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Zuckerberg to investors: This metaverse thing will be expensive

Facebook's CEO told investors Wednesday that the metaverse will require "very significant investment" for years to come.

Zuckerberg to investors: This metaverse thing will be expensive
Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer and founder of Facebook Inc., reacts during the Silicon Slopes Tech Summit in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Photo: George Frey/Bloomberg

Zuckerberg has been on a one-man tour to sing the virtues of the metaverse, which continued with his appearance on the company's Q2 earnings call Wednesday. Outlining the company's key priorities for the next few years to come, he told investors and analysts that "the metaverse is going to be the next chapter for us as a company."

  • Writing that chapter will take a lot of ink. "It is going to require very significant investment over many years," Zuckerberg warned.
  • Some of these expenses will be due to new hires. Earlier this week, Facebook announced the formation of a new metaverse product group headed by Vishal Shah, Instagram's current VP of product. That new group will hire hundreds of additional staffers in the coming months.
  • And then there's the hardware. Facebook has invested billions into AR and VR, and the team behind those efforts is reportedly already close to 10,000-people strong.
  • But don't expect any hard numbers anytime soon. "We're investing billions of dollars annually" into AR/VR, said CFO David Wehner. Analysts wanted to hear some more specifics, but Wehner demurred.
  • Those investments will ultimately be worth it, according to Zuckerberg. "This is going to create a lot of value for a lot of companies up and down the stack."
  • However, the business model for the metaverse is still a bit fuzzy. "Ads [...] will probably be a meaningful part of the metaverse," Zuckerberg said, while also musing that people may spend money on avatars and other digital goods. "Over the long term, I think that there's going to be a very big digital economy," he said.
  • Don't expect hardware profits to be a big part of it, though. "Our mission is around serving as many people as possible," Zuckerberg said. "We want to make everything we do as affordable as possible."

Analysts on the call seemed to be a little unhappy about the lack of details, and investors sent Facebook's share price down 4% in after-hours trading. However, this hasn't been the first time that Zuckerberg outlined a massive initiative seemingly on a whim, only to be proven right later.

In 2016, he predicted that "the vast majority of the content that people consume online will be video" in a few years. On Wednesday, Zuckerberg delivered a bit of an update on that prediction: "Video now accounts for almost half of all time spent on Facebook," he said.

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