Photo of Mark Zuckerberg by Bloomberg. Art by Mike Sullivan
Oct. 5, 2022 6:00 AM PDT

It was 2020 and Mark Zuckerberg’s focus on his latest project began to intensify.

Online shopping was booming, and the CEO of Facebook—now called Meta Platforms—wanted to transform Facebook and Instagram into shopping destinations. Zuckerberg threw himself into the effort, hosting daily meetings and taking a hands-on approach far beyond what was typical for a CEO of a huge public company. He showered the commerce team with capital and engineers so it could accelerate its progress—more money than the group had asked for, according to a person with direct knowledge of the matter. He even talked about wanting to eventually drive Amazon-like levels of commerce through Meta’s properties, this person said.

The shopping push made sense: Facebook and Instagram have billions of users, and Meta’s recommendation and ranking technology, which the company has spent years honing to tailor its feeds and ads to users’ tastes, could in theory be effective at showing people products they were likely to buy. And a significant portion of Meta’s huge ad business was already promoting products that people were buying elsewhere on the internet. But employees worried that Zuckerberg’s expectations were exceedingly high, and some were concerned his lieutenants were unwilling to tell him so.

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