Billionaire tech investor Peter Thiel expressed concerns to Mark Zuckerberg about the latter’s obsession with the metaverse just before resigning from the board of directors at Meta, formerly known as Facebook. Thiel’s decision to quit the board was discussed in a Reuters report on Meta’s struggles to keep up with rivals like Google and Microsoft in the race to develop advanced artificial intelligence (AI) technology.
Meta reportedly lagged behind its competitors in investing in advanced computer chips used in AI work, while Zuckerberg invested billions in the metaverse last year. The computing issues have reportedly slowed Meta’s “ability to deploy AI to respond to threats” to its business, including social media rival TikTok. Thiel reportedly noticed Meta’s issues and confronted Zuckerberg and other board members about it at a meeting before his departure. He raised concerns that the company was “focusing too much on the metaverse” at the expense of its revenue-generating social media platforms.
Meta’s metaverse focus and AI struggles in the face of growing tech industry competition
Thiel reportedly argued that the metaverse push had made Meta “vulnerable” to competitors such as TikTok, leading to his resignation in February 2022. Meta’s press release stated that Thiel had “decided not to stand for re-election” to the board. Thiel was Facebook’s first outside investor and had served on its board since 2005.
In the summer of 2022, Zuckerberg met with top Meta executives to discuss the company’s AI work. In an October memo obtained by Reuters, Santosh Janardhan, Meta’s head of infrastructure, warned internally that the company had a “significant gap in our tooling, workflows, and processes when it comes to developing for AI.” The memo added that Meta needed to “invest heavily here.”
Meta’s struggle to keep up with rivals such as Google and Microsoft in the race to develop advanced AI technology comes amid growing competition in the tech industry. Meta has poured billions of dollars into its metaverse initiative, which involves creating a virtual world where users can interact with each other through avatars. The company aims to create a “metaverse operating system” as important as the current mobile operating systems like Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android.
However, Meta’s investment in the metaverse has not been without controversy. Critics have argued that the company’s focus on the metaverse has come at the expense of its core social media platforms, which have faced criticism for spreading misinformation and allowing hate speech. Governments and regulators have fined Facebook for handling user data and allowing its platforms to spread hate speech and disinformation.
Meta’s rebranding and balancing priorities in the face of criticism and industry challenges
Meta’s recent rebranding and focus on the metaverse is seen as an attempt to distance the company from its troubled past as Facebook and to reinvent itself as a company focused on futuristic technologies. However, as Thiel’s concerns about Meta’s focus on the metaverse show, the company may need to balance its investment in new technologies with its existing businesses to remain competitive in the long term.
Meta’s struggle to keep pace with competitors in the AI race is not unique in the tech industry. Many companies are investing heavily in AI technology to gain a competitive edge, leading to a shortage of skilled workers and a growing concern about the impact of AI on jobs and society. As the race for advanced AI technology heats up, it remains to be seen which companies will emerge as winners and which will be left behind.
In response to concerns about Meta’s ability to keep up with competitors in the AI race, a spokesperson for the company, Jon Carvill, emphasized Meta’s track record of creating and deploying state-of-the-art infrastructure at scale, as well as its expertise in AI research and engineering.
“We are confident in our ability to continue expanding our infrastructure’s capabilities to meet our current and future needs as we introduce new AI-powered experiences to our suite of apps and consumer products,” Carvill stated.
Despite the growing competition in the tech industry, Carvill’s statement suggests that Meta remains committed to investing in AI technology and expanding its capabilities to remain at the forefront of innovation.