Facebook was always famous for the sign that hung in its offices, written in big red type on a white background, that said “Move Fast and Break Things.” Every time I think about the company, I realize it has done just that—to itself.
Years ago, long before Mark Zuckerberg became Mark Zuckerberg, the young founder reached out to a friend of mine who had also started a company, albeit a considerably smaller one, in the social-media space, and suggested they get together. As Facebook has grown into a global colossus that connects about a third of the globe, Zuckerberg has subsequently assumed a reputation as an aloof megalomaniac deeply out of touch with the people who use his product. But back then, when he only had 100 million users on his platform, he wasn’t perceived that way. When he reached out to my friend, Zuckerberg was solicitous. He made overtures that suggested a possible acquisition—and once rebuffed, returned with the notion that perhaps Facebook could at least partner with my friend’s company. The chief of the little start-up was excited by the seemingly harmless, even humble, proposition from the growing hegemon. Zuckerberg suggested that the two guys take a walk.Taking a walk, it should be noted, was Zuckerberg’s thing. He regularly took [potential recruits and acquisition targets on long walks in the nearby woods to try to convince them to join his company. After the walk with my friend, Zuckerberg appeared to take the relationship to the next level. He initiated a series of conference calls with his underlings in Facebook’s product group. My friend’s small start-up shared their product road map with Facebook’s business-development team. It all seemed very collegial, and really exciting. And then, after some weeks passed, the C.E.O. of the little start-up saw the news break that Facebook had just launched a new product that competed with his own.Stories about Facebook’s ruthlessness are legend in Silicon Valley, New York, and Hollywood. The company has behaved as bullies often do when they are vying for global dominance—slurping the lifeblood out of its competitors (as it did most recently with Snap, after C.E.O. Evan Spiegel also rebuffed Zuckerberg’s acquisition attempt), blatantly copying key features (as it did with Snapchat’s Stories), taking ideas (remember those Winklevoss twins?), and poaching senior executives (Facebook is crawling with former Twitter, Google, and Apple personnel). Zuckerberg may look aloof, but there are stories of him giving rousing Braveheart-esque speeches to employees, sometimes in Latin. Twitter, Snap, and Foursquare have all been marooned, at various points, because of Facebook’s implacable desire to grow. Instagram, WhatsApp, Oculus VR, and dozens of others are breathing life because they assented to Facebook’s acquisition desires. Meanwhile, Zuckerberg moved quickly to circumnavigate regulations before governments realized the problems that Facebook created—and certainly before they understood exactly how dangerous a social network can be to their citizens’ privacy, and to a democracy as a whole.From a business standpoint, Facebook’s barbarism seemed to work out well for the company. The social network is worth over half-a-trillion dollars, and Zuckerberg himself is worth some $76 billion. Facebook has some of the smartest engineers and executives in the entire industry. But the fallout from that success has also become increasingly obvious, especially since the 2016 election, which prompted a year of public relations battles over the company’s most fundamental problems. And now, as we enter 2018, Zuckerberg is finally owning up to it: Facebook is in real trouble.During the past six months alone, countless executives who once worked for the company are publicly articulating the perils of social media on both their families and democracy. Chamath Palihapitiya, an early executive, said social networks “are destroying how society works”; Sean Parker, its founding president, said “God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains.” (Just this weekend, Tim Cook, the C.E.O. of Apple, said he won’t let his nephew on social media.) Over the past year, people I have spoken to internally at the company who have voiced concerns for what Facebook is doing (or most recently, has done) to society. Many begin the conversation by rattling off a long list of great things that Facebook inarguably does for the world—bring people and communities together, help people organize around like-minded positive events—but, as if in slow motion, those same people recount the negatives. Unable to hide from the reality of what social media has wrought, Facebook has been left with no choice but to engage with people and the media to explore if it is possible to fix these problems. Zuckerberg determined that his 2018 annual challenge would be fixing his own Web site, noting that “the world feels anxious and divided,” and that Facebook might—just maybe—be contributing to that. “My personal challenge for 2018 is to focus on fixing these important issues,” he wrote. Now, the company has said it’s going to change the focus of the site to be less about news and more about human connections.
The question, of course, revolves around this underlying motivation. Is Zuckerberg saying this because he really does worry what the world might look like tomorrow if we continue headed in the direction we’re going? Is Facebook eliminating news from its site because it realizes that spotting “fake news” is too difficult to solve—even for Facebook? Or, as some people have posited to me, is Facebook rethinking the divide it has created in order to keep growing?...
All the chatter doesn't seem to have dissuaded bullish enthusiasm:
Those narrowing channels (rising wedge pattern) are always fun: breakout or breakdown?
My technician says 'tails'.