Where were we? Ah -- Facebook (FB)! That intimate place to share in once upon a time. It turns 13 this year (born on 02.05.2004). Its corporate mission, yet the founder CEO Mark Zuckerberg's illusive dream, "to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected1" hasn't altered much thru all these years, has it? First of all, Mark repeated that FB is "a tech company, not a media company." But the matter-of-fact is their business model has been distributing contents with: Instant Articles to allow publishers delivering readers content within 10sec time; FB Live to benefit brands promoting contents and products (Unarguably, the Video tab in their mobile app today uncovered their ambition in TV media business); Atlas to permit advertisers accurately measuring performance; and so forth. Per FB 4Q16 and Full Year Financial Report, their key revenue stream was predominantly driven by selling advertisements ($26.88B; 97%+ of Total Revenue). In another word, even without generating its original content, FB is considered as a media marketplace to both User Generated Content (UGC) providers and Professional Generated Content (PGC) providers. To the users ourselves, we are supplying our concurrent "lifetime" events as original content and the most variable, our privacy to FB, and as well, digesting on-demand advertisement inventories in FB for the return of using the platform. Be alarmed a trade deficit (an imbalance between output and input) exists between FB and us, though. And for the 2M+ business-to-consumer (B2C) marketers, media companies and celebrities2, FB Business, now acts as an intermediary, provides training, resources and tools for captivating its 1.86B Monthly Active Users (MAUs) to their businesses. Like how people got their news in the good old America Online (AOL) era, 44% of Americans today receives news (PGC) from FB, contrary to the irreversible 21% UGC decline contributed by emotional exhaustion as a consequence of increased PGC and social problems, which highlighted in the previous chapter. Although FB endeavored thru various interactive features (e.g. On This Day and Life Event) to recreate an intimate place for us, it still became a 'regular' utility to just keep up with friends and families. Their complicated privacy settings is another key contributor to the rapid decline of users shared personal photos, vacations, and vitally, self-expression after a divisive election last year; Private updates are also easy-captured and shared. FB users like me perhaps recognized our private contents legally possessed by FB can all be seen in public advertisements, kudos to the press repeatedly underlined the FB Terms of Service, and furthermore, most users prefer remaining silent online to avoid any social conflict cropped up due to speaking of their different ideology. #DeleteAccount and #Unfriending are now the most common choices among overwhelmed FB users after struggled to burst or embrace filter bubbles. Of course, there were also a number of users unwillingly suspended or deleted by FB, like the drag queens Sister Roma and Lil Miss Hot Mess. In the history of social networking (AOL, Friendster, and MySpace), we already ascertained less personal updates lead to less engagement between users, the very same principle why users abandoned FB for the latest new things that feel more special and intimate, like SNAP. Despite all, whether FB denied or admitted as a media company, their situation is hostile. Even now in denial, people hardly believes FB is an objective, non-partisan company after the fake news issue and the speculation of Mark's personal agenda. If admitted so, the financial damage to FB is unimaginable to investors and Mark himself.
Today, social networking experience is no longer limited to the User Interface (UI) or mobility and flexibility, but more or less relevant to "social, emotional and spiritual needs" as Mark Zuckerberg conceded. On the economic effect, FB Ad, a money machine, might only be good at benefitting the rich and ripping off the poor. In this case, the plaintiff is an independent artist in San Francisco, Amanda Kirk, who created a drawing of a smiling sloth proclaiming its life's motto: "Nap all day, sleep all night, party never."; and the defendant is Redbubble, a multi-million dollar publicly trade company. Her most-lifted design has been seeing at targeted ads on FB and IG. However, they weren't coming from her, but an infringement piece distributed and promoted by Redbubble marketplace. Alas, she isn't ready to file a lawsuit against the company because of an exponential financial burden. Since that, she never shared any of her works on social media; those ads paid by Redbubble could still be seen and every click of those counterfeits ad will contribute an extra cent to FB bottom-line profit. Yet again, this is only one of thousand counterfeit cases reported in FB business forum. But as a community leader or business, have FB done sufficient enough to serve and protect their users, other than telling them "hover over" the Ad or Page to filing reports? Another giant bubble (Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), the DMCA safe harbor does not apply to trademark infringement claims. Tiffany Inc. v. eBay Inc) FB must take full social responsibility while governing the 1.86B MAUs global village to resolve before it popped. Otherwise, more unhappy users will permanently sign off without notice.
What eventually gonna kill FB isn't any abrupt hindrance, but its own inability reigns over a community with 1.86B people magnitude. The more complexity the platform becomes, the more anticipation their users presume. The psychological "network effect" of users sharing less would only grow stronger and stronger, until the time FB figured out how to repair the broken bridge to humanity. Before then, rest in peace, my beloved Facebook.
(Update 02.16.2017 - Mark had noticed the seriousness of his kingdom fall and addressed the governance issue in his 5,700 words note "Building Global Community" today. I guess he may have read my blog.)
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