Perhaps Mr. Zuckerberg’s largest problem with shareholders is of his own making. He is pursuing his vision of the metaverse, a next-generation version of the internet he believes will connect different worlds, from augmented and virtual reality to different kinds of gaming worlds and other experiences. That work is being done at the company’s Reality Labs division, which is run by Mr. Zuckerberg’s longtime confidant and Meta’s chief technology officer, Andrew Bosworth, better known as Boz.
That was not a problem when Mr. Zuckerberg was putting up steady, reliable growth quarter after quarter. But given the high spending and difficult economic climate, analysts have raised concerns about the viability of Mr. Zuckerberg’s grandiose plans — concerns he has largely ignored.
“I think this is going to be a very important thing, and I think it would be a mistake for us to not focus on any of these areas, which I think are going to be fundamentally important to the future,” he said in a call with investors last year.
To make up for the continued spending on the metaverse, the company has spent the past six months trying to trim costs. It has largely cut perks and nonessential travel for employees. It cut 13 percent of its work force in November, eliminating the positions of roughly 11,000 of its employees, especially in the recruiting and business divisions.
Mr. Zuckerberg blamed the global economic slowdown for the layoffs. But he also blamed himself, in part, as he and other tech executives pointed to their overhiring exuberance in the early days of the pandemic. As the world was ordered to shelter in place, the pandemic brought with it a surge of people relying on online products and services more than ever before, which in turn caused tech companies to add new positions at a rapid clip.
Mr. Zuckerberg and others admitted they had been too quick to estimate that a largely digital life was the new reality for many, even as that reality shifted again with the advent of vaccines and as more people ventured back into the physical world more freely.
Mr. Zuckerberg has said Meta’s best days remain ahead of it. The company has invested in artificial intelligence in hopes of improving its business over time. Better A.I., he has said, will drive better content recommendations across the company’s marquee products — like Reels, the TikTok-like video feature inside of Instagram and Facebook — which in turn will result in people spending more time across its family of apps.