The Metaverse doesn’t work, says Phil Libin, ex-CEO of Evernote

CEO of Meta and founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg.

Phil Libin, former boss of Evernote and now CEO of US video conferencing company Mmhmm, doesn’t think much of Mark Zuckerberg’s Metaverse.

He told Insiders that he tried Horizon Workrooms, Meta’s VR meeting software, and supported it “only for a few minutes.”

It’s an “uncreative” and “old” idea that doesn’t have a prosperous future.

When tech founder Phil Libin donned his Oculus VR headset to try out Meta’s first Metaverse product, he didn’t have high expectations. “I had a feeling it was going to be bad, but at the same time I was hoping for a pleasant surprise,” Libin said in an interview with Insider.

The CEO of “Mmhmm”, an American videoconferencing and web conferencing company, recently tested Meta’s “Horizon Workrooms” product with his employees. With Horizon Workrooms, people can use VR headsets for virtual work meetings in what’s called the Metaverse. In this virtual room, everyone on the team sits at a table – whether they’re in the next room or halfway around the world. At least that’s the idea behind it.

No more cups of coffee during video calls

But Libin said his hunch was correct. “I only endured it for a few minutes,” he said.

He thinks using virtual reality for meetings is less appealing than well-known technologies like Zoom, where people can still do real things, like grab a cup of coffee. “I can’t do this with a huge piece of plastic over my face without spilling hot coffee all over me,” Libin said.

The Metaverse Horizon Workrooms desktop.

The Metaverse Horizon Workrooms desktop.

The word “metaverse” comes from the world of science fiction and refers to a future version of the internet accessible through immersive technologies such as virtual reality and augmented reality headsets. It was notably pushed by Mark Zuckerberg, who renamed Facebook to Meta in October.

In the last quarter of 2021, however, Meta faced a bitter defeat, as the company announced on February 2 this year. Meta is said to have lost around ten billion US dollars from its VR business. Additionally, the number of daily active users on Facebook fell slightly for the first time in its history. Meta shares sometimes fell around 26% in after-hours trading on Feb. 3. The company’s value plummeted nearly $240 billion – the largest one-day loss in the company’s history.

This is not the first time that Libin has criticized the Metaverse. In a January podcast interview, he compared the hype around the virtual universe to the communist propaganda he heard growing in the former Soviet Union. He’s still not convinced. He said Meta’s vision of the Metaverse – a “connected 3D VR world in which we move for many hours a day – both for play and for work” – would be a terrifying prospect.

Phil Libin recorded in Silicon Valley in 2017.

Phil Libin recorded in Silicon Valley in 2017.
picture alliance/dpa | Andrei Sokolov

“The idea is old,” Libin told Insider. “And not creative. It’s been tried over and over again over the past four decades, and it never worked. Metaverse proponents thought we should wait for its full potential to unfold, Libin said. But he doesn’t believe big tech works that way. “I believe that great technology, although primitive at the start, is also great from the start,” he said. Over time, extraordinary technology becomes “more sophisticated, more mature and more sophisticated”.

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As an example, he cited the first video game consoles and his very first purchase on Amazon in the mid-1990s. “It was my very first e-commerce transaction. I went to the Amazon website, then still very simple. A text site where you could only buy books. Everything was very simple. But I bought a few books and I remember thinking at the time, ‘This is amazing.'”

Regarding Horizon Workrooms, Libin said, “It just can’t get better because it started badly. It can get harder, but even then it’s still bad.

This text was translated from English by Lara Hansen. You can find the original here.

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