Reality bites

How much trouble is Mark Zuckerberg in?

As Facebook fades, Meta hopes for success in another dimension

IT IS NIGHT-TIME at the Soapstone Comedy Club. In fact, it always is. The club is a space in Horizon Worlds, Meta’s flagship metaverse app, where users can watch and perform comedy in virtual reality (VR). “It’s hard to do stand-up when you have no legs,” quips one performer, gesturing to his hovering avatar, before accidentally dropping the virtual microphone and floating offstage. A night out in VR lacks some of the atmosphere of a real bar, though it does cause authentic dizziness and nausea.

It is almost a year since Mark Zuckerberg announced that his company would change its name from Facebook to Meta, to reflect its commitment to the metaverse and, no doubt, to escape the firm’s toxic public image. Many were unsure what the word meant, but with the company’s value at a near-all-time high of $1.1trn, and its core social-network advertising business humming away on the back of a pandemic boom, investors were willing to indulge the experiment.

A year on, things look different. The metaverse on which so much has been staked remains unproven and unpopular. Meanwhile there are signs that both users and advertisers are…