Disastrous consequences, spawned from humble beginnings have made their way into many lives of the social network’s 2.23 billion active users. Whether you support, oppose, or are indifferent to the social network’s impact on the planet, Facebook is statistically too big to ignore.
This isn’t another feature covering the ‘Cambridge Analytica Scandal,’ though that may have spent the better part of 2018 binding the word ‘distrust’ to any mention of the platform. We will however, examine some events that took place before and during that whole debacle, to see it may have been the trend of disguised betrayal that has been turning off millions of users.
“Facebook is increasingly perceived as a negative in society” — David Kirkpatrick on Bloomberg live
With Oculus VR’s co-founder Brendan Iribe’s recent announcement to depart the company, it marks the fourth major staff withdrawal in 2018. This could perhaps be signalling the big players in the company are abandoning ship for one reason or another. Acquisition of other major brands Instagram (2012) and WhatsApp (2014) were gigantic steps for any public company to accomplish, but it’s not only the original founding talent of these companies that seem to have been soured by these big mergers. The people of the world are also being given an increasing number of reasons to desert the big blue ecosystem.
Oculus has become a different beast
‘Oculus’ is now a word that describes Facebook’s VR (Virtual Reality) division. Many speculate the company has become vastly different on the inside after being acquired in March of 2014. This is because the original goals and ideology have changed so much. Likely a shell of its former self, the leftover team have adapted to their new parent rather than the other way around.
“Facebook is going to give us access to massive resources, but let us operate independently on our own vision.” — Palmer Lucky following buyout
Former director Palmer Luckey directly promised many things on behalf of his whole team, directly to VR’s biggest early communitys (Oculus subreddit), and the majority of these fell through quickly. The huge investment and new budget that came with being bought, ironically stifled Oculus’ growth in the long term, with consumers not being given an accessible product or price point, but instead being lost to another competing product all together.
The road-map was changed
Once the second iteration of the Oculus Rift (the Development Kit 2) was released, the long-standing road-map was meddled with. The ‘Oculus Home’ platform was pushed upon its users, with exclusive Facebook-funded games available to Oculus owners while being kept from competitors. By creating a proprietary walled garden of entertainment, the young virtual reality market growth was dampened by a split user-base, which meant only disappointment and distrust from enthusiasts and early-adopters of the product. Oculus not playing nice with others didn’t stop the major competing product (Valve’s ‘Vive’) from being completely open with its hardware and software.
Add to this list the intrusive EULA that allowed collecting of all motion data, against promises of the company and wishes of the customers, the loss of supporters left the product in the dust. This marks the first of a few instances where Facebook’s detrimental priorities have infiltrated a strong start-up company, and in turn, hindered their own success.
Instagram and Messenger’s deliberate inhibition
‘Profits over user experience’ is the name of the game for this big wooden horse. These apps are absolutely a number game when it comes to revenue because of targeted advertising. It’s clear that the strategy for profit after integrating them into the existing organisation has always been entice users with a free service, for a maximum advertisement exposure.
Without the founders around, Instagram is likely to become more tightly integrated with Facebook, making it more of a product division within the larger company than an independent operation— Sarah Frier
With Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger having left Facebook, the balance of income vs changes at the expense of Instagram’s unique qualities may be tipped away from what is consumer-friendly. The two fled the big company after ‘clashes with Zuckerberg’ and his involvement vision for the future.
WhatsApp is the next victim
Facebook and WhatsApp were founded with vastly different ideas on how to monetise. With WhatsApp protecting privacy with a maximum priority, their now billion-dollar company got that way by harvesting its user’s data for targeted ads. The instant messaging app currently deletes their copy of messages immediately after they’re sent. And while free for the first year, it is only $1 per year following. The minimal style and lack of adverts makes it a pleasure to use, but it won’t last now that founder Jan Koum has left it behind.
Users love WhatsApp, with its user count constantly sitting higher than that of Facebook Messenger, but what everyone has come to love will soon come to change, because Zuckerberg has announced plans for his parent company to bring targeted advertising in the form of messages directly from companies into the chat feed. Why Facebook strives to turn its services inside out for short-term profit is something only Facebook knows.
“I sold my users’ privacy… I live with that every day”
Co-founder Brian Acton reportedly left $850 million unvested shares on the table because he wanted out so badly. Perhaps in light of what he’d seen happen against his will, he could see what was to come. We’re here to try and see through the subterfuge, as people like Brian and the other departed staff likely did. Lessons have been learned by other companies, such as Snapchat who reportedly refused a buyout bid of $3 billion as to not suffer Facebook’s signature dis-integration by integration. Why then, can Facebook not see what lies ahead?
Too big to ignore, not too big to fall
“Our community and business continue to grow quickly” — said Mark Zuckerberg
These bold words are telling of Facebook’s hand: Growth at any cost including the approach of a major user exodus and financial stagnation.
The big three now-subsidiaries were enticed to join up, in part because Facebook expressed intention for them to remain independent while having more resources to flourish. Two of the systems however, are beginning to reach fewer users, and perhaps not because of company politics. It could be that the quality of service has actually deteriorated on the bottom line.
In a recent survey conducted in the U.S. it was revealed there may be a fading interest in the platform. 42% of participants said they have taken a break from the site in the past year, while 26% say they have deleted the Facebook app from their mobile phone altogether. With American media expressing the public’s outrage after Facebook’s huge data breach mistake, it’s only natural people are turned off. Because of its vast global appeal the user base is still growing, however the Q3 earnings release shows clearly the growth rate has been slowed significantly, likely because public opinion and trust is now sitting at an all-time low.
Stock prices are feelings the effects of this collection of mistakes.
The first drastic decline came right after the all-time peak. Profit margins are now tighter than ever before, and earnings are expected to continue decreasing for some time.
If we assume the cards on the table are only there to make money, it would seem there’s rising incentive to react when more than $200 billion market value has been lost since July’s high.
When the U.K. hit the multi-billion-dollar corporation with a symbolic fine of only £500,000 ($645,000) for the data breach, it sounded worrying for a short time. If the company is not adequately punished for its ‘crimes’ it will have little incentive to avoid repeating them. The problem hurts on a much thicker layer beneath the surface, whereby if it fails see it should make things right, it will fail to escape its own demise with the trust it has given up staying gone forever.
Last words and the future
In the wake of the revelations around ‘Cambridge Analytica’, Facebook has updated its privacy settings as one of a many public responses, but it’s very slow self-destruction will have a much less apparent pattern. It’s possible the top minds within the company can see the future and don’t care, or perhaps they see the company as too enormous to steer. Anyone could see the company has fallen a long way if they’d look at the data or public perception. It’s difficult to label its current state a ‘freefall’, but there’s similarly no sign of a rebound on the horizon. The service has many a huge merit, which is what caused its rapid expansion in the first place, and while one can take a step back to see it isn’t too far from how it started yet, there is now a real uncertainty of what lies ahead.
Those who saw the potential in Facebook, and those who invested financially or socially can see the company has fallen a long way when you can describe the company’s actions with strong words like ‘betrayal.’ It’s not easy to have seen so much promise in Facebook and its endeavours, now that they’re falling towards ashes.
For further reading, see source links in preferred section