The future Meta wants
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The future Meta wants

Source Code

Good morning! This Friday, Facebook is now Meta, Big Tech is working together on ways to improve DEI efforts, and shiba inu is giving dogecoin a run for its money.

Owning the metaverse

Facebook is an app. Meta is the company. That was the final message of Mark Zuckerberg's keynote at the Connect conference, in which he also explained a number of the ways Facebook — sorry, Meta — is thinking about the metaverse.

Meta is a "metaverse-first" company. That's what Zuckerberg said he hoped the name change signals. But both in making that change and in some of Meta's other new announcements, one thing is abundantly clear: Facebook is going from the center of a digital universe into just another app in the portfolio. And its days may be numbered.

  • Going forward, users won't need Facebook accounts to log in to other apps and services; they'll each be able to operate on their own. (It also sounds like a "Meta account" is going to be a thing, but who knows what that'll look like.)
  • In fact, Facebook the app hardly came up at all during Zuckerberg's keynote. He was far more focused on Meta's Horizon products than any of the company's existing social platforms. Though he did acknowledge they'll have a place in the metaverse.
  • The writing has been on the wall for a while here: Facebook's popularity has begun to level off, and even decline, among younger users. Throw in a half-decade of nonstop scandals, and while Facebook still generates a huge amount of revenue, it's not a particularly good brand anymore.
  • Zuckerberg also hinted to The Verge that he knows the F-word is tainted. "I think it's helpful for people to have a relationship with a company that is different from the relationship with any specific one of the products," he said, "that can kind of supersede all of that."
  • He does intend to keep the company together, though: He told The Information he hasn't thought "very seriously" yet about splitting the social and the metaverse, though that's how the company reports its earnings from now on. (Also, fun fact: It's no longer $FB on Wall Street, it's $MVRS.)

So what is the metaverse? That's what Zuckerberg says he and his company are focused on figuring out. In his keynote, he described apps you might use to play immersive games with friends around the world, host meetings, show off your sick NFT collection and much more. He was careful to say most of this isn't coming soon, but it's coming.

  • Also not coming soon: some of the hardware Meta is working on, including smart glasses with neural interfaces and EMG systems that would let you use tiny gestures to control your devices. And maybe even its long-rumored smartwatch.
  • Zuckerberg gave a brief glimpse of Facebook's Project Nazaré, its first truly AR headset, with all the holograms and floating phone calls you'd expect. But that, too, is a long way off.
  • One device that is coming soon, or at least soon-ish: Project Cambria, the new high-end standalone headset coming in 2022. It'll have eye, facial and body tracking, and much more mixed-reality capability. That would be a big step forward.

The metaverse could also replace Facebook as the company's cash cow. So much of Zuckerberg's presentation focused on the ways people can buy and sell things in these digital spaces, and how goods can be moved between games and worlds. As one Facebook commenter put it, "When you say ecosystem, you mean economic system!"

There was an almost totalitarian vibe to Zuckerberg's keynote, which a lot of people seemed to pick up on. The undertone of the whole thing was "the metaverse is going to be huge, it's going to be amazing … and we're going to own it." Zuckerberg said multiple times that he believes in open standards and building together with developers, but didn't make clear where in the metaverse he wants Meta to begin and end.

  • "Our role in this journey is to accelerate the development of the fundamental technologies, social platforms and creative tools to bring the metaverse to life," he wrote in an updated founder's letter for Meta, "and to weave these technologies through our social media apps."
  • He also took several shots at closed platforms — by which he fairly clearly meant Apple — and noted that "living under their rules has profoundly shaped my views on the tech industry." He advocated for lower fees, more choice and more innovation.
  • As with everything else in this space, there's a lot to sort out. But this company, whatever its name, has a long history of building ever taller walls around its walled garden, and trying to be the internet rather than a good citizen of it. It's not hard to imagine it taking a similar approach to the metaverse.

Zuckerberg continues to insist he's not trying to divert attention away from the Facebook Papers, or any of the other questions surrounding the big blue app. As Facebook — sorry, sorry, Meta! — looks to what's next, there are plenty of opportunities. But Facebook seems to be nowhere to be found.

— David Pierce (email | twitter)

A DEI gold standard

Tech company diversity reports are due for an overhaul. Reports in recent years have begun to detail additional data points, including, for example, information about intersectionality, which considers overlapping identities that may contribute to discrimination or some other form of disadvantage. But the industry still lacks a standard, comprehensive method of reporting and presenting employee demographic data.

Our work on the recently launched tech diversity tracker makes it clear that the industry needs to standardize how it reports diversity.

Rich, clean data makes for a good diversity report, but companies don't always have the right systems in place.

  • It's "shocking" that many companies "don't actually have very good validated workforce data," Uber Chief Diversity Officer Bo Young Lee told Protocol.

Some companies also vary in their methods of presenting data, which just adds to the confusion and might not reflect what is actually going on.

  • Twitter, for example, previously reported 100% workforce data but in 2017 began reporting undisclosed responses. That change resulted in Twitter appearing significantly more diverse than it once did. For instance, in 2016, Twitter was 57% white. In 2017, when Twitter reported the demographics of only 80% of its workforce, Twitter was 44.3% white.
  • In 2018, Square began grouping Black, Latinx, Native American, Pacific Islander and employees of two or more races under an "underrepresented minority" umbrella when detailing the demographics of its tech, business and leadership teams.
  • At Intel, the company grouped white and Asian American employees together in a "majority population" bucket from 2017 through 2019. Lee said, "As an Asian American, I think [it's] very insulting."

A standard does exist, but it has its flaws. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission requires companies with 100 or more employees to annually report demographic data via an EEO-1 filing. But it's subpar.

  • Lee points out that the EEO-1 only asks for U.S. data. It also doesn't allow for a deep analysis of a company's workforce.
  • "[...] the EEO is kind of limiting and I would argue, decades behind," Gusto chief diversity and engagement officer Bernard Coleman told Protocol.

A standard reporting method could make it easier for more companies to participate. Companies don't want to get it wrong, and would rather not report at all.

There are, of course, many companies that have produced diversity reports over the years, to varying degrees of success. Be sure to check out Protocol's tech company diversity tracker database to examine how some of the major tech companies stack up against each other.

— Megan Rose Dickey (email | twitter)

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 | Policy: Facebook's bad press is helpful for other tech companies, said Nu Wexler, who's worked at Facebook, Google and Twitter.

  • "There's no better time to dump bad tech news than during a Facebook news cycle or earnings call."

On Protocol | Workplace: Radical company transparency is golden, but only if it's sincere, journalism professor Mike Ananny said:

  • "It needs to be meaningful transparency, it can't just be transparency as theater or as performance."

Kleiner Perkins chairman John Doerr thinks Tesla is a frontrunner in electric transportation:

  • "They are committed to being a global leader and I believe they will be in the transportation future."

On Protocol: Fintech research exec Alex Johnson said Affirm's "buy now, pay later" deal with American Airlines is a "win":

  • "I'd expect Affirm to try and expand its presence in the space now that it has this win."

Shiba inu is now a wildly popular meme token, but PolySign CEO Jack McDonald doesn't think its momentum will last long:

  • "While shiba inu has made people some fortunes lately, I don't want to be holding this when the music stops."

Making moves

Facebook's payments and financial services will fall under the Novi brand. That includes services like person-to-person payments and donations.

Someone bought a CryptoPunk for 124,457 ethereum. That's about $538 million as of this morning, which is wild. But the whole transaction was slightly ... strange.

Activision Blizzard's Bobby Kotick will take a huge pay cut. Kotick told employees that his salary is being reduced to around $60,000.

Jonathan Kanter was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee. The Big Tech critic now needs the full Senate's OK to lead the Justice Department's antitrust unit.

George Hu is leaving Twilio. Khozema Shipchandler will step in as COO and will keep CFO responsibilities.

In other news

Amazon is expecting a bumpy holiday season. Andy Jassy said the company may face lots of added costs in the fourth quarter as it works through issues like labor supply shortages and rising shipping fees.

Apple is also facing some sales setbacks, which Tim Cook attributed to the chip shortage. Cook said that COVID-related manufacturing issues in Southeast Asia also hurt the company's performance.

Joe Biden's budget package bets on tech. The White House released an updated Build Back Better proposal that includes support for technologies like electric vehicles and clean energy, but leaves out a clean electricity program.

Big Tech is working together on diversity efforts. Companies like Google, Apple and Twitter signed onto a report by a new initiative called Catalyze Tech, which focuses on ways to improve DEI efforts in tech.

On Protocol | Enterprise: Nvidia's bid to acquire Arm will be an uphill battle. It'll have to win over Europe's competitive regulator and others, but if it does so successfully, the deal would be a game changer for the semiconductor industry.

Microsoft is helping the next generation of cybersecurity workers. The company offered to work with community colleges to train and recruit hundreds of thousands of prospective cybersecurity professionals.

Google is beginning end-to-end encrypted phone calls on Fi. The change won't affect everyone; only Android users have the tool, and people on both ends of the call need to have Google Fi.

Trick or Tweeters

It's Halloween weekend, and the spooky-themed Twitter trends have begun. Maybe the most popular one that's cropped up this week is #SpiritHalloweekend, which will give you more than enough ideas for last-minute costumes and Halloween party treats.

The hashtag is a reference to the company Spirit Halloween, which has taken part in the trend with some tweets of its own. Aside from that, people are sharing spooky stories, Halloween-themed food and drink recipes, and costumes. So scroll through, then have a happy Halloween!

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 Sunday.

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