Science

Meta: The TikTok model as a lifeline

Black week for tech giants. Like Microsoft, Google, Netflix, Snapchat and Twitter, Meta (Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, etc.) announced disappointing second-quarter results on Wednesday, July 27th. Menlo Park’s revenue was $28.8 billion, down 1% from the previous year. The collapse, which is the first in its history, began in 2004 in a Harvard University room occupied by Mark Zuckerberg. “We will have to do more with less,” the latter said, pointing to several exogenous factors such as the global economic crisis, which is drastically reducing recruitment and investment in the tech sector, like so many others.

In fact, the Meta is first and foremost a victim of the great social media war. This is currently reaching its climax with the meteoric rise of TikTok. “Facebook went from being a quasi-monopoly market at its inception to an oligopoly, with several big groups like Twitter, Snapchat and, after the Covid-19 crisis, TikTok popping up alongside it. Attention is becoming more generalized, and so is the advertising associated revenue,” notes Marianne Lumo, research lecturer in economics at the University of Angers, who compares the situation to video streaming. “This is a big problem for Meta,” says Julien Piyot, professor of economics at Insec, “because, unlike Microsoft, Amazon or Apple, the group is ultimately not very diversified, and this attention represents its main source of income.”

Meta has already been hit the hardest by Apple’s new policy to limit personalized ads (“App Cracking Transparency”) on its smartphones. The loss was estimated by Mark Zuckerberg to be around $10 billion for 2021. To find the colors, the solution found by “Zuck” is simple: copy your competitor’s model, which consists of scrolling short videos to “infinity”. TikTokeurs do indeed spend an average of 95 minutes a day on the app, the world’s most downloaded app, according to firm Sensor Tower, twice as much as Instagram and Facebook users. Pragmatically, Facebook is trying to catch the wave before it wins.

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Pinnacle of short video

The company announced in a blog post a week ago that it is transforming the Facebook News Feed. Goal: Leave more room for opening “reels,” the firm’s short videos offered by Instagram, similar in format to TikTok videos and created by content creators, influencers, but less often your own knowledge. A small revolution in the philosophical approach of the social network, mainly designed to follow the publications of our friends, and not the publications of strangers. Times have changed. Instagram, originally a social network for photography enthusiasts, a place to make “coils”, will be more than Facebook, still the epitome of this change in direction. His boss Adam Mosseri took to the oars this week to explain to users that Instagram is not selling his soul to the devil and will continue to promote the beautiful pictures posted there. “The world is changing rapidly,” he admitted, however, speaking awkwardly of photography as a “legacy.” Inconclusive famous users Kim Kardashian and Kylie Jenner asked Instagram to “stop trying to be TikTok.”

However, this “tiktokization” of social media Meta follows an even older trend: the democratization of the short video after the huge success of Vine almost a decade ago, rather than the development of technologies that allow its mass consumption, 5G and fiber. finished in the lead. Facebook has also partly followed this evolution, leaving more and more space for video content in their news feed, including their lives, and unsuccessfully trying to buy Snapchat in 2013, which for its part made it easier to send short videos. close. Before, with the first glimpses of TikTok’s success, launch the famous “Bobs”. However, Meta has never been keen to bet entirely on these granules, despite the interest of some competitors such as Google, which launched YouTube Shorts a year ago, its short-term content subsidiary that now has over a billion users. .

It is clear that these videos have become the best ways to generate income. The recipe for success, moreover, is quite simple: a clear recommendation algorithm and a large amount of data collected. The know-how Meta already possesses. All this in the service of a user base that remains titanic. “More than every second person in the world uses one of its services,” recalls Julien Piyo. Facebook itself has almost three billion monthly users. Three times more than its Chinese competitor. “Meta has a history of collecting data, which gives it a certain advantage over advertisers,” continues Marianne Lumo.

Waiting for the Metaverse…

The era of the short video is sure to reach its apogee thanks to Menlo Park. According to Zuckerberg, “Reels” has seen a 30% increase in views in the last quarter. Pastilles, sometimes humorous or informative, will become even more intense in the coming months. This, with the disadvantages inherent in this consumption: confinement in filter bubbles, psychological problems, in particular addiction, but also questions to oneself that the time spent on social networks increases so much. An ethical critique that the Meta has already been subjected to in the past with the Facebook files, and which could revive the debate around the functioning of the mastodon. Moreover, these arguments may have slowed down the molting of the Meta, which is finally overdue: the results of the first quarter of the year, stagnation, have already become the first shock for the American giant.

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This one understood that he was playing for high stakes. Meta has lost about half of its market value this year, with shares down over 50%. Strategically, Mark Zuckerberg initially chose a different path: the metaverse, this set of new interconnected virtual worlds. However, the implementation of this rate will take time and require huge financial resources. Its dedicated metaverse arm, Reality Labs, posted a $2.8 billion loss for the quarter. In response, and as a symbol of its current difficulties, Meta decided to “lock up” its customers. You’ll have to pay €100 more for the new Meta Quest 2 virtual reality vehicles, one of the gateways to what is presented as the future of the Internet. The horizon is now very distant.

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