A lot of people will tell you that their time on Facebook has decreased over the years but only when you skim through your own Facebook profile you would realize it has not only decreased, but has been years since you updated your status, display picture, relationship status or life achievements on Facebook. These were things we wanted to instantly update on Facebook back in the day. What changed?
It’s not as if people have stopped sharing updates about their life online, they just don’t do it on Facebook anymore. People still post photos but prefer Instagram, people still share their career updates but prefer LinkedIn, people still chat and text but prefer WhatsApp and iMessage. Facebook is by far the world’s biggest social media with a staggering 1.93 billion daily users which is much more than the populations of several countries. Include the Meta Suite of Instagram and WhatsApps and the number increases further.
Despite the numbers Meta faces a unique problem! 20 years since its inception, Meta’s daily user base shrank in a quarter. This never-seen-before phenomenon also led to the Meta Stock plunging by more than $300 billion in revenue. Facebook is starting to see fierce competition from powerhouses like YouTube and Snapchat and newcomers like TikTok. Facebook set the tone for social media networking with its feed-based format being the most commanding way. But the world is changing with users moving towards private messaging, video and virtual reality- which Facebook is also trying to shift to.
The brand image of Facebook started to become a problem as much as the product was. Privacy issues, year after year have been crumbling the trust around it. This has been pushing users towards services which are more secure and private. The USA is Facebook’s most valuable advertising market, and the user base has gone from 69% of adults using it to 66% over the past year. When it comes to Gen Zs and Millennials, the decline is more severe. From 55% of the segment in 2020, only 49% of GenZs continue to use it. Which meant TikTok, being used by 51% of GenZ’s, was more popular than Facebook for the first time in history. This is a trend that is soon being replicated in India, UK and Brazil too.
For GenZs, Facebook is losing relevance. The image that it is “uncool” has become a big problem too. With Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, Snapchat coming up with new ways for people to share and communicate with videos, collaborating and reacting to them. Facebook has been left in the dust by having to be trend follower and copying those features.
Mark Zuckerberg, isn’t someone who doesn’t understand trends and saw this change coming since long. He knew ‘private’ was the new trend. He spent close to 1.5 Lakh Crore rupees to buy WhatsApp and dive into private messaging. A month after making that splurge in 2014, he acquired Oculus, as Mark Zuckerberg knew feed-based communication might become irrelevant. This feeling was cemented in 2019 when he said that “Messenger and WhatsApp shall be the main ways to go forward with communication.”
The feeling Mark Zuckerberg expresses is also reflected in numbers with private messaging booming in the past few years. Over 3 billion people used private messaging services in 2021 seeing a 25% growth from 2020. It is said that this number is likely to increase by a further 25% by 2025. Analysts of Meta’s moves say that “Investment in messaging platforms seem like strong hedges against erosion of traditional social networking.”
WhatsApp is ad-free, clutter-free and encrypted; three things which Facebook is not. But again, private messaging is a trend everybody wants to jump on and the journey for WhatsApp might not be as free of competition as Facebook’s journey from 2004. WhatsApp has 2 billion users and is popular in countries like India and Brazil. But when it comes to East Asia where WeChat, Line and Kakao have strong footholds, the journey is looking bumpy. In the US, guess who’s the competition, yes, Apple! iMessage is the biggest competition which is already preinstalled on the iPhone. With Facebook being increasingly tensed by TikTok’s rise, having even copied and introduced ‘reels’, Zuckerberg is feeling the heat.
Facebook for a lot of people seemed like a necessary evil because at the end of the day that is where everyone and everything was. But Facebook fades into oblivion now, with people leaving in thousands, brands not even wanting to post on Facebook and every swipe being monetised, is this the end for Facebook? People are moving towards other platforms, surely, some Meta owned like Instagram and some rival owned like FaceTime, but the move is very clear as people don’t fear missing out on anything by not being on Facebook.