The Worst Day of Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook Reign
The Metaverse looks pretty good compared to the real world right now.
Photo: Chesnot/Getty Images
This post has been updated to include stock prices from Thursday morning.
At some point in the future, when Mark Zuckerberg‘s soul has ascended to heaven and stands before the pearly gates watching the Instagram reels of his life, today will stand out as a day of judgment for the 37-year-old CEO. year. from Meta Platforms, the parent company of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp. There he is, just before 4 p.m., ready to release his company’s fourth quarter results. He knows they won’t be taken well – a rarity for the tech wizard who’s built an empire no matter how many whistleblowers, Russian bots and anti-tech campaigns the world throws at him. But this report will show something different: that the way he did things no longer works, that his rivals have overtaken him, and that his vision for the future in the Metaverse is not shared by the real world. It would be a bad time and, perhaps, a demarcation that his time has passed.
All this to say that Meta, a company with a market value of $900 billion at 3:59 p.m., was suddenly worth around $720 billion just 30 minutes later, reflecting a dramatic 22% drop in trading after normal hours for one of the biggest. and the most powerful corporations in the world. [Update: Meta’s stock traded 25 percent lower when stock markets opened on Thursday, bringing its market value around $670 billion.] At the heart of the nose drop are two things: a $3.3 billion loss trying to fulfill its metaverse ambitions and a slowdown in ad revenue. Some of this comes directly from Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, who started blocking ad tracking on his devices. This is a problem because what made Facebook and the whole suite of related apps so successful was that they were better at advertising and could make more money than their rivals. The other thing, Zuckerberg acknowledged, is that people are just spending more time watching videos on TikTok. “While our direction is clear, it seems our path ahead is not quite clear,” he said. noted during an investor call after the report was released. Could anything be less inspiring to Wall Street’s ears? Everyone is going the way of making billions of dollars – that’s the way. Exactly!
And now, after years of predictions that a settling of scores would come, it seems people are finally leaving the apps. Perhaps it was Frances Haugen, the whistleblower who released a slew of internal documents this summer showing the company knew its products were harming the mental health of children at the very moment it was trying to introduce a Instagram for kids under 13. daily active users have actually declined worldwide – with the US and Canadian user base remaining stagnant since the first quarter of 2020. Yes, the company still made $39 billion in profit for the year, a staggering sum, no matter how you slice it.
Sometimes an earnings report drops a stock’s price precipitously only to moderate within an hour or so, when company executives calm Wall Street by saying that all is not so bad. . This time it didn’t work out that way. In fact, Facebook’s price continued to drop even lower. Zuckerberg, in his signature nasal accent, seemed to acknowledge that the tide was turning against the company he’s run for 18 years this week. “The balance of content that people see in streams is shifted a bit more towards things that aren’t from their friends, that they can discuss with their friends, but it’s kind of a shift towards content that’s more public,” he said. The bottom line here is that the voyeuristic behaviors that have made social media as we know it so profitable – what are my friends talking about? Who did my ex high school student marry? – were actually beginning to fade.
Zuckerberg had prepared shareholders for this. When he released his cringe-worthy metaverse video this summer — a shortcut to an immersive internet that’s more like a video game, a digital space to sell unlimited ads beyond the confines of your phone screen — he was frank that it would be years, maybe a decade, before he really started to take hold. On the earnings call, he said he believed there was some sort of evolution of the internet, from text to images to short videos, and the next jump would be kind of 3D avatars pushed for such exciting things as business meetings and conference calls. Certainly, everyone is fed up with the Internet as it is today. This is why so many people try to come up with Web3, a loosely defined group of buzzwords that something something blockchain yadda yadda. But Wall Street is always looking to the future. He’s willing to throw ridiculous amounts of money at people who dream big even if they don’t make any money – just ask Elon Musk. If people buy Zuckerberg’s version of the future of the internet, they’d be more excited about how he’s spent nearly $10 billion over the past year to build it. Now, Facebook looks more and more like the past.