Originally posted on 500ish.
Facebook is screwed. At this point, it doesn’t matter what you think about the social network, the fact of the matter is that they’re not coming back from this latest round of body blows against the company. They’re both not dying, but they’re dead. And yes, you may have thought that about the Cambridge Analytica scandal too, but it all plays into this — they were never coming back from that either, stock price aside.
People seem confused because Facebook is still an incredible business that continues to grow. And Facebook cites studies about how vital Facebook is to their core (read: non-tech-press) user base. True! It is a vital service for various forms of communications and connection around the world. And they may or may not take Facebook offline for a few hours to prove the point. But none of that matters.
Facebook is not dying as a business, but they’ve died as a brand. The company needs to move on to ‘what’s next’ as quickly as possible to distance themselves from the social network. This is nothing new, of course — I wrote this over six years ago. They’ve more or less been trying to do this for years. But even in creating an umbrella company, they called it ‘Facebook’, which was dumb. It was the exact opposite of what they should have done. Because, again, Facebook, the brand, is over.
It seems pretty clear that Mark Zuckerberg both realizes this and doesn’t want to realize this. But the latter is his mistake. It’s too late and the longer he and they take to realize this, the worse off the company will be as a result. They might think that all of this will blow over, as it always does, or that all of this is “illogical”, which it also is to some extent. But again, that doesn’t matter. There’s the rationalist world and then there’s the reality of the situation. The powers that be have chosen Facebook as the poster child. The tech elites are tired of Facebook. And the younger generation has no desire to use Facebook. So…
The company needs to pivot from the brand from which they’re making all the profits. They can’t just rip off the band-aid and shut down Facebook itself — obviously, OBVIOUSLY — because they need said profits to pull off whatever is next. But they need to do a better job on the branding side to distance the newer projects. It seems like that is starting to happen. It needs to happen more fully.
Again, Zuckerberg is no dummy. He has to know all of this. But as his recent statements have made clear, he’s also clearly a rationalist. The problem is that this is not a rational argument. It’s basically anything but.
Facebook is over because they won. Because they have two billion-plus users. Because they created a service which mirrors humanity. And humanity, as it turns out, is not great. I mean, yeah, sure, there are pockets of great. But there are also pockets of awful. And the awful will always overwhelm the great. And Facebook has created the perfect tool to enable this. At scale.
This both should be obvious and isn’t. The problem with Facebook isn’t actually Facebook. It’s us. It’s human beings. The problem is that Facebook created the greatest tool ever to connect those human beings. And it has led to a world in which the local lunatic is now the global lunatic.
Facebook and Zuckerberg didn’t realize this was the end state because it wasn’t what they envisioned with the original mission. It has blinded them. Connecting people is good! Right? But, as it turns out, it’s not. It sounds good. We all want it to be good. But it’s a fucking disaster. Because humanity is a disaster.
That’s too harsh but you get my point. It’s the one Facebook cannot escape and could never escape. Unlike many, I don’t view them as some nefarious organization — as a bunch of James Bond villains sitting around a table plotting the end of humanity. But their tool created to connect everyone even with the best intentions (we can argue about the “growth at all costs” side of this equation — obviously there weren’t only the best intentions) was long ago usurped. They miscalculated. And we’re all now living with the results of that. And it has painted Facebook into a corner.
Facebook is a brand in crisis to an extent not seen in tech since they heyday of Microsoft during their antitrust trial. And this is actually far worse than that because the real world ramifications extend far greater. The “Big Tobacco” analogy may be overused here, but it really does feel apt in many ways. The poison is digital, but it’s still poison. The original cigarette makers didn’t set out thinking they were creating addictive death sticks. That came later…
So what else can Zuckerberg do? Well, nothing. That sounds extreme but again, these problems are fundamental. They’re inherent to what Facebook, the social network, is. If anything, their PR strategy is just making this all so much worse. They have a quiver of wet noodles armed and ready. I would just shut the fuck up and realize that you can’t fix this because you can’t fix humanity. And I’d keep building whatever is next behind the scenes. And hope to milk those Facebook profits for as long as humanly possible.