Back in August of this year Cheryl Sandberg stepped down as Chief Operating Officer of Meta, . I’d been keeping a lazy eye of Facebook and Meta for a while: the organization felt sick to me, not in terms of ethics, but in terms of health. Sandberg jumping was a sign: the most important insider other than the founder and CEO leaving.

Then, this week:

Facebook is going down, is my guess. There’s irony to this, Facebook built it’s HQ where Sun Microsystem’s HQ was and Sandberg and Zuckerberg were fond of saying that they did so to remind people that Facebook would have to stay on the ball or go down.

Facebooks new virtual world is crap and is doing abysmal numbers. Their audience growth is anemic, and they’ve had some periods of negative growth in the last couple years, though it’s minor. Young people aren’t interested in Facebook. Their VR goggles are excellent, but not showing a profit.

Every social internet company (this includes Google search) which manages to get large enough numbers to achieve audience capture; where you have to be there because everyone is there; starts excessive fiddling with their algo.

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In Google’s first years its search results really were excellent. But once almost everyone used Google, they started fiddling the algo to increase revenue as much as possible, rather than optimizing for good search (so far, they’re fine, but it’ll be what brings them down.) Social media does the same thing with their algos — instead of just showing people the content they signed up for by following someone, they start boosting some content, de-emphazising other content and shoving content in front of users faces they didn’t ask for, and not just some advertising.

This degrades the utility of joining them: you aren’t actually getting the feed you signed up for: content from the people and orgs you explicitly said you wanted to see, in chronological order.

Everyone does this. They start of mostly clean, like twitter, then they optimize and tweak until they damage the experience. By optimizing for profit “now” they damage their profit potential going forward.

This isn’t necessarily a huge problem for the decision makers: Sandberg and Zuckerberg, absent profound stupidity or civilization collapse, are never not going to be rich.

But it is how companies destroy themselves. Something similar happened to General Electric when Jack Welch decided to optimize for short term profit over long term and gutted the most important industrial producer in America. He was praised to the heavens for it at the time and died rich in 2020, but he also turned GE into a second tier company after it was one of the 10 most important companies in America for about a century.

Every time a company tries to optimize profits over providing a good service or product a price is paid. Make into your corporate culture to do so, and you gut the firm.

Facebook had some real utility (finding people you had lost contact with and staying in contact), but it doesn’t even really offer that any more because of the crud load-up.

No one will really miss it. Some other place will offer what it used to. Or maybe it’ll stagger along for a few decades, a shadow of its former self.

But it’s in grave danger now, and it’s simple to tell, because the people in the know who can leave, are.