Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Facebook’s Faltering Relevance Is Worldwide

Will Oremus and Elizabeth Dwoskin, Washington Post:

For the average Facebook user, this may not mean much in the short run. The social network remains massive, indispensable for many, and isn’t going away anytime soon. This is not Facebook’s “Myspace moment,” at least not yet.

Rather, it’s a harbinger of a shift already well underway in Menlo Park, one in which Facebook is no longer the center of Meta’s attention or the locus of its most important innovations, but a profitable legacy product to be maintained. That diminished stature may reassure people who worry about Facebook’s impact on discourse and democracy, but it could cut both ways: It may mean that building increasingly sophisticated content policies and moderation systems becomes less of a strategic priority over time.

Meanwhile, it underscores that Instagram, WhatsApp and, increasingly, Reality Labs — the division tasked with developing virtual and augmented reality hardware and software — are the company’s future. Meta will do everything it can to keep them growing, to fend off rivals, and to find ways to squeeze more time from their users and more money from their advertisers.

I sort of buy John Gruber’s spitball theory, that social networks are inherently fleeting products. I can see how we may desire something new and different, and how network effects compel us — in the broadest sense — to move from a dying platform to one finding its stride. But I do not think it had to be this way for the Facebook “blue site”.

I wonder what it is like in an alternative universe where Facebook attempted to keep innovating and preempt the privacy and content moderation problems of its own making, instead of digging in and hoping to ride its existing successes as long as it could. Remember when it tried to fly internet access drones? That was with the hope of getting people to keep signing up for Facebook. I think that is a strange style of innovation: instead of trying something new, they worked on implausible ways to keep the old growing.