Case spotlight: META: Facebook’s Pivot to the Metaverse. A Dystopia or Blue Ocean Utopia?

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This case was featured in the May 2022 issue of Connect.

Who – the protagonist

Mark Zuckerberg, co-founder and CEO of Facebook.

What?

Having signed up virtually every person on earth able to use Facebook, the American social media giant was approaching the upper boundary of what’s possible for organic growth.

This led to Zuckerberg announcing a strategic pivot that would see Facebook rebranded as Meta, with an initial $10 billion invested to create a metaverse.

Zuckerberg’s vision would allow users to have virtual homes, workplaces, and games in the metaverse. Physical products that display anything which can be digitised in the real world would be replaced by virtual metaverse products. For example, a real phone would be replaced by a phone application.

facebook meta

Why?

Potential positives of the metaverse included business meetings offering interactivity well beyond video chats, elderly people projecting their bodies to again be young and healthy, or anyone being able to digitally visit some of the world’s most famous landmarks.

However, criticism of Meta ranged from an increase in screening/gaming addiction using virtual reality (VR) goggles to a lack of a vision and business model with tangible benefits.

When?

After founding Facebook in 2004, Zuckerberg acquired Instagram for $1 billion in 2012, WhatsApp for $19 billion in 2014, and VR goggle maker Oculus for $2 billion in the same year.

On 29 October 2021, the business’ name was changed to Meta, and the metaverse vision outlined.

Where?

Facebook has just under three billion active daily users, more than the population of China and India combined.

Key quote

“The industry is less and less about actually trying to benefit people and more and more about how do we get people hooked.”
Steve Inskeep, a former Google ‘design ethicist’ and host of NPR’s Morning Edition.

What next?

Students face a number of dilemmas to answer such as is Meta more akin to technology innovation that advances technology without necessarily delivering a compelling leap in value for users? What are the strengths and weaknesses when it comes to Meta’s vision of social, economic, and environmental implications?

AUTHOR PERSPECTIVE 

Exploring the metaverse

Michael said: “Facebook is one of the most powerful and influential companies in the world and the metaverse is the next chapter, so-called Web3. When these two events came together - Facebook rebranding itself as Meta and making a multi-billion-dollar commitment to build a metaverse - this demanded an intellectual inquiry.

“What is the metaverse? Is Meta’s proposed metaverse on track to build a dystopia or blue ocean utopia for users and society? And is Meta’s business model likely to lead further issues of privacy violations and potential censorship? This case challenges students and executives to explore these issues which are likely to affect all of us.”

facebook metaverse

Producing a timely, timeless case

Michael continued: “While our aim was to produce a timeless case, it was attached to a pivotal event. We thought it was important to analyse and probe these issues in a timely fashion given the rising attention around metaverses in general, as well as Facebook so we don’t end up sleepwalking into a future that we don’t understand and, as a society, may regret. We wanted to be able to put this discussion out to the world earlier rather than later so students, executives, and policy makers can think about it.

The interest of Meta

He added: “The rebranding of Meta and its shift to the metaverse are topics of enormous interest across the globe, which makes the case very timely for faculty now and in the future. It is well suited for courses in strategy, technology, and innovation as well as social responsibility and policy.”

Ingredients of a good case

Michael commented: “Focus on an issue of importance. Analyse a case from an angle that matters, which provokes rich learning in the classroom. Build a strong narrative with high readability blended with a clear pedagogical purpose.

“It’s also important to tie a case together with questions and an in-depth teaching note. We don’t know if our Meta case achieved this, but we certainly tried.”

Share your feedback

Michael concluded: “We are excited about the rich classroom discussion this case is likely to foster. We believe it addresses an important and timely issue which is on track to directly affect the world we live in. If you have comments or feedback, please don’t hesitate to write to us at michael.olenick@insead.edu.”

THE CASE 

The case

Who – the protagonist

Mark Zuckerberg, co-founder and CEO of Facebook.

What?

Having signed up virtually every person on earth able to use Facebook, the American social media giant was approaching the upper boundary of what’s possible for organic growth.

This led to Zuckerberg announcing a strategic pivot that would see Facebook rebranded as Meta, with an initial $10 billion invested to create a metaverse.

Zuckerberg’s vision would allow users to have virtual homes, workplaces, and games in the metaverse. Physical products that display anything which can be digitised in the real world would be replaced by virtual metaverse products. For example, a real phone would be replaced by a phone application.

facebook meta

Why?

Potential positives of the metaverse included business meetings offering interactivity well beyond video chats, elderly people projecting their bodies to again be young and healthy, or anyone being able to digitally visit some of the world’s most famous landmarks.

However, criticism of Meta ranged from an increase in screening/gaming addiction using virtual reality (VR) goggles to a lack of a vision and business model with tangible benefits.

When?

After founding Facebook in 2004, Zuckerberg acquired Instagram for $1 billion in 2012, WhatsApp for $19 billion in 2014, and VR goggle maker Oculus for $2 billion in the same year.

On 29 October 2021, the business’ name was changed to Meta, and the metaverse vision outlined.

Where?

Facebook has just under three billion active daily users, more than the population of China and India combined.

Key quote

“The industry is less and less about actually trying to benefit people and more and more about how do we get people hooked.”
Steve Inskeep, a former Google ‘design ethicist’ and host of NPR’s Morning Edition.

What next?

Students face a number of dilemmas to answer such as is Meta more akin to technology innovation that advances technology without necessarily delivering a compelling leap in value for users? What are the strengths and weaknesses when it comes to Meta’s vision of social, economic, and environmental implications?

AUTHOR PERSPECTIVE 

Author perspective

Exploring the metaverse

Michael said: “Facebook is one of the most powerful and influential companies in the world and the metaverse is the next chapter, so-called Web3. When these two events came together - Facebook rebranding itself as Meta and making a multi-billion-dollar commitment to build a metaverse - this demanded an intellectual inquiry.

“What is the metaverse? Is Meta’s proposed metaverse on track to build a dystopia or blue ocean utopia for users and society? And is Meta’s business model likely to lead further issues of privacy violations and potential censorship? This case challenges students and executives to explore these issues which are likely to affect all of us.”

facebook metaverse

Producing a timely, timeless case

Michael continued: “While our aim was to produce a timeless case, it was attached to a pivotal event. We thought it was important to analyse and probe these issues in a timely fashion given the rising attention around metaverses in general, as well as Facebook so we don’t end up sleepwalking into a future that we don’t understand and, as a society, may regret. We wanted to be able to put this discussion out to the world earlier rather than later so students, executives, and policy makers can think about it.

The interest of Meta

He added: “The rebranding of Meta and its shift to the metaverse are topics of enormous interest across the globe, which makes the case very timely for faculty now and in the future. It is well suited for courses in strategy, technology, and innovation as well as social responsibility and policy.”

Ingredients of a good case

Michael commented: “Focus on an issue of importance. Analyse a case from an angle that matters, which provokes rich learning in the classroom. Build a strong narrative with high readability blended with a clear pedagogical purpose.

“It’s also important to tie a case together with questions and an in-depth teaching note. We don’t know if our Meta case achieved this, but we certainly tried.”

Share your feedback

Michael concluded: “We are excited about the rich classroom discussion this case is likely to foster. We believe it addresses an important and timely issue which is on track to directly affect the world we live in. If you have comments or feedback, please don’t hesitate to write to us at michael.olenick@insead.edu.”

THE CASE 

The protagonist

Mark Zuckerberg
Co-founder and CEO
Read the case

Educators can login to view a free educator preview copy of this case and its accompanying teaching note.

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Free Blue Ocean Strategy webinar

Thursday 16 June 2022  17h-17.45h (BST)

Would you like to use Blue Ocean Strategy cases to teach the difference between value innovation and technology innovation?

In this free webinar experts from the INSEAD Blue Ocean Strategy Institute will share their insights by profiling high-tech related Blue Ocean Strategy cases ranging from Meta’s metaverse to Stitch Fix and even brief touching on Ford’s infamous Edsel.

Free Blue Ocean Strategy webinar

Thursday 16 June 2022  17h-17.45h (BST)

Would you like to use Blue Ocean Strategy cases to teach the difference between value innovation and technology innovation?

In this free webinar experts from the INSEAD Blue Ocean Strategy Institute will share their insights by profiling high-tech related Blue Ocean Strategy cases ranging from Meta’s metaverse to Stitch Fix and even brief touching on Ford’s infamous Edsel.

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