Welcome to another edition of Business Twitter, where we collect the best tweets to come out of Silicon Valley so you don’t have to. This article is part of a newsletter — if you want a weekly Business Twitter roundup sent to your inbox every Friday, subscribe here.
This week: Facebook unveils a new product that lets you have virtual reality meetings, generating little praise in the process. The PR move was perfectly timed to coincide with a new FTC antitrust lawsuit brought against the tech giant. Meanwhile, OnlyFans is banning sexually explicit content, the very thing that brought many users and creators to the platform, citing trouble raising funds from investors. Traveltech companies like Hopper, however, aren’t having trouble raising money amid a resurgence in business and leisure excursions.
1. Facebook’s metaverse mess
In the midst of a revised FTC antitrust lawsuit, Facebook decided the best way to distract from its ongoing legal battles was to unveil a new product: Horizon Workrooms.
If you’ve ever wanted to have company meetings where everyone looks like a cartoon avatar of themselves and it makes absolutely no impact on productivity, look no further. Unsurprisingly, no one was impressed with the product or the day on which Mark Zuckerberg chose to unveil it.
Facebook intended for its VR meeting space to be a part of the metaverse, the newest buzzword in Silicon Valley. Most people in tech found the notion laughable.
Jason Kint, CEO of Digital Content Next, admonished anyone covering Horizon without mentioning the FTC, tweeting, “With all due respect to CBS and any other news outlets, the Federal Trade Commission’s new complaint seeking to break apart Facebook is due tomorrow. If you cover Facebook and decide to remotely chase this BS FUD from Zuckerberg tomorrow then I’ll be highly highly disappointed.”
2. The metaverse beyond Facebook
Investor and Samsung executive Bo Ren took the opportunity of Facebook’s VR drama to write about the future of the metaverse. In a tweet thread, she predicted that if the metaverse takes off, big tech companies will squabble over operating systems, creating barriers for users in the process.
“Who is going to make the metaverse interoperable?” Ren wrote. “Will there be an open source third party neutral space for all game developers to use? Who will find these open source projects and maintain the legacy code? What are the incentives structure in place for competitors?”
3. OnlyFans gets out of porn
Aside from Facebook, the other major startup controversy involved OnlyFans, which announced yesterday that it was banning sexually explicit content.
In a statement, the company said, “These changes are to comply with the requests of our banking partners and payout providers.”
The shift came only a day after Axios reported that while OnlyFans exploded in popularity during the pandemic, leading to plenty of revenue, investors were hard to come by. Others argued that MasterCard’s rule changes for payments on the site were to blame. Several tweets questioned the move, arguing that the company got rid of the one thing that attracted users.
Morning Brew’s Jacob Donnelly tweeted about the plight of creators on the platform, writing, “This is the risk of building on a platform. You build on rented land and one day they change their tune. I feel really bad for all the people who have built thriving businesses here.”
4. Fintech meets travel
Traveltech startup Hopper just announced a $175 million Series G funding round, which brings its valuatino to $3.5 billion. It’s the latest indicator that travel and fintech are converging into an exciting new space, according to Alex Johnson, author of the Fintech Takes newsletter.
“Travel + Fintech is a trend that should be on your radar,” Johnson tweeted. “COVID slowed down progress in this area (obviously), but it's going to roar back soon. Expect more of this.”
Hopper plans to use the new capital to grow Hopper Cloud, increase AI-powered tools for booking, as well as beefing up customer support. Meanwhile, its revenue has surged 330% in the past year as consumers eager to travel are booking trips again.
Despite the excitement around travel startups, the industry may not bounce back as quickly as consumers would expect — the looming threat of the Delta variant and other potential variants and lockdown could stop the industry in its tracks all over again.