Meta's XR chief wants to change corporate culture at Reality Labs
Meta's chief technology officer Andrew Bosworth laments internal processes and wants to fundamentally change the culture within Reality Labs.
In his weekly newsletter "Command Line," The Verge editor Alex Heath wrote about an internal memo from Meta's chief technology officer Andrew Bosworth that he had access to. In the memo, Bosworth laments the company's internal problem-solving culture, based primarily on hiring more staff, and is seeking a "cultural reset."
Bosworth: Too much staff and administrative overhead
Bosworth reportedly sent the internal memo to Meta Reality Labs' roughly 18,000 employees shortly before Christmas. "We've solved too many problems by adding headcount. But adding headcount also adds overhead. And overhead makes everything slower," Bosworth wrote, according to Heath.
"Every week I see documents with 100+ editors. A meeting with 50+ people that took a month to schedule. Sometimes there is even a 'pre-meeting' with its own document. I believe the current situation is untenable."
Heath said Bosworth also suggested in the memo that Meta's performance management system should be revised. The focus should be less on rewarding "absolute impact" and more on return on investment, he said. This would reward those "who do more with less and avoid overhead altogether."
Meta Investments should be allocated differently
Heath also reports an interview with Bosworth in which he commented on Meta's high level of investment and accusations that the group is burning money. Bosworth said it would be irresponsible for 80 percent of Meta's investment to go into its core social media business, as it has in the past, rather than into future things.
"I think that's a poor use of things. You're basically embracing the wrong side of the innovation dilemma in that case," Bosworth said. Meta, however, is continually changing its investment strategy, he said.
"For some things that means they have more time and we're going to get a lower burn rate and higher confidence [before shipping]. For some things that means they have less time. They've got to demonstrate value sooner or there's going to be too much pressure for them to continue at the burn rate that they're at."
Bosworth: Horizon Worlds remains a core offering
Asked about Meta's difficulties with Horizon Worlds, Bosworth countered that the Metaverse platform is not going away, even though it has not expanded as much as hoped for in 2022.
"Indeed, if you took away every single other part of Reality Labs, Horizon is the thing that we would keep doing because it's the social application upon which we get to build on our core of what we deliver to people across all platforms," Bosworth said.
Meta's proto-Metaverse has come under constant criticism and is struggling to get off the ground. According to the Wall Street Journal, Meta halved its user base goals for Horizon Worlds, cutting them to 280,000 late last year. In February 2022, Meta was still talking about 300,000 active users. By year's end, that number was less than 200,000.
Bosworth memo underscores Carmack’s statements
With his statements on the high internal administration costs, Bosworth strikes a similar note as John Carmack, who recently left Meta. The VR pioneer published his farewell letter from Meta after parts of it were leaked to the press. In it, Carmack criticized a lack of efficiency, among other things, saying,
"We have a ridiculous amount of people and resources, but we constantly self-sabotage and squander effort. There is no way to sugarcoat this; I think our organization is operating at half the effectiveness that would make me happy."
Carmack’s Meta departure a real loss
Via Instagram, Bosworth commented on Carmack's departure - also just before Christmas - calling it a real loss. Carmack had a huge impact on XR development, he said, but also admits to disagreements.
"There’s many pieces of work that I really believe in, that John I think believed in, but thought we shouldn’t do them yet, we should wait, we should do something differently, in different sequence."
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