Protocol - Meta’s strategy shakeup

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By Caitlin McGarry, Sarah Roach and the Source Code team
June 10, 2022

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Good morning! The economic downturn is hurting most tech companies, and now Meta is rethinking its product strategy. Also: How the surge in mass shootings has raised the question of whether it's bad optics for Big Tech not to take a stand. Thanks for joining us this Friday; let’s get to it.

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Meta rethinks its next steps

 

A series of new reports suggest that Meta is making some big decisions about its future. Is there trouble in the metaverse, or is the company simply sharpening its focus during turbulent times?

Meta is curtailing its ambitious AR plans in a bid to cut costs in its Reality Labs division, according to The Information. The company had a series of augmented reality glasses in the works, but is reportedly changing the release timeline.

  • Instead of releasing a pair of AR glasses to consumers in 2024, Meta is going to use the first iteration as a demo device and refocus its work on a second version. That pushes the timeline for public launch back by years.
  • The new strategy doesn’t appear to affect the company’s forthcoming VR headset, Project Cambria, which is due out later this year.

Portal is going away — for consumers. Meta confirmed to Protocol that its video-calling smart display will be repositioned as a device for businesses in an effort to boost hybrid work efforts.

  • Meta introduced its smart display back in 2018 in a bid to compete with Amazon and Google. While Portal sales increased during the pandemic, the device hasn’t hit the way the company had hoped. According to IDC, Portal devices make up just 1% of the global smart display market, with Google and Amazon taking the lion’s share.
  • Meta released two new displays last year, the Portal Go and a new version of the Portal Plus. Those will be the last targeted toward consumers.

A long-rumored smartwatch has reportedly been canceled. Honestly, that might be a good thing?

  • A Facebook-associated watch with not one but two cameras faced an uphill battle to win over consumers when the Apple Watch so easily dominates the market.
  • The decision was reportedly due to cost-cutting measures, according to Bloomberg. The device was due out in spring 2023 and would have cost $349.
  • The company will instead focus its efforts on other sensor-packed devices for the wrist that can be used to interact with virtual worlds wearing VR headsets.

It makes sense to sharpen strategy amid all this market turbulence. With slowing revenue growth at Meta, this looks like a company playing things a little safer. The metaverse is unproven, after all, and with devices like AR glasses Meta is going up against Apple, as well as potentially Google and Amazon. Meta is staking its future on some of this technology, and it will want to stick the landing.


Caitlin McGarry (email | twitter)
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The sound of silence

 

In the wake of a mass shooting, tech companies are scrutinized. Social platforms are criticized for their lack of action detecting or taking down a shooter’s content, before or after a massacre; companies that do business with the NRA face protests. We’re seeing that play out again now.

Salesforce employees have been pressing the company to end its relationship with the NRA, and execs finally gave an answer.

  • “I don't want to get into the business position where we're deciding which customers are allowed to use our platform,” Salesforce’s Bret Taylor said at an all-hands Wednesday. “I think that would violate our principles of trust.”
  • Before the meeting, thousands of employees had signed a letter urging the company to stop working with the NRA, which uses Salesforce tools for marketing and fundraising purposes.
  • Salesforce had previously updated its policies to stop working with vendors of automatic and some semi-automatic firearms. But it never took a hard stance on the NRA, and it’s not going to.

Other tech companies are also under fire. In addition to the pushback Salesforce has seen, Apple, Roku, Amazon and others have been called on to stop streaming the NRA on their respective platforms. Those companies haven’t publicly responded to those demands or the recent massacres in general.

  • There’s precedent to their current silence: In 2018, both Roku and Apple said they wouldn’t remove the NRA TV channel from their devices.
  • This week, Facebook’s policy on gun sales is also under scrutiny. The platform has a ban in place, but buyers and sellers can violate the rule 10 times before they’re removed from Facebook.
  • And on eBay, high-capacity magazines and other rifles that are illegal in some states are fairly easy to get through the platform.

Does tech have a responsibility to take a stand on every national issue? Companies have weighed in on political debates before, but it's often when issues directly affect their employees.

  • Look at the aftermath of the leaked Supreme Court ruling to overturn Roe v. Wade: Amazon, Salesforce, Tesla and a slew of other companies began offering support to employees in states that may be affected.
  • Companies have spoken out about legislation like Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill and committed to improving racial equity and fighting climate misinformation.
  • Otherwise, companies are reticent to weigh in when they’re not being directly called into question.

Right now, Congress is moving painfully slow on major gun control reform. In the absence of federal legislation, tech companies are left to police themselves — they just risk a trial in the court of public opinion if they do nothing.


Sarah Roach (email | twitter)

A MESSAGE FROM GOOGLE

Google's Threat Analysis Group (TAG) is a team that investigates threat actors and combats cyber crime to help keep everyone safe online, including high-risk users, by increasing protections based on attacker techniques and through regular updates to the security community.

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People are talking

 

Janet Yellen doesn’t think a recession is imminent, but she does know who Cardi B is:

  • "I don’t have a lot of time for her, but, I mean, I am alive!"

The Chamber of Commerce thinks a bipartisan privacy bill is "unworkable":

  • "This legislation would create a new national patchwork of privacy laws."

Making moves

 

Notion bought Cron, a calendar app that uses keyboard shortcuts to schedule events, for an undisclosed amount.

Erin Zipes is 1Password’s first chief legal officer. Zipes was Shopify’s associate general counsel and corporate secretary.

Disney fired Peter Rice, sources told The New York Times. Rice was the company's top TV content exec who has widely been considered an heir apparent to Disney CEO Bob Chapek, but was ousted due to an “ill fit” with company culture.

Mark Hawkins joined Cloudflare’s board. Hawkins is a former president and CFO emeritus of Salesforce and has worked at HP, Dell and Autodesk.

Dennis Cinelli is leaving Uber for Scale AI. He was head of Uber’s U.S and Canada rides business.

In other news

 

Apple and Google run "an effective duopoly on mobile ecosystems," the CMA said in a new report. The U.K. antitrust regulator now plans to investigate Apple and Google’s market power in mobile browsers and Apple’s App Store constraints on cloud gaming.

Big tech advocacy groups dropped $36 million on ads opposing antitrust legislation that would prevent major tech companies from favoring their own products.

Grubhub is attracting interest from buyers, including Apollo Global Management, Bloomberg reported.

LinkedIn added a bunch of tools for creators, including the ability to host an audio event and automatically gain followers from a connection request.

The U.S. is expanding its investigation into Tesla following a dozen collisions involving first-responder vehicles. The probe has been widened to cover 830,000 Model Y, X, S and 3 vehicles.

Meta finally ditched its FB ticker symbol, but investors are still unsure about the prospects of the metaverse, with related stocks having tumbled recently.

The SEC is investigating Terraform Labs for its marketing of the TerraUSD stablecoin prior to the crash. The agency is also looking into whether the company broke any securities and investment products rules.

Microsoft is putting Xbox games on smart TVs. Subscribers to Xbox's cloud-gaming service will be able to play over 100 titles on some new Samsung sets.

The Biden Administration proposed charging network standards that states must follow to get some of the $7.5 billion allocated to EV charging in the infrastructure bill.

Bored Ape kidnapping

 

A stolen Bored Ape has been reunited with its owner. In a dramatic conclusion to an internet mystery, actor Seth Green paid nearly $300,000 to reclaim his NFT from a buyer known only as “Mr Cheese” after it was stolen by a hacker. The theft presented an interesting conundrum: Fred Simian, as the Bored Ape is called, was set to star in Green’s upcoming animated series “White Horse Tavern.” If Green had been unable to reclaim the NFT, the show may not have been able to proceed. Fortunately, Fred Simian’s talents will be coming soon to a TV near you. The intricacies of NFT IP law may have to wait.

A MESSAGE FROM GOOGLE

Project Shield protects news and human rights organizations, government entities, and more from Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks. These digital attacks are used by bad actors and cyber criminals to censor information by taking websites offline.

Learn more

 

Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to sourcecode@protocol.com, or our tips line, tips@protocol.com. Enjoy your day, see you Sunday.

 

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