Facebook’s users declined for the first time in 18 years

For the first time in Facebook’s history, its user base declined in the 4th quarter of 2021 to 1.93 billion daily active users (DAUs). For many people this is signalling the beginning of the end of the tech giant that has dominated the social media sphere for almost 2 decades. Since publication of Facebook’s Fourth Quarter 2021 results, Meta’s stock price has plummeted by 26%, wiping off $220 billion from its market value.

Source: Meta Fourth Quarter and Full Year 2021 Results.

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Jenna T
February 12, 2022 6:11 pm

The tech world is having a field day about this. I don’t know if they’re more excited about Facebook losing users or Mark Zuckerberg’s net worth dropping by $30 billion πŸ™ˆ Zuckerberg has fallen out of the Top 10 Richest People in the World list but when you’re hovering around the Top 10, you’re not going to be too worried about how much disposable income you have.

Does anyone use Facebook anymore? That’s a question I hear often. It’s a strange question people ask because the answer is a resounding YES. 1.93 billion daily active users still gives Facebook a comfortable lead as the most-used social media platform. Things are a bit different now. Times have changed a lot since the days of oversharing, when we’d update our status every time we went for a walk or bought lunch. We’re a lot more guarded with our privacy and no one wants to be “that person” who shares everything now.

I once read someone’s analysis of Facebook’s success. They put it down to luck. Like any successful start up, there is an element of luck and timing. But in no uncertain terms can a company reach the level Facebook has on luck alone. It has used aggressive growth tactics, acquisitions of competitors and constantly staying one step ahead to be at the level its at. People are already writing off Facebook because it has had a bad quarter. Zuckerberg’s vision for the metaverse is a recognition that Facebook has had its time. But let’s be clear about this. Facebook will still be number 1 for a while yet.

Throughout the years stories have leaked from Facebook staff about Mark Zuckerberg’s paranoia with competitor companies. It’s being reported that in an earnings call, he told attendees that he might shed some tears during the meeting; not because he was upset about Facebook’s situation but because he had scratched his eye earlier πŸ€” 🀣 Mark Zuckerberg’s desire to be number 1 at all costs is an indication that he won’t let Facebook fall without a fight.

Alex Bakalov
April 12, 2022 5:05 pm

Facebook has been a maverick company ever since it entered our lives. Or as is usually framed, ever since we entered Facebook. For a long time the phrase “It’s Facebook’s world, we’re just living in it” sounded right. It wasn’t true in a literal sense, of course. Facebook was, however, big and powerful enough that you could proclaim that phrase without ridicule. Say it now and it doesn’t really sit right. Whistleblowers, declining users, falling stock prices – it’s not Facebook’s world anymore.

Facebook still has a grip on me. When I post a photo or status update once in a while, I succumb to the constant refreshing of my browser. How many likes have I got now? None? Damn you Facebook! But that happens few and far between. Facebook’s grip has loosened immensely. It doesn’t have the strength it used to. But one thing Facebook had and still has was that it could make you – the user – feel like the center of the universe. The platform is deceptively simple. You see some friends’ photos. You comment on someone’s status update. It doesn’t really occur to you that billions of other people are doing the same thing and they simultaneously are at the center of their own Facebook experience.

As has already been stated, Facebook still has tons of users! So many businesses rely on it for bookings and sales. Everyone is getting on Meta’s case, justifiably so for a lot of reasons. Yet we can’t judge Facebook’s demise based on our personal experiences. Like so many other people I sometimes think if anyone uses Facebook anymore – a strange thought to have when published data puts its user base at near 2 billion registered accounts. But like I said, Facebook has been a master of deception for many years.

Although in the West we get a feeling that Facebook is on its way out, in Africa it’s becoming an embedded, indispensable part of everyday life. As the Guardian writes, “Across Africa, Facebook is the internet”. That is a powerful position to be in. Facebook has been dominant in the west. It has never been the internet. It seems Facebook still has a few tricks up its sleeve. If it’s past is anything to go by, it won’t be demurred from criticism calling its dominance in Africa ‘digital colonialism’.

Rayan Tanwar
April 8, 2022 8:11 pm

has already encapsulated one of the problems Facebook has. Culture has changed, namely sharing culture. No ones wants to know what you bought for your weekly shop. Come to think of it, no one ever did! Totally getting side-tracked here, but how many times have you wanted to call someone out for the weirdest status updates? I have been many tempted many times to have my own 5/7 moment – if you know, you know πŸ™‚

Back on topic, Facebook has to keep up. And it’s trying hard to stay relevant. Instagram is still a huge draw. Although Facebook has more users, Instagram is “where it’s at”, to use a technical term. It’s why Meta corp is pushing so hard on Reels.

Another thing that can’t go unnoticed is how toxic Facebook has become. How social media is dividing us rather than connecting us has been a topic of discussion for the past decade. We don’t need research to tell us it’s true. Facebook has become a not-so-nice place. Check any open discussion on any post. It always turns into a flame war of some kind. For me it came to a point where I just didn’t see value in logging into Facebook anymore. Did I really want to spend time reading unwarranted, abusive comments every time I signed on?

In early 2021 Facebook (now Meta) made a pledge to depoliticize the platform. Mark Zuckerberg was on point when he said, “People don’t want politics and fighting to take over their experience on our services.” Probably too little, too late. The damage is done. I’m not saying things can’t get better, but the problem goes beyond political discussions. For me it has become a core part of the product’s culture, political content or otherwise, and that’s a difficult thing to change when it took years to build up to this level of division.

Cristina Pellini
April 21, 2022 5:16 am

Let’s put some historical context behind this to understand why it is ringing alarm bells, especially within the investor community. Twitter went public with its IPO in 2013. It was a platform that was getting more and more attention, to the point that some experts predicted it would overtake Facebook in total number of users. By the time Twitter’s first earnings report post-IPO was released, the top management thought they were onto a good thing. Their revenue figures were strong, having sold a good amount of ad space. Upon release of the earnings report, investors turned on Twitter. Why? Revenue wasn’t the problem. It was user growth. It had slowed down. Investors associate user growth with potential revenues in the future. If user growth is slowing, the prospects for the platform earning long-term revenue is on shaky ground. Facebook never had to confront this problem because of its consistent growth but even one blip after 18 years can send investors into a tailspin. User growth is that important!

Sean Ellis
April 24, 2022 3:32 pm

I echo the sentiments already shared about sowing division. I know this isn’t a place where we engage in intense political discussions so I’ll share what I have seen happening on Facebook, coming from a person who identifies as a political moderate.

As everyone probably knows, the United States has a massive amount of guns and a massive amount of gun violence. It seems as if mass shootings have become more and more common. Naturally this results in fiery debates on Facebook. The problem is highlighted by both sides of the political spectrum becoming more and more entrenched in their political views and becoming less willing to come to a compromise. People hurl insults, disparage each other’s character and belittle the political beliefs of one another. Both sides rely on fear-mongering to motivate other users. On one side, there is the constant touting of government seizure of firearms or autocratic government actions while the other side makes claims about firearms that aren’t backed by evidence and really only serve to create more fear. These actions not only generate fear amongst the intended side but create a sense of dislike and distrust in the opposing side. Liberals tend to see Conservatives as shills for the NRA while Conservatives see Liberals as being uneducated in firearms and as such, not being in a position to pass legislation about them.

Because of the deeply entrenched ideas of users who identify with both Republican and Democratic parties, people feel less and less like there is some way to come to an agreement. It is easy to see that Facebook has facilitated this entrenchment. I might add that this is partially true but also partially false. While the fringes and more radical parts of each party are getting louder and more stubborn, the center is still strong and there is still a large amount of agreement. Facebook’s algorithm doesn’t push moderate views, however. Disagreement is what the algorithm likes and divisive posts get the most engagement. But for example, something like 70% of Americans support expanded background checks and other common-sense gun laws. But the problem is that both sides continue to become more and more entrenched and the fear tactics used keep things in gridlock. This makes people on both sides feel as if they need to become more radical since middle lane politics are not working, and the arguments on Facebook engender a feeling that someone who disagrees with you politically is a sworn enemy.

Kaitlyn Mora
May 4, 2022 5:27 am

By now, news of Facebook’s unexpected rebound has got people excited all over again for Meta’s future prospects. According to technology journalists, Mark Zuckerberg was hanging off a cliff edge. It’s funny how within a day, article titles change from Meta has only got 6 months to survive to Meta’s growth signals a bright future. I say with confidence and certainty that Facebook will be abandoned one day. We don’t know when it will be. It could be next month or it could be next year. Prepare for mercurial article titles along the way.

Facebook’s culture has been growth, growth, growth. Any other goals or hesitations? Rejected! Just grow and things will fall into place. That laser focused culture, which provided great success initially, could be its undoing. Facebook has always been transactional in its culture, a contradiction for a company that is supposed to be built on people, friendships and connections.

If you were visiting Facebook HQ at 1 Hacker Way, Menlo Park, and you spoke to FB employees, an NDA was waiting for you to sign. Theranos vibes, anyone? When FB wanted influencers and celebrities to post on Facebook, they offered ad credits, not money. The biggest window into Facebook’s culture was during its acquisition of Instagram. Zuckerberg announced internally that he wanted to buy Instagram. Other FB executives didn’t get it. Where’s the revenue stream? IG isn’t making any money! The famous line “we’re buying magic” one FB exec responded to a sceptic reflects how transactional and data-driven FB was and still is.

You could say FB was the opposite of IG, which is why the acquisition was a shock for insiders. IG reviewed each ad before it was published on its app. In contrast FB had its ad platform that anyone could use. IG was about community, organizing local meetups for users – maybe what FB should have been – whereas FB was about growth and more growth. IG team members discussed which users to feature and promote, so they could influence the culture of their community. FB relied on their algorithm to do this for them.

It always comes down to the algo. Facebook is growing again and earning good revenues but I believe the algo, and more broadly its transactional culture, will eventually be its undoing. For the moment as long as people are obsessed with sharing their lives, Facebook will stick around.