The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

The Decline Of Facebook (Meta)

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.

(I am fundraising to determine how much I’ll write this year. If you value my writing and want more of it, please consider donating.)

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.



Part III Of My Interview: Twitter and Reasons For Hope


Open Thread


  1. StewartM

    Every time a company tries to optimize profits over providing a good service or product a price is paid.

    To sum it up, capitalism is what destroys firms.

    Japanese business philosophy (and that seems echoed for now in much of Asia, not just Japan) by contrast is “Customers come first in importance; employees come second; and shareholders come third”. Focusing on delighting your customers with the excellence of your product or service is how to make oneself embarrassingly rich. This is how Toyota replaced GM as the world’s biggest automobile manufacturer.

    In the US, this can only hold true insofar as an individual or group with a vision of what a firm should be doing stays in charge. Once it goes public and the stupid, short-sighted, greedy shareholders take over by proxy their demands for higher profits *each and every quarter* will drive a company into the ditch (and yes, as much as I despise Jack Welch he was just doing what shareholders wanted; I think it highly ironic that it’s the capitalist class more than any other (and far more than thew workers) that represents Ayn Rand’s greedy, short-sighted “herd” with no brains or talents or vision). This is because the easiest and often the only way to produce those higher short-term quarterly profits is to sacrifice the future of the firm—cut R&D, cut spending on keeping infrastructure modern, take risks on safety, and lay off talented and experienced workers who can’t be easily replaced (no matter how much corporate boards delude themselves into thinking equivalent workers can be found anywhere off the street). All my adult life I’ve been watching the US transform real, tangible wealth (the ability to actually achieve and do things) for paper wealth, biggest numbers on sheets of paper. This ain’t going to end well.
    As long as Asians can keep their business model intact and uncorrupted , they will own the future.

    Insofar as Facebook is/was concerned, it was always inferior to me, even two decades ago. Most of its competitors I thought did a technically better job and presented users with a better experience. I still can’t fathom how it won out in the first place; when I tried it like 15 years ago its interface was worse and moreover I felt ‘overwhelmed by the stupid’. Stupid in that connections sent me things like browser extensions to install that even they probably didn’t know what they actually did (in addition to what they were advertised to do; most of which were cutesy and silly). Also, even then I was seeing the beginnings of information crap leak out of FB, when people started forwarding me “didyaknow?s” easily refuted by a a simple search of Snopes.

  2. marku52

    StewartM: Exactly. This is what capitalism does. Companies (and countries) can only succeed to the extent that they ignore it.

    Which is why the US will lose this proxy war with Russia. Russia is in it for survival. Those who didn’t want to commit have largely fled the country. The oligarchs that run the US have no devotion to the US. They only care about money. Defeating the Russians (we are running out of everything UKR needs) would require reorienting our economy away from financialization towards production, and require sacrifice.

    Our elites won’t even consider it. They are so blinded by their love of money that they can’t even realize that having a bag of money won’t make a glass of water appear in the middle of the desert….

  3. Joan

    I was part of the initial trial of college students back in the day but deleted my account when it was announced it would be expanded beyond us.

    One way it’s still being used is groups, in the self-pub genres I run in. An author will hire a PA to run their fb group, and you get (apparently) fun community building there, and it’s said to help with sales. I’m still a bit bewildered there’s that many people lingering on Fb, but what do I know!

  4. mago

    Since it’s the sacred time of year and usual activities are obscured by the shortest and longest days depending on one’s hemisphere, I thought to weigh in with another Open Thread comment, although it’s not open thread time hereabouts right now and so here’s this prose poem offering to the season and anyone who pays attention

  5. different clue

    People are saying that “capitalism” causes this. But then they note that this does not happen so much in Japan, maybe even not very much at all.

    But aren’t these companies in Japan private companies? Don’t some of them even have “shareholders”? In other words, doesn’t Japan have “capitalism”? And if it isn’t “capitalism” that Japan has, what does Japan have? What name should we give to whatever Japan has?

    And in America, which “shareholders” drive this greed process? The 99% of captive pension-fund shareholders who collectively own 1% of the shares? Or the 1% of free-to-choose shareholders who own 99% of the shares?

    I hope we can get more precise terms into usage than “capitalism” and “shareholders”. Maybe at least some modifiers for the “capitalism” we have now as against the “capitalism” we had from the FDR through the Eisenhauer periods.
    Something like “ordered capitalism under law” as against ” calvinball capitalism under lawless anarchy”.

    GE didn’t destroy itself. Jack Welch did it specifically and personally on behalf of the social classload of people he worked for. As did Roger Smith at GM. As did Al “Chainsaw” Dunlap at Sunbeam.

    (Of course they were all operating in a Forcey FreeTrade regime which would have punished them for doing differently. But then again, they and their social class comrades worked to achieve that Free Trade regime. And Clinton was their eager tool in getting Free Trade achieved. Only a Democrat could pull a Nixon-goes-to-China on Free Trade and Clinton wanted to be the Great Historic Democrat who “Nixon-went-to-China” on Free Trade.)

    And some companies, even under successor leaderships, have avoided Leader-led destruction even in this Cannibal Crapitalism environment they have to do business in.
    Whatever company it is that makes WD 40 comes to mind. And maybe a few others.
    People who know more about Ford Motor Company can say whether Ford Motor Company is one of those self-non-destroying companies or not. Maybe Chicago Cutlery is one of those companies.

    When Presidents began supporting pro-Trust and began opposing anti-Trust, they also set companies free to achieve total monopoly by buying up or exterminating all competing choices which might have kept those companies honest and useful. That is also part of the problem and the process.

    We would need several decades of unbroken New Deal Revival policy enforcement and imposition and also several unbroken decades of unforgiving and overzealous anti-Trust enforcement and action to restore a social legal habitat in which decent leaderships might be able to create decent companies and get successorships to keep them decent.

    People who don’t think achieving that is likely should prepare to survive in a future “America” which delaminates into a number of Successor Christian Fascist States, Christian Warlord Barbarian Kingdoms, some Free Towns and Cities here and there, and a vast wasteland of Somalia-type anarchy between them all.

    Maybe some Indian Nations can re-arise and re-take power over some areas.

    Who gets the H-bombs?

  6. different clue

    I have just found a very interesting article on NaCap which is very relevant to the specific subject of the steady degradation and decay of the various internet “services”.

    It is titled: ” Prodigy says: Stop Talking to Eachother and Start Buying Things ”

    Here is the link:

  7. Some Guy

    For some years now, I’ve avoid using google where possible, because power corrupts basically, so I hate to feed the biggest giants. But still, when I really needed to find something, I’d use google, because it was still the best search.

    But in the last year or so, I’ve found that google often comes back with poorer results than it used to. Like I’ll search for a site, but instead of coming back with the main site link, it gives me some sub-page, or a semi-related page. Now I find that other engines (e.g. Qwant) give me the same or better results for many searches.

    As for facebook, it does seem like they are on a long way down. I log in to my very old account once a year or so just to look around. It used to be so intuitive but now the site seems so cluttered and dysfunctional, impossible to find what you are looking for or do simple things. I guess they still have piles of cash and the ability to buy up would be competitors, but it is hard to see a real turn-around happening.

  8. different clue

    @Some Guy,

    I wonder to what extent clever companies have studied the evidence of how Google has corruptified all its algorithms and are figuring out how to tailor their web presence to come up firstest of allest on all Google searches . . . . because Google has redesigned its search engining to enable clever companies to do that.

    I remember that Yahoo search was okay. It is still sort of okay. It belongs to Verizon now and Verizon will kill it and erase the pieces when Verizon gets tired of having it around. So you might consider enjoying it while it lasts, because it won’t last beyond the second that Verizon decides to kill it.

    And when I have the time to do some open ended random searching for things inside an “interest area”, I use Yahoo ( ” All the web” . . . ) . . .
    to find a bunch of images about a nameable subject about which pictures / images can be made. I then go image by image and click on any url which seems potentially interesting.

    For example, lets say I want to see if the concept ” zapalote chico corn image ” calls up any images that have potentially interesting urls. I go url-diving on each url and sometimes find something of real interest, which no verbal-input-query on a search engine would ever reveal.

    Like this . . . here is the bunch of images for “zapalote chico corn image ” . . .;_ylt=AwrNYU8X4KxjUs0gux5XNyoA;_ylu=Y29sbwNiZjEEcG9zAzEEdnRpZANMT0MwODlDXzEEc2VjA3Nj?p=zapalote+chico+corn+image&fr=sfp

    I then click on the very first image in the series thereby called up . . .;_ylt=AwrNYU8X4KxjUs0gux5XNyoA;_ylu=Y29sbwNiZjEEcG9zAzEEdnRpZANMT0MwODlDXzEEc2VjA3Nj?p=zapalote+chico+corn+image&fr=sfp#id=0&
    and I click on its url, which is this . . .
    and I get taken to a very interesting article which comes with a very interesting whole website.

    And after another 15 or so images, I found this image . . .;_ylt=AwrNYU8X4KxjUs0gux5XNyoA;_ylu=Y29sbwNiZjEEcG9zAzEEdnRpZANMT0MwODlDXzEEc2VjA3Nj?p=zapalote+chico+corn+image&fr=sfp#id=23&

    Which had this url . . .
    Sad to say, this site, which is a single corn breeder’s site and blog in East Tennessee, suddenly “can’t be reached”. It could be reached every time up to now. Maybe whatever is now making it “can’t be reached” will be lifted, and it will be reachable again.

    Ah well . . . sometimes sites die and links rot from one day to the next. It was here for months and suddenly . . . its gone.

    Oh well, the principle works, as shown by the continuing ability to reach “permies”.

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