Facebook Inc (FB.O) said on Monday it would start publishing the financial results of its augmented and virtual reality labs as a separate unit, where it is investing billions in its ambitions to build the “metaverse” and as it reported that its main advertising business faces “significant uncertainty.”
Facebook, which reported third-quarter profit up 17%, warned that Apple Inc’s (AAPL.O) new privacy changes would weigh on its digital business in the current quarter. The social media company reported quarterly revenue below market expectations, which Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg told analysts was due to the iOS changes.
David Wehner, Facebook’s chief financial officer, said the company expected its investment in its hardware division, Facebook Reality Labs, to reduce overall operating profit in 2021 by approximately $10 billion.
The financial commitment to this hardware-focused unit which will work on Facebook’s “metaverse” ambitions, comes as the company is swamped by coverage of documents leaked by former Facebook employee and whistleblower Frances Haugen which she said showed the company chose profit over user safety.
Mark Zuckerberg started Monday’s analyst call by issuing a defence against criticisms stemming from the documents, which he said painted a “false picture of our company.”
The CEO has said Facebook in the coming years will be seen not as a social media firm but as a company focused on the metaverse. The buzzy term refers broadly to a shared virtual environment which can be accessed by people using different devices.
Facebook, which has invested heavily in virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), including buying companies like Oculus, this year created a product team to work on the metaverse. This month, it said it plans to hire 10,000 employees in Europe over the next five years to work on this initiative.
“This is not an investment that is going to be profitable for us any time in the near future,” Zuckerberg told analysts.
“But we basically believe that the metaverse is going to be the successor to the mobile internet.”
Wehner said that starting in the fourth quarter of 2021, it would break out Facebook Reality Labs as a separate reporting segment from Facebook’s family of apps.
Shares of the company were up about 1% in after-hours trade on Monday. Facebook, whose shares have gained about 20% so far this year, is about $85 billion away from regaining a spot on the $1 trillion club and joining new entrant Tesla Inc (TSLA.O).
The world’s largest social media network is under scrutiny from global lawmakers and regulators, including from the Federal Trade Commission which has filed an antitrust lawsuit alleging anticompetitive practices.
The whistleblower documents, first reported by the Wall Street Journal, have intensified scrutiny of the company.
They include internal research and reports about Instagram’s effects on the mental health of teens and about whether Facebook’s platforms stoke divisions, as well as its handling of activity around the Jan. 6 Capitol riot and inconsistencies in the company’s content moderation for users around the globe.
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For the third quarter, Facebook reported monthly active users of 2.91 billion, up 6% from a year ago but short of analysts’ estimates.
On the call, executives emphasized the company’s focus on attracting young adults, including through its short video feature “Reels.”
“We are retooling our teams to make serving young adults their North Star rather than optimizing for the larger number of older people,” Zuckerberg said.
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Musk’s Twitter Threatens to Sue Zuckerberg’s Meta Over Threads
The battle between Elon Musk’s Twitter and Mark Zuckerberg’s Meta over the launch of Threads — Instagram’s Twitter rival — has taken a legal turn.
On Wednesday, Meta’s Instagram debuted Threads, a text-focused social app designed to piggyback off Instagram’s infrastructure and user base. The app had more than 30 million sign-ups as of Thursday morning, according to Zuckerberg, which would represent around 1.5% of Instagram’s monthly active users.
In a July 5 cease-and-desist letter addressed to Meta CEO Zuckerberg, a lawyer representing Twitter said that Musk’s company had “serious concerns” that Meta “has engaged in systematic, willful and unlawful misappropriation of Twitter’s trade secrets and other intellectual property.” The letter said that “Twitter intends to strictly enforce its intellectual property rights, and demands that Meta take immediate steps to stop using any Twitter trade secrets or other highly confidential information.”
“Over the past year, Meta has hired dozens of Twitter employees,” the letter says, alleging that “Meta deliberately assigned these employees to develop, in a matter of months, Meta’s copycat ‘Threads’ app with the specific intent that they use Twitter’s trade secrets and other intellectual property in order to accelerate the development of Meta’s competing app, in violation of both state and federal laws as well as those employees’ ongoing obligations to Twitter.”
Meta spokesperson Andy Stone, asked for comment, referred to his post on Threads that said, “No one on the Threads engineering team is a former Twitter employee — that’s just not a thing.”
Musk, in a tweet responding to news of Twitter’s legal threat to Meta, said, “Competition is fine, cheating is not.”
Twitter’s cease-and-desist letter also says that “Meta is expressly prohibited from engaging in any crawling or scraping of Twitter’s followers or follower data… Scraping any Twitter services is expressly prohibited for any reason without Twitter’s prior consent.” However, the letter does not allege that Meta engaged in such activity.
The letter from Twitter’s law firm to Meta was first reported by Semafor.
Musk acquired Twitter in a $44 billion deal in October 2022. Twitter CEO Linda Yaccarino, who started at the social media company last month after exiting NBCUniversal, on Thursday posted a tweet seemingly referring to Threads, in which she said in part, “We’re often imitated — but the Twitter community can never be duplicated.”
An email to Twitter’s PR account requesting info returned an autoreply with a poop emoji. Variety also reached out to Alex Spiro, a partner with Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, the law firm representing Twitter (officially renamed as X Corp.) but has not received a reply.
Hours After Launch, Over 10 Million Join Threads, Zuckerberg’s Rival To Musk’s Twitter
Facebook has tried to compete with Twitter in numerous ways over the years, including copying signature Twitter features such as hashtags and trending topics. But now Facebook’s parent company is taking perhaps its biggest swipe at Twitter yet.
Meta on Wednesday officially launched a new app called Threads, which is intended to offer a space for real-time conversations online, a function that has long been Twitter’s core selling point.
The app received 10 million sign-ups within seven hours of its launch, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg said on his verified Threads account.
The app appears to have many similarities to Twitter, from the layout to the product description. The listing, which first appeared earlier this week as a teaser, emphasizes its potential to build a following and connect with like-minded people.
“The vision for Threads is to create an option and friendly public space for conversation,” Zuckerberg said in a Threads post following the launch. “We hope to take what Instagram does best and create a new experience around text, ideas, and discussing what’s on your mind.”
He also responded to posts and shared his thoughts on whether Threads will ever be bigger than Twitter.
“It’ll take some time, but I think there should be a public conversations app with 1 billion+ people on it. Twitter has had the opportunity to do this but hasn’t nailed it,” Zuckerberg wrote on Threads. “Hopefully we will.”
The app’s listing describes it as a place where communities can come together to discuss everything from the topics they care about today to what’s trending.
“Whatever it is you’re interested in, you can follow and connect directly with your favorite creators and others who love the same things — or build a loyal following of your own to share your ideas, opinions and creativity with the world,” it reads.
Meta said messages posted to Threads will have a 500 character limit. The company said it was bringing the app to 100 countries via Apple’s iOS and Android.
After downloading the app, users are asked to link up their Instagram page, customize their profile and follow the same accounts they already follow on Instagram. The look is similar to Twitter with a familiar layout, text-based feed, the ability to repost and quote other Thread posts. But it also blends Instagram’s existing aesthetic and offers the ability to share posts from Threads directly to Instagram Stories. Verified Instagram accounts are also automatically verified on Threads. Thread accounts can also be listed as public or private.
The new app joins a growing list of Twitter rivals and could pose the biggest threat to Twitter of the bunch, given Meta’s vast resources and its massive audience.
It also comes amid heightened turmoil at Twitter, which experienced an outage over the weekend, followed by an announcement that the site had imposed temporary limits on how many tweets its users are able to read while using the app.
I’ve Hired New Twitter CEO – Elon Musk
Elon Musk said on Thursday he has found a new chief executive officer (CEO) for Twitter, but did not name the person, while the Wall Street Journal reported that Comcast (CMCSA.O) NBCUniversal executive Linda Yaccarino was in talks for the job.
Musk said in a tweet: “Excited to announce that I’ve hired a new CEO for X/Twitter. She will be starting in ~6 weeks!”
Musk said he will transition to the role of chief technology officer of the social media platform within the next few weeks.
Musk, who took over as CEO of Twitter when he completed his $44 billion purchase of the company in October, said in December that he would step aside as CEO once he found “someone foolish enough to take the job.” He said that he would then run Twitter’s software and servers teams.
The WSJ cited people familiar with the situation in saying that Yaccarino was in talks for the top post.
Reuters reported after Musk’s tweet that Yaccarino could be his choice to lead Twitter, according to a Silicon Valley executive and a former Hollywood executive who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Yaccarino, the top advertising sales executive at NBCUniversal, interviewed Musk at an advertising conference in Miami last month.
At the conference, Yaccarino encouraged the audience to welcome Musk with applause and lauded his work ethic.
“Many of you in this room know me, and you know I pride myself on my work ethic,” she said, adding, “Buddy, I met my match.”
Yaccarino joined NBCU in 2011, after 15 years at Turner Entertainment and has been credited with dragging the network’s ad sales operation into the digital future.
As broadcast television audiences migrated to streaming, she took to the stage at Radio City Music Hall last year to tell advertisers that their brand messages were not an afterthought.
Yaccarino did not respond to calls seeking comment on Thursday.
When asked for comment, an NBCUniversal spokesperson said, “Linda is in back-to-back rehearsals for the Upfront,” referring to a presentation NBCUniversal will host for advertisers in New York on Monday.
Yaccarino’s exit would be another big blow to the company after Comcast said last month that NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell was leaving after acknowledging an inappropriate relationship with a woman in the company, following a complaint that prompted an investigation.
Musk has previously not named any prospective candidates.
Speculation was rife on Thursday among tech and media insiders and on Blind, an anonymous messaging app for tech employees.
Former Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, former YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki and a top executive at Musk’s brain-chip startup Neuralink, Shivon Zilis, were among names that were being discussed.
Musk, who has come under fire from investors in his Tesla (TSLA.O) electric car company as being distracted by his attention to Twitter, said he will transition to the role of Twitter’s executive chair, along with the role of CTO, overseeing product, software and system operations.
Musk’s post about a new Twitter CEO came about 15 minutes before the close of Wall Street on Thursday, and Tesla shares closed 2% higher. The shares rose a further 1.6% in after-hours trade.
“The boat anchor called Twitter is loosened from Musk’s ankle. Now he can get back to spending more time creating value at Tesla,” said Craig Irwin, analyst at Roth MKM.
Musk has long said he intended to find a new leader for Twitter.
In a Twitter poll started by Musk in December, 57.5% users voted for him to step down as CEO of the social media platform.
The billionaire’s first two weeks as Twitter’s owner in October were marked by rapid change. He quickly fired Twitter’s previous CEO, Parag Agrawal, and other senior leaders, and then laid off half its staff in November.
Musk, a self-proclaimed “free speech absolutist,” has said he took over Twitter to prevent the platform from becoming an echo chamber for hate and division.
He also said he would “defeat” spam bots on the platform, a key area of his tussle with Twitter’s board over his back and forth on the buyout of the company.
He said last month that Twitter was “roughly breaking even.”
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