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Meta CTO Andrew Bosworth writes Facebook of old had focus in blog post

Andrew Bosworth AKA Boz, an advertising expert for Facebook, gives a talk at the Online Marketing Rockstars marketing trade show in Hamburg, Germany, 03 March 2017. Photo: Christian Charisius/dpa | usage worldwide (Photo by Christian Charisius/picture alliance via Getty Images)

Christian Charisius | picture alliance | Getty Images

Meta technology chief Andrew “Boz” Bosworth, one of Facebook’s earliest employees, wrote on his personal blog over the weekend that the company was more focused in its initial days, and he described some of the problems that come with getting big.

In a post titled “Focus,” Bosworth contrasted the years of startup life, when he got little sleep, kept a poor diet and had “no hobbies,” with the mature company that has many people weighing in on product features and enough money to pay for less important things.

“Resources and time were so tight that you could feel the weight of all the things you weren’t working on,” wrote Bosworth, who started the post by saying he was “something like” the 10th engineer at the company. “You had real conviction that the thing you were doing was the most important thing.”

Bosworth’s post landed just days before Meta’s fourth-quarter earnings report, which is to be released after the bell on Wednesday. The Facebook parent company is expected to report its third consecutive quarterly sales drop, with analysts projecting another decline in the first quarter. Meta lost two-thirds of its value last year.

Bosworth was promoted to the top tech post in 2021, replacing Mike Schroepfer, who had been with the company since 2008. Bosworth is overseeing Meta’s ambitious and costly endeavor to develop the digital world of the metaverse, which CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said will define the company’s future.

While he acknowledged that he doesn’t miss startup life, “I do miss the profound sense of focus,” Bosworth wrote.

With limited money and resources, “we were constantly tight on servers, on memory, and on bandwidth,” he said.

But over time, Facebook experienced some product sprawl, putting effort into too many different projects. In contrast, using nonprofits as an example, he noted that in the early days of the company employees would ask Zuckerberg to support a group or cause.

An avatar of Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer of Meta Platforms Inc., speaks during the virtual Meta Connect event in New York, US, on Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2022.

Michael Nagle | Bloomberg | Getty Images

“Mark would always say no,” Bosworth wrote. “He would explain that it isn’t that we don’t care about good causes, it is that our comparative advantage wasn’t going to be making good donations.”

That changed as the company got bigger. More employees asked for Facebook contribute and there was enough money to do it. And considering that there’s nothing bad about supporting nonprofits, “we just stopped saying ‘no,” Bosworth wrote.

“I picked a cultural example here but the exact same thing happens in our products at a larger scale and with higher stakes,” he added.

Bosworth didn’t specify any areas where the current version of Meta lacks focus, and he says the company has a “core feature offering that is strong.” He did offer an example of how the company can still get off track, though.

“A small feature idea comes up that serves a subset of the market,” Bosworth wrote. “But it isn’t too hard to do and it isn’t a bad thing, so we indulge. “

He continued, “Repeat that thought process a hundred times and you have a cluttered UI, a large team, a slow product, and no obvious path forward.”

Meta investors have been urging the company to focus on its core online ad business, which has come under pressure from a number of challenges, including a weak economy and increased competition. Brad Gerstner, the CEO of Altimeter Capital and a Meta investor, wrote in an open letter to the company in October that Meta needs to “get fit and focused,” and he was critical of the hefty investment in the nascent metaverse.

In November, Meta said it would lay off over 11,000 employees as part of its plans to cut costs amid a tough digital advertising market.

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