Things aren’t going very well at Meta. The company has recently had to strip back 13% of its workforce by laying off 11,000 workers and is now cutting back on certain product lines and services. All of this is happening while the company is spending massive amounts of money developing a virtual metaverse and producing incredibly expensive VR headsets that hardly anybody wants to use and almost nobody can afford. While approximately 2.9 billion of us use Facebook, only 300,000 users have logged into Meta’s flagship Horizon Worlds metaverse platform, despite the fact that the company spent over $10 billion developing it last year.
Things are a mess at Meta HQ, and it looks like decisions are being made that don’t make much sense. Does this mean then, that Meta needs a new CEO? Is it time for Mark Zuckerberg to stand down? Let’s take a look.
Mark Zuckerberg’s meteoric rise
If we’re going to be fair to Mark Zuckerberg, we have to take into account the years of leadership he has given Meta, formally called Facebook Inc., that has seen the company rapidly grow and spread all over the world. He took Facebook from an idea based on what people want to know about the people in and around our lives to a global behemoth that has touched communities and societies around the globe.
In the process, Zuckerberg made himself incredibly rich when he took Facebook public, and then continued to deliver for investors and shareholders taking the company’s stock price to almost 10X its value from when it first hit the market, at its all-time high. Clearly then, he is a CEO who can lead a company through prolonged periods of growth while implementing and rolling out innovative features, strategically buying other companies such as Instagram and WhatsApp, and overseeing the development of world-changing tech innovations.
However, Zuckerberg chased all this growth in such a manner that he completely ignored a whole host of controversies related to Facebook that hung around the company’s neck and just couldn’t be shaken off. These include everything from skewing democracy by allowing fake news and disinformation to proliferate across both Facebook and WhatsApp and even being caught up in ethnic cleansing crises in countries like Myanmar and India. Zuckerberg has had to speak about these crises in front of the US Congress and famously turned down an invitation to talk to the British government, despite Facebook’s prominent role skewing the political discussions taking place in the run-up to the 2016 Brexit Referendum.
Ultimately, these growing controversies began weighing Facebook down to the extent that something needed to be done. In October 2021, the decision was made to rebrand Facebook Inc. the umbrella company that sits above Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp into Meta. The official reason given for this rebrand was because Zuckerberg saw the emerging ideas about the Metaverse as representing the key way that people will communicate with each other in the future, and he wanted to position his company to be the number 1 Metaverse that people thought of. However, despite this assertion, many commentators believe that the move was simply designed to try and draw a line under all of the controversies attached to Facebook Inc.
The current state of play
The current state of the metaverse and the plunge in Meta’s stock price, which you can see above, that followed the rebrand, indicates that the clearly competent Zuckerberg has dived into the metaverse a little too early. This isn’t proof that the motive behind the rebrand was to escape Facebook Inc.’s past controversies but the fact that it is failing so badly seems to indicate that pivoting to the metaverse in 2021 was not a sound business strategy for a company that is built on facilitating simple interactions between loved ones and colleagues. The question, however, is whether the current state of play, which isn’t looking too rosy for Meta means the company needs a new CEO.
Does Meta need a new CEO?
Again, however, to be fair to Zuckerberg, we have to raise the fact that Meta isn’t the only big tech company that has been laying people off recently. Everybody from Twitter and Snapchat to Intel and Amazon has been laying off workers, even if the broader tech sector is growing. Clearly, the big tech companies are more susceptible to feeling the effects of broader economic factors such as the looming recession, rising inflation, and even the war in Ukraine. However, as we have mentioned many of the problems that have hit Meta seem to be self-inflicted either in the form of a thousand small cuts over the entire lifespan of the company or a heavy wound inflicted in the form of a misjudged rebrand. Ultimately, responsibility for these falls on Zuckerberg’s shoulders and maybe it is Zuckerberg himself and not the Facebook Inc. brand that is dragging around all these controversial ghouls. If Meta’s issues continue to have an effect on its stock price, pressure will continue to grow on Mark Zuckerberg.
Interestingly, however, it is almost impossible for the board to fire Zuckerberg and replace him with a new CEO due to how he has structured his company . This means that the only way Meta will get a new CEO is if Zuckerberg himself steps down. Ultimately then, the key question is not whether Meta needs a new CEO but whether Meta’s CEO needs a new challenge.