Image: James Martin/CNET

After 14 years with Facebook parent company Meta, it has been announced that COO Sheryl Sandberg is leaving the company effective this fall. While Sandberg will be stepping down from the COO role, she will continue to serve on the Meta board of directors. In her place, the company’s chief growth officer Javier Olivan will step into the open role left behind by Sandberg.

Sandberg reportedly told Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg about the choice to leave her position over the weekend, and wrote a lengthy post on her personal page announcing the move.

“When I took this job in 2008, I hoped I would be in this role for five years. Fourteen years later, it is time for me to write the next chapter of my life,” Sandberg wrote in a Facebook post. “I am not entirely sure what the future will bring–I have learned no one ever is. But I know it will include focusing more on my foundation and philanthropic work, which is more important to me than ever given how critical this moment is for women.”

In addition, Zuckerberg also wrote a lengthy post himself, highlighting Sandberg’s tenure with the company and the future of her role once she has officially departed.

“I’m going to miss running this company with Sheryl. But I’m glad that she’ll continue to serve on our board of directors so we can benefit from her wisdom and experience even after she transitions out of her day-to-day management role in the coming months,” the Facebook founder wrote. “Looking forward, I don’t plan to replace Sheryl’s role in our existing structure. I’m not sure that would be possible since she’s a superstar who defined the COO role in her own unique way.”

Reaction to the news, as always on social media, was mixed, with some congratulating Sandberg on her time with the company, and some criticizing the choices Sandberg and Meta had made during her tenure.

What does Sandberg’s exodus mean for the metaverse?

Meta’s pursuit of the metaverse has been a rocky one thus far from both a business and application standpoint, and Sandberg’s departure surely will not make the company’s foray into the AR/VR realm any easier as it continues its transition away from simply being a social media website. It was reported that the company’s ‘Metaverse’ division had already reported a $3 billion loss in the first quarter of 2022 alone, with more losses expected while the company works out how best to gain usership and make Zuckerberg’s vision a reality.

From a content perspective, the metaverse has already come under fire for the actions of early users of the platform. A report from May 2022 produced by non-profit advocacy group Sum of Us states that users have already experienced racist language, inadequate reporting measures and concern for the general toxicity of the platform.

With Sandberg’s departure and Meta currently in a state of flux, it will be intriguing to see how the company continues its transformation from a social media platform to an AR/VR dominant entity.