Facebook co-founder, chair and CEO Mark Zuckerberg is leading the platform back to its roots: focusing more on the personal connections between friends and family – while still enhancing ways for businesses to reach people.
“Today is Facebook’s 14th birthday,” Zuckerberg posted on his own Facebook Wall in January. “It’s a moment to reflect on how far we’ve come from that dorm room at Harvard and how far we still have to go to bring the world closer together. And it’s a moment to think about what we need to do better.”
“I was 19 when I started Facebook, and I didn’t know anything about building a company or global internet service,” he added. “Over the years I’ve made almost every mistake you can imagine….The reason our community exists today is not because we avoided mistakes. It’s because we believe what we’re doing matters enough to keep trying to solve our greatest challenges — knowing full well that we’ll fail again and again, but that it’s the only way to make progress.”
In another post later that month, Zuckerberg detailed how the platform has been changing after capping off a profitable, but challenging 2017. The CEO starts by reiterating the company’s performance: its business grew 47% year-over-year to $40 billion, as more than 2.1 billion people now use Facebook every month and 1.4 billion people use it daily.
“But 2017 was also a hard year,” he wrote. “The world feels anxious and divided — and that played out on Facebook. We’ve seen abuse on our platform, including interference from nation states, the spread of news that is false, sensational and polarizing, and debate about the utility of social media. We have a responsibility to fully understand how our services are used, and to do everything we can to amplify the good and prevent harm. This is my personal challenge for 2018.”
Zuckerberg then outlined the platform’s changes, highlighting the prioritization of meaningful social interactions over passive consumption of content, including viral videos, news and posts from businesses, which had grown “to the point where it’s crowding out the personal connection people value most.”
The changes will result in people spending less time on the platform, but Zuckerberg is betting that in this case, less will ultimately be more for the company.
“By focusing on meaningful interactions, I expect the time we all spend on Facebook will be more valuable,” he wrote. “And I always believe that if we do the right thing and deliver deeper value, our community and our business will be stronger over the long term.”
Facebook is also making sure it highlights news that comes from “broadly trusted and high-quality sources,” and it’s now showing content from less trustworthy blogs “somewhat less.” The company has also hired more people and invested more in technology, including AI systems, to flag suspicious or potentially harmful posts, and by this year’s midterm elections, will make sure paid ads are “more transparent.”
But that’s not to say that Facebook isn’t enhancing the way commerce can be conducted on the platform – particularly on its Marketplace, Zuckerberg added. The company launched Marketplace in 30 countries last year, and more than 700 million people each month now come to Facebook to buy and sell things, he wrote.
In Messenger and WhatsApp, the company is working to give businesses more ways to communicate with their customers, and it recently launched WhatsApp Business — a new app designed specifically for small and medium businesses “to connect with people they want to reach.”
“So 2017 was a good year in many ways, but it was also challenging,” Zuckerberg concluded. “That’s why our focus this year will be making sure our services are not just fun, but also good for us — and I’m confident we’ll rise to the challenge. Thanks to all of you for being part of this journey, and I’m looking forward to making more progress together.”
Mark Zuckerberg, CEO & Co-Founder, Facebook
Headquarters: Menlo Park, CA
Undergraduate degree: Harvard University (dropped out, received honorary degree in 2017)
Company launched: 2004
Initial Public Offering: 2012
Number of employees: 20,658
Number of Facebook users: 2.2 billion monthly active users worldwide