Tech watchers around the world are hitting that ‘wow’ emoji, as Facebook’s parent company Meta revealed on Wednesday that the world’s most popular social media platform lost daily users for the first time in its 18 year history.
As The Washington Post reports, Facebook was down about 500,000 users over the last three months of 2021, bringing the total to about 1.93 billion daily logins. The majority of that loss came from emerging social media markets in Africa and South America. Since user counts in the US and Europe have remained steady for several years, this could indicate that Facebook has peaked globally.
That news, combined with TikTok’s booming growth among young people, sent Facebook’s stock into a tailspin on Thursday. The price is down almost 25% as of this writing, trading at $243 per share after closing yesterday at $323. The company lost more than $200 billion in market value in just a couple of hours.
This is just the latest blow to Facebook, which is facing a major antitrust lawsuit from the FTC. Earlier this week, Meta shuttered its cryptocurrency project Diem after persistent pushback from federal regulators.
Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg is already looking forward to the next big bet. Last year, he made a push into virtual reality, or as trendy technocrats are calling it, the “metaverse,” rebranding his company as Meta and spending billions on Facebook Reality Labs. FRL lost $3.3 billion in the final quarter of 2021, earning only $877 million in revenue. According to Zuckerberg, 2022 is the year that those investments start to show dividends.
“Last year was about putting a stake in the ground for where we are heading,” he said on the company’s earnings call. “This year is going to be about executing.” But he also acknowledged challenges ahead. “People have a lot of choices for how they want to spend their time, and apps like TikTok are growing very quickly,” he said. It remains to be seen if the VR bet pays off.