most popular app and top social networking download in the App Store. Although it’s too early to say how long its success will last, the app’s been downloaded 500,000 times since it launched in August. Maybe it’s worth a try. Never hurts to receive a compliment, right?


USD Coin (USDC) is the institutional grade stablecoin. Monthly attestations show exactly what reserves back USDC, and businesses all over the world are using USDC to build the next generation of financial services and global payment applications.

Learn why institutions trust USDC at Circle’s Transparency & Stability Hub

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