Blog by Nilesh


Meta’s Metaverse initiatives and struggles have been discussed and analyzed extensively by a number of people, and I share a lot of the skepticism about Meta’s vision, as well as how the company has executed it so far.

In most debates and conversations about Meta’s strategy, multiple aspects or categories of objections get mixed up, and I think that confuses the issue quite a bit. Let’s first sort out the various types of concerns that people express to clarify the debate a little.

  1. Dislike purely based on the hype vs. current reality: This is the easy one. Meta has gone all in on Metaverse to such an extent, that for many people the stark difference between what Zuckerberg keeps projecting and what the state of AR and VR today is simply a source of indignation. The gap between what is and what can be is so vast that people simply assume the ‘what can be’ part is an outrageous lie or a shameless PR spin, and dismiss it entirely.

  2. Objections based on the fuzziness of the concept: Metaverse is, after all, a branding/marketing term and not a specific technology. A whole host of possible technologies, interfaces, input mechanisms, and more are getting bundled into this broad, high-level concept called Metaverse. And we’re expected to pretend as if it’s a real thing, and that the name clearly and automatically defines what it is.

  3. Practicality: People who look at the current state of affairs are skeptical about its viability, as there are significant hardware and usability limitations that are not easy to look past. Frankly, VR hardware is today ‘strappable’ rather than wearable. It’s a bit like having a clock strapped to your wrist instead of a watch, and calling it a wearable. So these objections are fair, but it’s not unreasonable to think that down the line, these practical concerns could all be solved one way or another.

  4. Because we don’t believe Meta can execute: These are objections based on skepticism about Meta’s ability to execute, and to succeed on the Metaverse front. To be fair, Meta’s track record of executing on multiple things is certainly poor, and failures include the feed, which they’ve messed up multiple times, the Facebook phone, which was a dud, attempts to launch a Facebook for the workplace product, and much more. In fact, beyond the core Facebook product, most of the successes from the company have come only through acquisitions such as Whatsapp and Instagram. An argument can be made that Meta’s VR efforts also started through the acquisition of Oculus, but given the fact that John Carmack, the Oculus CTO, recently left Meta while quite publicly criticizing how the company is run and managed, it’s not unreasonable to wonder about Meta’s ability to execute on the Metaverse front.

  5. Because we dislike Meta: The fact that Meta is doing it. Not entirely unreasonable that many people don’t really want Meta to succeed here. Their thinking is that the company is morally bankrupt, is run with questionable ethics, has been involved in too many scandals, and so on. These are people who genuinely believe that Meta is not a net positive for the world. For them, then, it’s an ideological stance that Meta should fail, which is often stated as Meta WILL fail. In these cases, AR/VR technologies are dismissed outright not necessarily based on their own merit, but as a way to present a desire for Meta to fail.

Where is Facebook Watch? My One Reason

OK, so Facebook Watch does exist, and it’s a weird video service bundled into Facebook—sort of like YouTube—where, as far as I can tell, random people upload random videos of highly questionable quality, and Facebook chooses to present the worst of them to me in a random pattern. It’s a disaster. But what I meant is: where is Meta’s answer to the Apple Watch?

As is well-known, Meta’s entire reason for going all in on Metaverse, and sinking tens of billions of dollars into it, is that the company is today in a weak position, where the big platform owners in mobile—Apple and Google—leave it vulnerable. We’ve seen this in the way Apple’s ‘Do Not Track’ feature rolled out and impacted Meta adversely, and the company could do nothing about it aside from making a ton of noise in the media

Zuckerberg’s email from 2015 shows a clear awareness of this problem, and lays out his vision for Metaverse as the way to solve this vulnerability problem. The idea is that Apple and Google have a tight control on the mobile ecosystem, and it’s too late to fight that. Instead, it would be better for Meta to look ahead, anticipate the next big revolution in computing, and make sure that Meta is there at the right time, in a position to establish dominance in the new revolution.

Which brings me to my question: Where is Facebook Watch? Meta failed with launching their own phone, but why haven’t they launched another product like the Apple Watch? The reason is simple: the Apple Watch is a product that works well as an add-on accessory to the iPhone. In other words, Apple leveraged its dominance in mobile to launch a new product. This is why Apple Watch is a success, while Facebook Watch doesn’t exist.

For some reason, Zuckerberg and Meta seem to be convinced that the AR/VR tech space is entirely neutral, and that Apple will not be able—or will not try to—to carry over the advantages from its dominance in mobile to AR and VR. I don’t quite see that happening, though. When Apple does launch its AR/VR wearable, they will almost certainly build something that is strongly tethered to the iPhone, at least in the first few years. This will allow Apple to establish a clear presence in the market, and the company will establish a lead in such a way that it would be too late for Meta and others to make a serious dent in the new market and to challenge Apple’s dominant position.

Meta is looking for the next big thing in computing—something that’s so new and revolutionary that the players dominating the current computing wave will not be able to carry over any ecosystem or network effects advantages when going after the new opportunity. We’ve seen this play out in the way we transitioned from the desktop/laptop wave of computing to mobile computing. While in theory this is the right strategy, the assertion that Metaverse is the next big thing, and that Apple and Google will not be able to make any impact there feels highly optimistic to me.

NOTE: I’m one of the co-founders at [x]cube LABS, where we work with enterprises to provide digital technology and product engineering services. AR and VR-focused services are a relatively smaller part of our business, but they’re growing rapidly. I personally do think there is significant potential for AR and VR, and it’s certainly a technology (to use the term rather loosely) that will be important in the future. My skepticism is about whether these technologies will be as fundamentally revolutionary as mobile computing, as well as whether Meta is truly in a position to establish dominance notwithstanding their various proclamations. We do believe, however, that there are genuine use cases for them in the consumer space as well as in the enterprise space.

#technology #Meta #Metaverse #Facebook

I write about technology, user experience, product design, and more. I also review some (not all) of the books I read.

“It’s my big number.” I tell people it’s OK to be rich.”

I don’t necessarily claim to be an expert in this area, and I’m sure there are things I’m missing or unaware of here, but based on what’s been doing the rounds in the news of late, and some quick reading I’ve done on the topic, here’s my take on effective altruism: I think it’s a justification for being ambitious, for getting as rich as possible, and (in many cases) by any means possible, and keeping your conscience clear along the way.

I think the motivation for the effective altruism movement is best explained in this passage from the book So Long and Thanks for All the Fish, one of the books in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy 'trilogy' by Douglas Adams. Let me quote the relevant passage at length.

Ford was walking north. He thought he was probably on his way to the spaceport, but he had thought that before. He knew he was going through that part of the city where people’s plans often changed quite abruptly.

‘Do you want to have a good time?’ said a voice from a doorway.

‘As far as I can tell,’ said Ford, ‘I’m having one. Thanks.’

‘Are you rich?’ said another.

This made Ford laugh.

He turned and opened his arms in a wide gesture. ‘Do I look rich?’ he said.

‘Don’t know,’ said the girl. ‘Maybe, maybe not. Maybe you’ll get rich. I have a very special service for rich people . . .’

‘Oh yes?’ said Ford, intrigued but careful. ‘And what’s that?’

‘I tell them it’s OK to be rich.’ …. ‘You what?’ he said.

The girl laughed and stepped forward a little out of the shadow. She was tall, and had that kind of self-possessed shyness which is a great trick if you can do it.

‘It’s my big number,’ she said. ‘I have a master’s degree in social economics and can be very convincing. People love it. Especially in this city.’

I think some people have moved on from ‘get rich quick,’ to ‘get rich quick—with a clean conscience (or at least the outward projection of one), and that’s what effective altruism is all about.

#effectivealtruism #sbfftx #h2g2 #Technology

I write about technology, user experience, product design, and more. I also review some (not all) of the books I read.

I have a strong dislike for how all social networks today mess up the ‘feed’ section in a way that is plainly user hostile, and detrimental to user experience. Facebook, Instagram, Reddit—they are all guilty of this. I know it helps drive engagement, serve more ads, and make more money in the short term, but time is a finite resource, and when you employ every trick in the book to waste your users’ time, the only possible result is that over time (heh) you start losing users.

Twitter was one space where things used to be better: Twitter was about who you followed, so the concept of ‘recommended posts’ was new to the platform. But the company started with a ‘someone you follow liked this’ recommendation system, and now, somewhat recently, although I’m not sure exactly when, has started making topic based recommendations by inserting posts into the main Twitter feed for all users.

I get why Twitter (as well as others) do this, but Twitter is in some ways a special broadcast and community collaboration platform. It goes far beyond being just a social media platform in that sense.

So when Twitter does this annoying thing of injecting stuff into my feed that I have not actively opted in for, it gets, well, annoying.


NOTE: I wrote this note a few years ago, sometime in 2019 I think, and had it on an earlier Wordpress blog which has now disappeared. Putting it up here again because I think it's probably a good idea to get all my miscellaneous writing in one place, but also because I think the argument here is pretty important.

Like most of us working in tech and startups, I absolutely loved reading Peter Thiel’s Zero to One. It’s a stunningly thought-provoking book, with a deep new insight pretty much on every page. It’s hard not to be impressed by the clarity of thought as well as the originality of the ideas in the book. This is probably one of those books that I’d go back to frequently, maybe once every couple of years or so.

I’m a little embarrassed that it took me to long to get to this book, actually. I’d heard about it of course, but never quite gotten around to reading it. That was a mistake, and I’m glad I eventually did read Zero to One. I have mostly positive things to say about it, but I’m not really going to go into those, because, frankly, many people have reviewed and discussed the book, and I’d hardly be adding anything new to this discussion.

But I do have one piece of criticism to offer. It’s relatively minor in terms of the overall import and relevance of the book, and does not invalidate the insights and opinions that Peter Thiel expresses, but still very important if you consider the overall global perspective.


Less than two weeks after taking over Twitter, Elon Musk undertook the brutal, unpleasant task of downsizing. While rumors originally said that he'd downsize staff by as much as 75%, it looks like ultimately ended up pulling off a Thanos type snap, and reducing the Twitter staff population by about 50%.

Twitter has been struggling, lost and in trouble for a while, so I do hope under Musk things change, and Twitter finds a new direction. The odds aren't great, but let's hope.

What surprised me in all this though, was the way Musk was vilified for undertaking the layoffs at all.