Facebook’s nightmare is worsening as owner Meta announced quarterly results including its first ever revenue decline of 1% to $28.8 billion. It comes amid plans to make the Facebook viewing experience more like TikTok’s—a change that users did not ask for or want.
It’s no surprise that many Facebook users have become disillusioned with the data-hungry social network, with some already deciding to delete their accounts.
At the end of last year, Facebook saw its first ever decline in daily users, and as people become more invested in their privacy, it’s easy to see why.
Apple’s privacy changes dubbed App Tracking Transparency—which allow people to say no to the type of invasive tracking the social network is famous for—have already hit Facebook hard. According to predictions, the social network is set to lose $12.8 billion in 2022.
Making things worse, the global economic downturn is seeing advertisers reign in their spending, heavily impacting platforms including Facebook, YouTube, Snapchat and Twitter.
Instead, ad spend is moving towards search platforms such as Google’s, according to online media site Digiday, which writes:
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“Google’s search revenue over the period grew at a 13% clip compared to the same stretch last year, to reach $40.7 billion. It’s a similar story at Microsoft, where Bing search ad revenue rose 15% in the quarter compared to the same one last year. Search advertising continues to be the one safe harbor for many advertisers when ill winds blow.”
In a bid to be more relevant in advertising, Facebook wants to be more like TikTok. The changes to your Facebook feed have started, but the majority of the content you see will still be from accounts you follow. Over time, this will change as Facebook hones its recommendation algorithm.
You can still see the old style Facebook updates from friends and accounts you follow using a new tab called “Feeds.”
As Vice’s Motherboard puts it: Mark Zuckerberg’s solution to Facebook’s problems is: “Making Facebook even worse by doubling the amount of content you didn’t ask to see in your feed.”
The changes to what people see on Facebook are a volume play—lots of video content from accounts you don’t follow that you can scroll through. The aim is to keep you on the platform for longer and serve you ads based on the content you engage with.
It’s a move away from the invasive tracking synonymous with Facebook, using device identifiers and social mapping to track people and grab user data. This is the type of tracking Apple users can and do opt out of—although first-party tracking still happens.
Facebook owner Meta is already looking at new ways to target people in a privacy-friendly way. The firm announced a move towards “privacy-enhancing technologies” last year, which it says can “minimize the amount of data processed to help protect personal information.”
The digital ad industry is adjusting to mobile privacy changes—alongside the move away from tracking cookies—and Facebook has to change too. The issue that many Facebook users have is, they don’t want Facebook to be more like TikTok. It might eventually work for Instagram which is based on images and videos anyway, but if you want TikTok, you’ll use TikTok.
As people change and demographics alter, it’s becoming more difficult to monetise platforms such as Facebook, says Jake Moore, global cybersecurity advisor at ESET. “The balance between functionality, privacy and user experience is always going to be tough, but it can work. The problem is that many companies favour profits over the platform's use, which can tip some people over the edge and make them leave.”
Facebook’s changes to be more like TikTok demonstrate more than ever that its users are the product. Facebook’s nightmare is getting worse, and it’s going to continue to find ways monetise you, no matter what you want from the platform.
Is it now time to delete Facebook? Maybe, or at least increase your privacy on the social network by deleting the app from your smartphone, and using the Privacy Settings to limit the data Facebook can collect.