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Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Facebook wants young people to come back

This article is part of the On Tech newsletter. Here is the collection past columns

On Monday, the public got a glimpse of Mark Zuckerberg’s fear that Facebook might be out of date.

During a conference call on Facebook’s financial results, Zuckerberg said he plans to overhaul the company to make its apps more attractive to people under 30. “We are retooling our teams to serve young people as their North Star rather than optimizing them for larger companies. the number of elderly people, ”he said. He said this shift would take years.

Many organizations are obsessed with staying connected with the young and cool, so perhaps this announcement was not a surprise. And Zuckerberg, who seems to have always worried about something, has a habit of making bold statements about Facebook priorities, which sometimes turn out to be mostly conversations.

The reality is that Facebook has been losing popularity among young people for years, but it didn’t really matter. Overall, the company attracted more users and made tons of money. And it’s tailored for young people, including by purchasing Instagram nine years ago and copying the features of Snapchat and TikTok.

Zuckerberg’s commentary and recent reports from my colleagues and other journalists suggest that things might be different this time around. There seems to be a fear lurking inside Facebook, including in Zuckerberg’s corner office, that the social media giant must turn itself inside out to attract young people – with the implied “different.”

Zuckerberg is well aware that leading tech companies can’t stay that way for long. The rearrangement he outlined raises the question: Does Zuckerberg fear that young people’s disinterest will justify a long-standing prediction by tech experts that the company is doomed to be the same?

Let’s see what happens. Facebook can rise to the challenge and defeat the youth. (Insert meme: “How are you friends?”)

On Monday, Facebook executives did not describe an ambitious plan to get the youth back. They spoke vaguely about the larger emphasis on Reels that riffs Instagram on TikTok, and Zuckerberg’s latest obsession with virtual reality and the “metaverse.”

A tiny part of my brain also wonders if Zuckerberg’s outburst of fear on Monday was aimed at portraying Facebook as a crumpled wimp, rather than an invincible Internet star, as its critics say. As my colleague Kevin Roose wrote, Facebook can be both a dominant force and fearful of its future.

And while the company seems to care about young people using Instagram, Facebook and other products, it could remain rich for a very long time without them.

The most important factor in Facebook’s financial success is its ability to collect a lot of information about what people – mainly those of us in the United States and other wealthy countries – do on the Internet, and then use that data to help businesses. it is more efficient to sell pajamas to us. cabinets or attachments. Young people can run in droves, and Facebook will still rake in those ad dollars, at least for quite some time. Seriously, as we saw from Monday’s P&L, Facebook is making money so well.

Read Also:  Clearview AI performed well in the next round of face recognition accuracy tests.

But the company’s internal reasoning about young people may turn out to be some of the most important artifacts in the Facebook message and document flows collected by Frances Haugen, a former Facebook product manager.

Posts about these documents and other company discussions show that Facebook is concerned that teens are spending less time on Instagram this year that its user base is aging fastand that young people who love Instagram don’t gravitate towards the Facebook app as they get older.

But it’s one thing to see concern in private discussions among subordinates or in a marketing document. Zuckerberg is publicly sounding the alarm – it’s a whole different level.

More about The Facebook Papers:

How to fix Facebook according to its employees – Wired

Facebook has failed the world – The Atlantic

Facebook newspapers reveal stunning setbacks in the global south – the rest of the world.

Facebook Struggles With Features It Used To Define Social Media – The New York Times

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