Facebook will outline its long-term vision for the metaverse on Thursday during its Reality Labs division's Connect 2021 event. In addition, the tech giant is expected to unveil its highly anticipated name change.
Chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg emphasized on Facebook's third quarter earnings call Monday that the metaverse, a virtual-reality space where users can interact with each other in a computer-generated environment, would be a major area of investment and important part of the company's strategy going forward.
"We basically believe that the metaverse is going to be the successor of the mobile internet, that it's going to enable social experiences that are the ultimate expression of what we try to build, which is allowing people to feel really present with the people they care about no matter where they actually are," Zuckerberg explained. "So, we think it's going to unlock a massively larger creative economy of both digital and physical goods that would exist today and allow millions of people to be able to do work doing what they love and enabling a whole different economy around that that I think is going to be another important pillar of our business over the next decade."
Starting in the fourth quarter, Facebook will disclose its financial metrics for Facebook Reality Labs separately from its family of apps. The company expects that its investments in augmented and virtual reality will reduce overall operating profit by approximately $10 billion in 2021.
Connect 2021 comes as the company is looking to circumvent the recent, growing PR firestorm, including scathing testimony to U.S. and U.K. lawmakers from former Facebook product manager-turned-whistleblower Frances Haugen and a series of reports from The Wall Street Journal and a media consortium of 17 U.S. news outlets, including FOX Business, dubbed The Facebook Files and Facebook Papers, respectively. The testimony and reports have covered a wide range of issues at the company, including misinformation on Facebook's platform and Instagram's negative impacts on teens and children.
"Good faith criticism helps us get better, but my view is what we are seeing here is a coordinated effort to selectively use the leaked documents to paint a false picture of our company," Zuckerberg told analysts in defense of the company. "The reality is that we have an open culture where we encourage discussion and research on our work so we can make progress on many complex issues that are not specific to just us."
He argued that the issues raised "aren't primarily about social media" and that "no matter what Facebook does, we’re never going to solve them on our own."
"It makes a good sound bite to say that we don't solve these impossible tradeoffs because we're just focused on making money. But the reality is these questions are not primarily about our business, but about balancing different, difficult social values. And I repeatedly called for regulation to provide clarity because I don't think companies should be making so many of these decisions ourselves," he said. "I'm proud of our record navigating the complex tradeoffs involved in operating the services at global scale, and I'm proud of the research and transparency we bring to our work."
The keynote for Connect 2021 will kick off at 10 a.m. PT and will be streamed live on Reality Labs' Facebook page.
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Shares of Facebook are trading flat ahead of Thursday's event.