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Facebook is turning 20. Now Mark Zuckerberg is figuring out what comes next for Meta.

Mark Zuckerberg smiling
Mark Zuckerberg has been CEO of Facebook since cofounding the company in 2004.Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images
  • Mark Zuckerberg's been at the helm since he cofounded Facebook 20 years ago.

  • Zuckerberg has placed long-term bets on the metaverse and AGI.

  • He's one of the few founding fathers of major tech firms to stay running a company he helped build.

Mark Zuckerberg has been steering the ship since he cofounded Facebook almost 20 years ago.

Unlike some of the other founding fathers of major tech firms, the Meta CEO has not yet handed over the reins to someone else.

Amazon's Jeff Bezos and Google's Larry Page both stepped down and made way for the next generation after long tenures at their respective companies.

Zuckerberg is still firmly in control, however, and has been making long-term bets on trends like the metaverse and AI, which aren't cheap and by no means guaranteed jackpots either.

He dropped hints last week in a video about Meta's grand plan to develop artificial general intelligence (AGI) — a sector many tech companies have piled into since the launch of ChatGPT.

Zuckerberg didn't reveal all his cards on when the AGI magic is going to happen, or what it could look like. Details were few and far between in his interview with The Verge.

Mark Zuckerberg presents at the Meta Connect event in September 2023.
Mark Zuckerberg presents at the Meta Connect event in September 2023.Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images

One thing is clear: from his Metaverse dreams, to AGI aspirations, and a sprinkle of VR hardware, Zuckerberg is playing the long game. He can afford to, given Meta stock is up 168% over the past 12 months, pushing its value just above $1 trillion and Zuck's net worth to a cool $142 billion, per Bloomberg.

But as my colleague Linette Lopez points out, Zuckerberg hasn't done the best job of convincing people that the metaverse really is the next big thing.

That's kind of concerning when Meta's Reality Labs division, which houses its virtual reality tech, has racked up a cumulative $47 billion in losses since 2019. Meta is planning to keep throwing cash at it, even though it probably won't pay off for at least a decade, according to one Meta exec.

Even CTO Andrew Bosworth suggests it's a bit of a long shot. He said in a blog post in December: "Making long-term bets on emerging technologies isn't easy. It's not guaranteed to work, and it's certainly not cheap."

He adds: "It's also one of the most valuable things a technology company can do — and the only way to remain relevant over the long run."

Whether Zuckerberg (who turns 40 in May) ever decides to hand over the reins in order to work on something else — like Bezos and his space exploration exploits — remains to be seen.

And after all, Bill Gates was CEO of Microsoft for a quarter of a century before moving on, while Warren Buffett has been running Berkshire Hathaway since 1970.

This we do know: given his iron grip on the company, only Zuck can decide when it's time to do something else. Nonetheless, Zuckerberg's plan for the next decade at Meta is becoming clear.

Meta didn't respond to a request for comment from Business Insider.

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