Why Mark Zuckerberg is fixated on creating AR’s ‘iPhone moment’

To Meta’s CEO, the fact that his products have usually sat on platforms he didn’t control has long been a frustration.

Back in 2015, toward the end of the period when Facebook seemed to be an unstoppable phenom rather than a troubled giant, I interviewed Zuckerberg for a Fast Company cover story. “One of my big regrets,” he said, “is that Facebook hasn’t had a major chance to shape the mobile operating system ecosystem.” The smartphone revolution had come along before Facebook was big enough to build a platform of its own, leaving it as a mere tenant—albeit a remarkably popular one—on iPhones and Android phones. (The company’s attempt to claw back some control over the experience, with an Android interface called Facebook Home, became one of its most iconic flops.)

Since Zuckerberg expressed that disappointment to me, he’s had only more reason to be frustrated by his company’s lack of full-stack authority over the experiences it creates. Exhibit A: Apple’s App Tracking Transparency (ATT) feature, which presents iPhone users with a dialog box that allows them to choose whether an app can track them or not. Most are opting out, a move that strikes at the heart of Meta’s targeted advertising business. In February, when Meta said that ATT could cost it $10 billion in lost revenue in 2022, the result was a stock collapse of historic proportions.

By the time Meta’s AR glasses hit the market, it’s entirely possible that their principal competition will be…Apple AR glasses. Is it any wonder that Zuckerberg is hoping that Meta, not Apple, will create the iPhone of AR?

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