Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, has staked his company’s future on an immersive online world known as the metaverse. On Wednesday, the company showed it was still navigating that transformation.
Meta, the company formerly known as Facebook, reported profit of $7.5 billion for the first quarter, down 21 percent from a year earlier. Revenue rose 7 percent to $27.9 billion. Wall Street analysts had predicted profits of $7.1 billion on revenue of $28.2 billion.
The results followed Meta’s dismal financial report in February, when the company also posted falling profits and slowing user growth. The next day, Meta’s stock plummeted 26 percent and its market value plunged more than $230 billion in the company’s biggest one-day wipeout ever.
The two quarters were the company’s first back-to-back profit declines in over a decade, a sign of the difficulties it is encountering as it changes course. While Meta is spending heavily on metaverse-related products like virtual-reality goggles, whether people want to buy such gadgets remains far from certain. At the same time, the company’s core social networking apps — including Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger — face challenges. New-user growth has slowed, and competition from rivals like TikTok, the Chinese-owned video site, is increasing.
In a statement on Wednesday, Mr. Zuckerberg said he was sticking by the metaverse plan. “We remain confident in the long-term opportunities and growth that our product road map will unlock,” he said.
Meta’s main business of digital advertising has been hurt by Apple’s decision to let iPhone users limit apps from tracking their online activities. That change has affected Meta’s ability to target ads to people on iPhones. Google has also discussed introducing similar privacy changes to its mobile products, which could further affect Meta’s ad business.
In March, Russia banned Facebook and Instagram after its invasion of Ukraine, leading to losses of tens of millions of users, analysts said. Facebook had announced it would begin to label Russian state-backed media and relax hate-speech policies for Ukrainian users.
“Meta is facing Category 5 hurricane headwinds, from engagement to advertising to growth,” said Daniel Ives, an analyst at Wedbush Securities. “There’s a sense that the company still doesn’t have its arms around all the changes with the iPhone or with losing users.”
On Wednesday, Meta reported the number users across its family of apps rose 6 percent from a year earlier and was up slightly from the prior quarter. On Facebook, the number of users who are active increased to 1.96 billion per day in the first quarter from 1.93 billion in the previous quarter.
In February, Meta disclosed that the core Facebook app had lost about half a million users over the fourth quarter from the previous quarter. It was the first such decline in the company’s history.
Meta’s shares, which ended regular trading at $174.95, rose more than 17 percent in after hours trading.