Inside Meta’s big AI reorg

Mark Zuckerberg.

Aside from Meta’s new focus on building artificial general intelligence, the biggest news inside the company this week is CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s decision to move its AI research team, FAIR, to sit in its product organization.

Going forward, Joelle Pineau, the VP who leads FAIR, and Yann LeCun, chief AI scientist, will report to Meta’s chief product officer, Chris Cox. They previously reported to CTO Andrew ‘Boz’ Bosworth, who leads the Reality Labs division.

“With this change, we elevate the importance of AI research as an essential ingredient to the long-term success of the company and our products,” Cox wrote in an internal note to employees on Wednesday that I obtained. “Alongside the major infrastructure investments Mark mentioned today, moving FAIR and GenAI closer together will mean a more coherent AI research portfolio and roadmap — with Llama becoming the primary launch vehicle for progress towards AGI, plus a streamlined development process for new technologies or novel AI research that navigate the legal, policy, and brand landscape consistently in an increasingly scrutinized space.”

While I already published most of my interview with Zuckerberg on The Verge’s website, I saved some of it exclusively for Command Line subscribers:

Heath: You’re moving FAIR from Boz’s org to Chris’ org. How does that impact Reality Labs? Because I think some people will interpret it as RL losing that.

Zuckerberg: That’s definitely not how I think about it. Just to give you a little bit of the detail on how this thing came together: Boz actually suggested it.

Chris and Boz and I were talking about how to align the research roadmaps and what the process should look like. And Boz was like, “I spend a lot of time on AI.” But even with that, rather than having this stuff basically escalate through Chris and Boz and them have to spend time, he’s like, “Why don’t you just work on that coordination?” And he suggested to Chris that we move it over there.

The way it worked before, FAIR operated pretty independently. And even though it was within Boz’s organization, I’m not sure that they would have called themselves part of Reality Labs. We always talked about our AI work and our Reality Labs work as two different things. Reality Labs, I think, can be relatively built as its own contained organization, whereas the AI stuff is everywhere.

It’s not like this was all in one place before or it’s going to be all in one place now. This is, I think, a much more specific thing, where we’re taking our two main research labs and bringing them adjacent to make it so that we can make more progress on these longer-term areas. Because of the way that this worked within Reality Labs before, where I don’t think the FAIR leaders, for example, went to Boz’s staff meeting, I think it was just sort of managed as a separate thing.

I don’t really think this [reorganization] will feel that different. And because of how important all the AI stuff is to the company, Boz spends a huge amount of time on this anyway, and there’s still a bunch of AI pieces that will be throughout Reality Labs as well.

Have you found that your personal attention has shifted with all the excitement about generative AI? Do you find that you spend more time on the AI stuff versus Reality Labs, or is it just constantly shifting depending on the week?

It’s not just a tradeoff between those two things. In 2023, the thing that took the most of my time was all the focus on efficiency, with rewiring how the company worked to be leaner. It’s not like we’re going back to where we were before on that. But I feel like we’ve established a new set of operating norms and can just kind of roll now. It’ll require some amount of work, but it’s maybe 10 percent as much of my time as it was last year, when we were going through it.

For this year, there’s less of that, so that gives me a little more time on product. In terms of other things to focus on, it’s a huge election year around the world. Obviously, there’s the US election, but this is maybe the year with the most elections around the world, I think, in recent history. I think making sure we do a good job on all the integrity work is going to be important, too. So, that’ll be a somewhat bigger focus this year than it was before.

It is fun being in a mode where, rather than cutting a lot of stuff, we’re getting to focus again on building new things. That is a fun mode to be in.

Google’s layoff warning and OKRs

This week, I broke the news of Google CEO Sundar Pichai warning employees that more layoffs are coming throughout the year. But I only included part of his memo in my story on The Verge.

The full thing, which I’m publishing here for the first time, includes two other tidbits: All Google employees can now begin internally testing Bard Advanced, the company’s upcoming, paid version of the chatbot that is powered by the highest-tier version of Gemini, its latest large language model. That suggests Bard Advanced will be released to the public soon.

Employees will also get to ask Pichai and other Google leaders questions directly at the company’s next all-hands, TGIF, in two weeks. “I want to spend more time discussing this with all of you,” Pichai writes. Based on the strong reaction I’ve seen to Google’s slow-drip approach to layoffs, this upcoming TGIF should be a spicy one!

Anyway, here’s his full memo from Wednesday:


This week we’ll be publishing our 2024 company-wide OKRs. They build on the themes we discussed at the Strategy Meeting in December and define our priorities and opportunities for the year ahead in AI and beyond.

Just a few weeks in, we’re already seeing some great momentum. Last week at CES we shared improvements we’re making to the Android ecosystem. This week at Samsung’s Unpacked we introduced our latest Circle to Search innovation (available soon on Pixel and S24) and a deep Cloud partnership. Next up: Googlers can dogfood Bard Advanced with Gemini Ultra, starting today at go/bard (details on the dogfood are in your inbox). Lots more to come in Q1.

At the same time, many teams are already executing on their business plans for 2024. We have ambitious goals and will be investing in our big priorities this year. The reality is that to create the capacity for this investment, we have to make tough choices. For some PAs and functions, this means reorganizing and, in some cases, eliminating roles, similar to the work a number of teams started in H2 2023. This also includes removing layers to simplify execution and drive velocity in some areas.

These role eliminations are not at the scale of last year’s reductions, and will not touch every team. But I know it’s very difficult to see colleagues and teams impacted. In cases where roles are eliminated, we’re working to provide 1:1 outreach, and supporting employees as they look for new roles at Google and beyond.

Many of these changes are already announced, though to be upfront, some teams will continue to make specific resource allocation decisions throughout the year where needed, and some roles may be impacted.

I want to spend more time discussing this with all of you. We’ll have our regular post-earnings TGIF in two weeks and will take your questions there. In the meantime, many teams are heads down working on upcoming launches and new partnerships — thank you for the hard work and and look forward to seeing all the progress we’ll make in 2024. – Sundar

On Thursday, those companywide OKRs (objective key results) Pichai mentioned in the above memo were shared with employees. Here they are:

1.⁠ ⁠Deliver the world’s most advanced, safe, and responsible AI.

2.⁠ ⁠Improve knowledge, learning, creativity, and productivity.

3. Build the most helpful personal computing platforms and devices.

4.⁠ ⁠Enable organizations and developers to innovate on Google Cloud.

5. Provide the world’s most trusted products and platforms.

6. Build a Google that’s extraordinary for Googlers and the world.

7.⁠ ⁠Improve company velocity, efficiency, and productivity, and deliver durable cost savings.

People moves

  • John Felton is the new SVP and AWS CFO at Amazon, reporting to Brian Olsavsky. And Udit Madan is the new head of worldwide operations.
  • Sheryl Sandberg is leaving Meta’s board of directors.
  • OpenAI’s board is canvassing for new members and apparently asked Databricks CEO Ali Ghodsi to join (he declined).
  • Neil Chowdhury, formerly of MIT, joined OpenAI’s “preparedness” team.

Interesting links

Reddit is eyeing a March IPO.

I’ll be back next week. In the meantime, send me your feedback, tips, and reorg reactions. Thanks for subscribing.

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