Frustrated virtual reality pioneer leaves Facebook parents

A prominent video game developer who helped fuel Facebook’s expansion into virtual reality has resigned from the social networking service’s parent company after becoming disillusioned with the way the technology is being managed.

John Carmack severed his ties with Meta Platforms, a holding company founded by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg last year, in a Friday letter awaiting his frustration as he dived into virtual reality as an executive consultant.

“There is no way to sugarcoat this; I think our organization operates at half the efficiency that would make me happy,” Carmack wrote in the letter, which he shared on Facebook. Half? Ha! I’m at quarter efficiency!'”

In response to a query about Carmack’s resignation and comments, Meta directed The Associated Press to a tweet from her chief technology officer and head of her reality labs, Andrew Bosworth, on Saturday. “It’s impossible to overstate the impact you’ve had on our work and the industry at large,” Bosworth wrote in his grateful tweet to Carmack.

Carmack’s departure comes at a time when Meta CEO Zuckerberg is grappling with popular perceptions that he squandered billions of dollars founding the Menlo Park, California company in the “Metaverse” — an artificial world full of avatars from real people.

As Metaverse losses mount, Facebook and related services like Instagram are suffering from a drop in advertising, which brings in most of the company’s revenue. The decline was caused by a combination of recession fears, stiffer competition from other social networking services like TikTok, and privacy controls on Apple’s iPhone that have made it harder to track people’s interests to help sell ads.

Those challenges have caused Meta’s stock to lose nearly two-thirds of its value so far this year, wiping out about $575 billion in shareholder wealth.

Though Carmack only worked part-time at Meta, the dismay he has expressed seems to fuel questions looming over Zuckerberg’s efforts to become as dominant in virtual reality as Facebook has been in the social network since he launched the service nearly 20 years ago years started attending Harvard University.

Zuckerberg began exploring virtual reality in earnest in 2014 when Facebook bought headset maker Oculus for $2 billion. Carmack was Oculus’ chief technology officer at the time and joined Facebook after the deal closed. Before joining Oculus, Carmack was best known as the co-creator of the video game Doom.

Federal regulators are now trying to limit Zuckerberg’s influence on virtual reality by preventing his attempt to buy Within Unlimited, which is developing a fitness app designed for the Metaverse.

Carmack testified earlier this week in a lawsuit in which the Federal Trade Commission was facing up against Meta over the fate of the deal. Zuckerberg is expected to testify at some point in the trial, which is set to continue Monday in San Jose, California.

Despite his frustration with how things have been going at Meta, Carmack praised his latest virtual reality headset, the Quest 2, in his resignation letter. He described the headset as “almost exactly what I wanted to see from the start” of his tenure at Oculus.

“It’s successful, and successful products make the world a better place,” Carmack said of Quest 2. “Things could have gone a little bit faster and better if different decisions were made, but we’re getting something pretty close built the right thing.”

But Carmack ended his letter with this plea: “Perhaps it is actually possible to get there simply by advancing current practices, but there is much room for improvement. Make better decisions and fill your products with ‘Give a Damn!’”

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