Beneath Facebook's many expensive problems is a single more fundamental problem, an issue that has plagued the company for more than a decade - and that Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's co-founder, has never really figured out how to address.

The Problem is innovation : Facebook can't seem to do it. The company just doesn't appear to know how to invent successful new stuff.

Most of its biggest hits - not just two of its main products, Instagram and WhatsApp, but many of its most used features like Instagram Stories - were invented elsewhere. They made their way to Facebook either through acquisitions or, when that didn't work, outright copying.

There has been no shortage of explanations for the sudden, spectacular swoon in Facebook's stock value last week. Meta, Facebook's parent company, said in an earnings report that its user growth had stalled.

Young people, its most valuable demographic, keep spending time on TikTok, the irresistible short-video app that has become Facebook's most formidable competitor in years.

New privacy features that Apple added to the iPhone last year are also hampering one of Facebook's main moneymakers, targeted digital ads; the company said that Apple's changes may cost it $10 billion in revenue in the coming year.

And Meta disclosed that it had spent building out its new namesake, the metaverse, the virtual-reality wonderland that Facebook is betting will be the Internet's next big thing - but that, so far, remains more virtual than reality.

Investors reeled. Meta's stock value shed more than $250 billion last week. That's a nearly incomprehensible amount - only a few dozen publicly listed companies  are valued at more than $250 billion. In other words, Facebook's value has slumped by more than what all but the largest companies are worth.

BUT buying and copying other ideas is becoming increasingly difficult for Facebook. Regulators around the world, wary of Facebook's size and market power, are sour on letting it gobble up any more would-be-competitors.

And Facebook's biggest apps are so overstuffed with features cloned from other places that they become chaotic and unfocused.

Meanwhile, it's easy to see why investors might be skeptical that Facebook is the company that will invent the next big thing, whether the metaverse or whatever else.

It's been a very long time since Facebook created something truly groundbreaking.

The Essay continues into the future. The World Students Society thanks author Farhad Manjoo.


Post a Comment

Grace A Comment!