In my column here on August 10 I predicted that Facebook was about to collapse and gave a number of reasons why I came to that conclusion:
- Lack of product innovation – In spite of having almost unlimited funds, Facebook has had a poor track record in creating follow-on products, and their latest idea is one of their worst.
- Management Termoil – There is spreading dissatisfaction within the company and a lack of confidence that the company has a successful future. Executives and employees leave when there’s fear and uncertainty about what lies ahead. So watch for increased turnover.
- One of the world’s most hated companies – They’ve become one of the most despised companies and Zuckerberg one of the most despised CEOs due to their lying and putting revenue ahead of democracy and safety, and refusing to do basic moderation of Facebook. They’ve refused to take any responsibility for the harm they have caused around the world. Facebook is also disliked by many other tech companies, as a result of blatantly copying their ideas.
In the intervening ten weeks, Facebook (alias Meta) has, in fact, come crashing down. Their most recent earnings report shows one of the worst quarters in years, their Facebook and Instagram products are losing users, and they’ve been spending billions developing a “metaverse” that few want and most think has little value. Even if Zuckerberg accomplishes his vision: to create a virtual world (e.g. make believe) with make believe people in make believe places, few would ever use it. In fact, the company introduced a new headset needed to “enter” this world and it’s a dud. It requires long set up times, has a battery life of 1- 2 hours and costs $1500. And most of those that tried it were not impressed and said they’d rarely ever use one. One application Zuckerberg offers for his metaverse is to enter a virual conference room and meet with others appearing around a conference table, even though everyone is in a different location. That led one reviewer to say he prefers Zoom.
But to get to a commercial product, they need to invest billions more and need many more years of development. It makes little sense to most observers. I doubt it will ever be developed because we’re seeing a revolt of their shareholders that are trying to put a stop to this huge spending. Unlike people like Jeff Bezos or Steve Jobs who each articulated a vision of something that most could believe in and understand, Zuckerberg is alone in pushing for a vision that makes little sense as a business, let alone as an useful idea. And he’s not a misunderstood visionary; he’s just a guy that got lucky with one product who has been unable to come up with anything since on his own.
I must admit many tech writers, including myself, are delighted to be observing and chronicling the downfall of Facebook. For many years I, along with many others, watched with disgust and anger how Marc Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg mismanaged the trust people put in them in using the Facebook product; how much damage they caused around the world; and how they would never take any responsibility for the harm they caused. Had they been more contrite, made an effort to admit and to fix their mistakes, they’d be in a much better position today. But their behavior was immoral: they constantly lied to Congress, to the FTC, to other governments, and to their users. They now are getting just what they deserve. Sandberg jumped ship a few months ago, but Zuckerberg, as rich as he is, is facing personal humliation as people realize he’s the emperor with no clothes.