Inside Mark Zuckerberg’s biggest bet

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Mark Zuckerberg is betting his company’s future on the metaverse — a virtual space in which people interact with each other using avatars and developing AR / VR technology — investing tens of billions of dollars in an attempt to build the platforms and hardware that capture a new generation of users. Now, the question is: will Zuckerberg’s gamble on the metaverse being the future of the internet — and his company — actually succeed?

One of the biggest parts of that bet is Horizon, Meta’s software for people to socialize, work, and play in the metaverse. Think of Horizon as a blend of The Sims, Minecraft, and Roblox, with users interacting through their avatars in virtual worlds they build.

“We are seeing the youngest generation spend an awful lot of time in virtual reality worlds today,” says Meta’s CMO and head of analytics, Alex Schultz.

Right now, Horizon is only available in Meta’s Quest VR headset, though the company is planning to soon bring it to mobile phones and the web. Meanwhile, there are some major hurdles to Horizon still: awkward-looking avatars, unwanted interactions with strangers, and the discomfort of a VR headset weighing on your face.

The Verge’s Alex Heath and Recode’s Shirin Ghaffary strap on headsets and enter Horizon in the finale episode of the latest season of Land of the Giants, Vox Media’s award-winning narrative podcast series about the most influential tech companies of our time. This season has been all about Facebook’s transformation into Meta, featuring interviews with senior executives, former employees, and other experts.

Horizon is a key step in Zuckerberg’s push to develop the metaverse. But it’s not his end vision. His company’s main goal is releasing what he has called the “holy grail” device: lightweight augmented reality glasses that seamlessly overlay the digital world on the real world around you. With Apple planning its own AR headset, we also examine how these two tech giants are gearing up to battle over what they both think will be the next major computing platform.

Will Meta be able to maintain its head start in the race to make popular headsets if Apple — a company with a better reputation on privacy and more experience building hardware — also enters the race, as widely expected? Our finale episode includes never-before-heard audio of Zuckerberg addressing employees internally about the coming battle with Apple and what it means for the future of the internet.

Listen to the finale episode of Land of the Giants: The Facebook / Meta Disruption, a co-production between Recode and The Verge, and catch the first six episodes on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.

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