Facebook announced on Thursday that its daily user numbers had fallen for the first time in its 18-year history. The platform had lost one million daily active users in three months—so what is contributing to the loss, and is this the beginning of the downfall of Facebook?
I was a little surprised to find out that Facebook hasn’t lost daily users until recently, as my circle of friends hasn’t been using Facebook as much as other platforms. Facebook also has a reputation for it being a spreader of misinformation and hate, even before the whistleblower allegations last year.
I do think that the whistleblower allegations—revealing that the Facebook algorithm is used easily to spread hate, violence, and misinformation—is a huge part of why daily Facebook users have dropped. However, that’s not why the platform is not as popular, according to Meta’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
“People have a lot of choices for how they want to spend their time, and apps like TikTok are growing very quickly,” said Zuckerberg to investors.
He also noted Facebook has not had to deal with a major rival like TikTok during its previous strategy shifts, describing the situation as “somewhat unique”. Snapchat’s CEO Evan Spiegel also blamed TikTok for its unpopularity. He said that less time is being spent watching Snapchat’s Stories from friends—even though the company had hoped Stories engagement would pick up as COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns eased.
TikTok is currently the social media app of choice for younger users—with it being the most popular app of 2021, overall. It’s so popular that other apps like Instagram and Snapchat introduced their own versions of TikTok to their platforms. A considerably old platform like Facebook, in comparison, feels a little outdated and doesn’t at all appeal to Gen-Z users. In fact, I don’t think of a Gen-Z user who actively uses Facebook as a major social media platform… but I don’t know that many Gen-Z users to begin with.
On the financial side, Meta is still recording good results and acceptable growth (+11 per cent). Its revenue reached USD 117.9 billion (RM493.7 billion) in 2021—an increase of 37 per cent compared to 2020. However, if Facebook keeps losing its daily users, the platform could be in some serious trouble. Facebook is financed mostly by selling targeted ads based on users’ tastes or habits, so a loss in users means a loss in revenue in the long run.