Facebook parent Meta’s quarterly earnings report on Wednesday revealed a startling statistic: For the first time ever, the company’s growth is stagnating around the world.
Facebook lost daily users for the first time in its 18-year history — falling by about half a million users in the last three months of 2021, to 1.93 billion logging in each day. The loss was greatest in Africa, Latin America and India, suggesting that the company’s product is saturated globally — and that its long quest to add as many users as possible has peaked.
Meta’s stock price had plummeted more than 26 percent by Thursday afternoon, shaving $220 billion off its market value and costing the company the biggest one-day loss in its 18-year history. The company is facing challenges on multiple fronts, as competitor TikTok booms, federal and international regulators scrutinize its business practices, and it begins a lofty transition to focus on the “metaverse.”
It adds up to a dizzying blow for a company that has long been defined by its relentless obsession with growth. The social network’s meteoric rise from a Harvard dorm room in 2004 to 1 billion monthly active users in 2012 — and then 2 billion just five years later — was fueled by a mission to connect the world, including efforts to bring more people online in developing countries so it could sign them up, too.
Its newest ambition is off to a slow start, at least by one key metric. Facebook showed for the first time on Wednesday how much of a money-losing proposition its investment in virtual- and augmented-reality hardware is — the suite of products the company dubs the metaverse. It spent more than $10 billion on building its hardware division, Facebook Reality Labs (FRL), in 2021.