Meta morphs: Never mind the metaverse, it's all about AI

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Meta morphs

3 billion monthly active users. That's the latest milestone the world’s largest social network has exceeded for the first time ever, according to Meta’s 2Q report, equivalent to more than one-third of the world's population logging in every month.

The jump in users was accompanied by an 11% rise in revenue, as Facebook, Instagram and Whatsapp — members of Meta's diverse “family of apps” — saw a rebound in advertising, following a post-pandemic decline that saw the company cut more than 20,000 jobs since last November.

Shiny object syndrome

In recent years, Meta’s big bold vision has been all about the metaverse — a virtual world in which Mark Zuckerberg expects us to one day work, shop, chat and play. To build that vision, Meta has been burning billions of dollars a year, ignoring the many newspaper column inches devoted to ridiculing the entire idea.

On the business side, the company is still forecasting expenses to rise in 2023 and 2024 — but now, that’s not just because of the metaverse, as Meta joins the ever-accelerating AI arms race, building the large language model LLaMA 2 (co-developed with Microsoft). Indeed, mentions of “AI” in the company’s conference calls have increased 4x since 2021, while chatter about the metaverse has dwindled since its initial announcement.

Although Meta has suddenly added AI as a focus, the company is taking a slightly different tack to other tech giants, announcing that it would give away the code for its latest AI model, LLaMA 2, for free. While leading competitors like Microsoft and Google have moved quickly to integrate AI into their premium products, they have also warned of the dangers of failing to regulate the software. When playing catch up, Meta’s open book approach might just pay off.

Related: Threads, Meta's answer to Twitter, has lost half its users.

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