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Important events

Mar 162022

Meta gets ready to mint NFTs

Good old Zuck is always trying to be one step ahead, and now he wants to lead his platforms into the NFT revolution.

🔍 Key points:

  • Meta has plans in the works to launch its own NFT products, reportedly looking at how to bake non-fungibles into Instagram shortly, as in the next few months.
  • It also wants to let users mint their own NFTs. Meta wants to become a major player in the $40bn NFT market, and Zuck said that “soon” people will be able to create their own assets and sell them across Meta platforms.
  • It’s not the company’s first foray into crypto, though. Meta spent the last few years taking a crack at its own digital currency, Diem, but basically it was a big fail, so investors are hoping it’s learned its lesson.
Anthony Quintano / Wikimedia Commons
Mar 142022

Meta makes Russia mad

Meta makes a decision on hate speech towards Russia, so Russian prosecutors move to declare it an “extremist organization”.

🔍 Key points:

  • Meta changed its free speech policies last week to allow residents in 12 Eastern European countries to call for violence against Russian soldiers and those that are leading them – Meta would usually take down content like that, but it’s making a temporary exception.
  • Unsurprisingly Russia wasn’t happy and has opened a criminal case against the tech giant. Prosecutors now want to label Meta an “extremist organization”, accusing its employees of “illegal calls for murder and violence” while Russian soldiers escalate their military operations in Ukraine.
  • And Russia’s not stopping there. It’s also banned Instagram across the country as of midnight on Sunday. Twitter and Facebook have been inaccessible since early March, and big companies continue to pull their operations from Russia.
Illustration by TradingView
Feb 222022

Will more users save Meta’s market cap?

Meta’s virtual world is racking up the users, but will that be enough to help it recover from its fall from grace?

Key points:
  • Meta’s VR world has seen its users jump tenfold in the last three months. Since Horizon Worlds, which Zuck called the “core to our metaverse vision”, was rolled out across the U.S. and Canada in December, its monthly user count has jumped to 300k.
  • It’s not monetizing Horizon Worlds yet, but its growth is closely linked to its Reality Labs division, which covers its Oculus headsets – Reality Labs brought in $877m in Q4 profit but reported mega losses of $3.3bn in Q4, so investors are hoping more users means more $$$.
  • Speaking of Q4, its disastrous earnings are still taking a toll. Meta has lost its spot among the world’s top 10 most valuable companies, now trailing China’s Tencent (700) with a $561bn market cap, down over 37% since releasing its earnings on February 2.
Dim Gunger / Unsplash
Feb 072022

Meta lays down the law

Meta might still be mourning its earnings losses, but it’s hoping it can win back favor by making some much called for improvements in its virtual platforms.

Key points:
  • Meta has introduced “personal boundaries” to its virtual worlds after accusations of harassment started surfacing and highlighting inappropriate behaviour on the platform – your avatar’s hands will now disappear if you get too close to another.
  • It’s stock extended its earnings-induced losses on Friday to end the week down 21%, so it’s likely trying to make sure it’s proactively heading off any more scandals that could arise while it tries to recover.
  • Speaking of personal boundaries, Meta is also enforcing its own by threatening to pull Facebook and Instagram from Europe if it’s not allowed to keep transferring user data back to the U.S.
Anthony Quintano / Wikipedia Commons
Feb 032022

The Metapolis has a shrinking population

The mighty Meta releases a Q4 report that makes people question its strength for the first time.

  • Over $200bn was wiped off Meta’s market cap thanks its 24% drop in prices after EPS of $3.67 saw a rare miss, though revenue of $33.67bn juuuuust beat estimates. Q1 won’t be much better – it forecast revenue of up to $29bn when analysts thought it would top $30bn.
  • Its daily user count declined for the first time ever thanks to “increased competition for people’s time”, particularly from TikTok. Daily active users of 1.93bn were less than the 1.95bn analysts hoped for.
  • The Metaverse incurred mega losses. Its Reality Labs division, the heart of its Metaverse and VR headset efforts, brought in $877m in profit but reported losses of $3.3bn in Q4 and over $10bn in 2021 – investors hoped it would be Meta’s new revenue oasis thanks to big headset sales, but appaz not yet.
See all reported financials
Jiuguang Wang / Wikimedia Commons
Feb 022022

Dorsey dumps on Diem

Jack Dorsey delivers a big fat “I told you so” to Meta as it dumps its Diem currency.

  • Meta is selling off its Diem-related assets to Silvergate for $200m, throwing in the towel after years of congressional hearings, rebrands, exec departures and delays.
  • “There was a lot of wasted effort and time there”, said outspoken Bitcoin bull Jack Dorsey, arguing that Meta would have found success if it had invested in the Bitcoin ecosystem instead.
  • Does its crypto failure spell bad news for its Metaverse dreams? People think it’s an indication that Meta struggles with developing new services without buying them – which wouldn’t bode well for the Metaverse pivot that Zuck has based the firms’ entire future on.
Mark Warner / Wikimedia Commons
Jan 272022

Meta can’t carpe its Diem anymore

Bloomberg sources say Meta may be giving up on seizing the stablecoin day and dumping its Diem dreams.

  • Zuck could finally be bringing the Diem drama to an end. Bloomberg sources say the Diem Association is considering selling off its assets and intellectual property and giving up on its digital dollar idea.
  • The project has faced non-stop regulatory opposition since it was first announced in 2019 under the name “Libra”, and no matter what concessions Meta has made, people are determined the stablecoin would endanger privacy and monetary sovereignty.
  • Its crypto dreams aren’t all dead – it managed to launch its Novi Wallet in November, and it’s recently said NFTs will be coming to their social channels soon.
BTC Keychain / Flickr
Jan 252022

Hal, is that you?

Meta unveils its latest AI supercomputer, hoping the new release will open the pod bay doors to a stream of revenue.

  • The social media giant built a new artificial intelligence supercomputer, which it says will be the fastest in the world when it’s completed this year.
  • It’s going to “pave the way” to the Metaverse. As Intel exec Raja Koduri pointed out, the world needs a 1,000-fold increase in computing power to run the Metaverse, so here it is.
  • AI has become integral to tech, with giants like Microsoft (MSFT) and Nvidia (NVDA) also announcing their own AI supercomputers, leaving only one question: will any of them turn on us when the singularity happens?
Jan 212022

Meta makes its move into NFTs

Get ready for the NFT craze to hit your Insta page.

  • Meta wants to bring NFTs to its platforms, letting users create, display, and sell their digital art pieces on Facebook and Instagram.
  • It’s Meta’s first foray into the new trend, and would be the biggest public show of support for NFTs to date if it all goes ahead – Zuckerberg has said he thinks NFTs will be a key player in the Metaverse.
  • It will solidify NFTs place in the commercial market, though perhaps they don’t need Meta’s help for that considering trading volume on NFT marketplace OpenSea just notched a new monthly record of $3.5bn in sales.
Mick Haupt / Unsplash
Dec 152021

There can only be one

Meta is making sure there’s no confusion as to who is leading the Metaverse revolution.

  • It’s behind a $60m deal to buy the trademark for its namesake bank, Meta Financial Group (CASH).
  • There’s been some less official trademark stuff going on. Reports have hit of a social media handle named “metaverse”, who noticed their account mysteriously disappear following the rebrand.
  • The market is reaching “peak Metaverse hype following Meta’s rebrand, but analysts warn it could be years before the concept is fully realized. Slow and steady wins the race, as they say.
David Menidrey / Unsplash
Dec 132021

Can crypto be saved?

WhatsApp is wading into the world of crypto as Meta continues to slowly navigate its own digital asset attempts.

  • WhatsApp is trialling in-app cryptocurrency payments for some people in the U.S. using the Meta-owned Novi wallet, which lets people send money internationally without fees.
  • Regulators aren’t on board. In October, the Democrats called for Meta (then Facebook) to halt its Novi Wallet launch because they didn't trust it with managing money.
  • The rest of its crypto house is crumbling. It’s Diem currency is in limbo after months of pushback and regulatory backlash, and it's just lost one of its key execs.
Dec 102021

There’s an app for that

Meta takes a giant leap into (you guessed it) the Metaverse with a new app release.

  • It’s opening up Horizon Worlds, its long-awaited free app that lets your avatars socialize in VR, to anyone with its headset in the U.S. Previously, you needed an invitation to get in.
  • It’s not a fully fleshed out Metaverse, but it's a big step towards bringing its vision to life. The business is going to spend $10bn in the next year to develop Metaverse tech.
  • Bill Gates is with the bulls. He thinks all office meetings will be happening in the Metaverse within a few years.
Dec 082021

Another day another departure

Meta’s Messenger boss becomes the latest in a long list of execs jumping ship.

  • Stan Chudnovksy is leaving Meta in 2022 after over three years running its Messenger segment.
  • It’s an executive exodus. To name but a few, it’s seen Mark D’Arcy step down as creative guru, Kevin Weil and David Marcus have deserted its crypto efforts, and CTO Mike Schroepfer stepped down.
  • Prices are still up 17% this year, despite the leadership upheaval and increasing regulatory scrutiny.
Dec 062021

Meta loses its magic

A rocky market atmosphere has people racing for a safe bet – and apparently, that’s not Meta.

  • Meta hit a seven-month low on Friday after losing almost 8% during an Omicron-plagued week.
  • It officially entered bear market territory after sinking over 20% in the last three months despite a modest rally on the back of its rebrand.
  • A mixed economy has led to a risk averse market. The Fed is accelerating its tapering schedule and the world is still processing the effects of the new Covid strain.

Meta makes way for crypto

Facebook is finally giving up and going back on its long-standing crypto advertising ban. Hey, if you can’t beat em, join em.

  • Crypto companies will now be able to advertise on Meta platforms to find the next cohort of retail investors.
  • It follows a failed cryptocurrency attempt from Meta, which just said goodbye to its crypto project lead David Marcus.
  • Crypto ads on social media have been a hot topic this year as the crypto market has continued to mature. Google also recently changed its policies to allow crypto ads.
Illustration by TradingView
Dec 012021

Marcus dumps Meta

Meta loses crypto guru as its cryptocurrency efforts crumble.

  • David Marcus is leaving the company after seven years of service, hinting at starting his own venture.
  • He led Meta’s failed Diem effort. Unveiled in 2019, the new cryptocurrency was meant to allow online users to send money anywhere in the world through Facebook products… but it never really got off the ground.
  • Meta managed to successfully launch its Novi Digital Wallet in October, but its digital currency goals seem to have slid down the agenda since then.
Nov 292021

Is there a GIF for that?

U.K. competition regulators are about to hit “block” on Facebook’s latest acquisition.

  • Facebook (now Meta) bought Giphy for a cool $400m last year, and it’s already been slapped with a £50.5m fine from the CMA for breaching an order imposed during its investigation into the acquisition.
  • The CMA is now getting ready to actually reverse the merger – the first time the regulator has ever blocked a Big Tech buy.
  • On the bright side, Meta is now leading the AR charge in what is estimated to be a $1trn opportunity for the emerging tech market.
Nov 172021

Fashion of the future

The Metaverse is thinking of everything, and with its new gloves you can feel every detail.

  • Meta’s new haptic gloves use air pockets to let you feel and even 'pick things up'.
  • It’s been in the works for over seven years as Meta tries to make its VR world a full sensory experience – what sense will be next?
  • People are loving its VR tech, with its Oculus Quest 2 headsets topping 10m units shipped.
Nov 162021

Whistleblower woes

Meta gets a moment for its book of “firsts” – its first lawsuit since rebranding. They grow up so fast..

  • The Ohio Attorney General is suing Meta on behalf of investors for misleading the public about its safety protocols.
  • Frances Haugen’s “Facebook Files” blew the whistle on the effects of Meta’s platforms’ on kids' health at the start of October.
  • Prices have recovered, up 11% since its rebrand, but its street cred is struggling.
Nov 112021

Meta-world domination on the way

Instead of competing for the virtual throne, Microsoft (MSFT) and Meta are joining forces to make "avatar" meetings the norm. As long as we get a Na’vi tail, we’re cool with it.

  • Fans have been asking for it for months and now Meta’s Workplace and Microsoft (MSFT) Teams are finally partnering to create a flawless virtual environment.
  • If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. Microsoft (MSFT) released a VR platform only days after Meta rebranded, but it looks like they’ve gone for a “team up” rather than “tear down” strategy.
  • The deal will be most beneficial to Meta. Its Workplace users are dawdling behind competitors with 7m, compared to Teams’ 250m.
Nov 032021

Meta attempts a PR rebound

Facebook pulls the plug on its facial recognition service after receiving “many concerns,” amid a massive privacy backlash following its “Meta” metamorphosis.

  • A billion faces down the toilet: The feature basically recognizes faces in pictures to help you tag people quicker. The software has over 1 billion “faceprints” stored, the entire database of which will be destroyed.
  • Pick your battles: Given the massive political and regulatory pressure that whistleblower Frances Haugen has brought down on the company, it’s not surprising that “Meta” is currently trying to keep its head down.
Illustration by TradingView
Nov 022021

Zuck comes under fire

Former Facebook (Meta) employee Frances Haugen has been stirring up trouble for the tech giant recently, releasing internal documents that have got regulators around the world sniffing around. Now, Haugen is pointing her fire directly at Zuckerberg. When asked if she thought the CEO should step down, Haugen said that shareholders are at a disadvantage because Zuckerburg has a majority share and therefore power over who the CEO is, adding:

I think it is unlikely the company will change if he remains the CEO. I think Facebook would be stronger with someone who was willing to focus on safety. So yes.

Other than a vehement rant against the media for their portrayals of his company in light of the claims, Zuck has remained fairly unbothered by the situation as he takes his company into the “next chapter of the internet.”
Illustration by TradingView
Oct 292021

Meta is here

Facebook gets a facelift when CEO Mark Zuckerberg announces that the company will be rebranded and will be called Meta from now on – though the company is sticking with its signature blue for its new logo.

Tech giant Facebook, which owns a bunch of other popular social platform sites like Instagram and WhatsApp, is going through a major rebrand to reflect its new direction as a company – the company will now be known as Meta as it invests heavily into “the next chapter of the internet”. The new name is a nod to the idea of the metaverse, which is a potential future internet that emphasizes virtual spaces, where people can game, work and communicate in a virtual environment. Meta has been ramping up its metaverse efforts for months now trying to broaden its reach from social media to virtual reality, hiring up to 10,000 in the EU to build the new world. CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that Meta will invest at least $10 billion into building the metaverse on its earnings call earlier this week, and expects that amount to increase over the next few years. Zuckerberg said the metaverse will be the internet's "next frontier":

Today we are seen as a social media company, but in our DNA we are a company that builds technology to connect people, and the metaverse is the next frontier just like social networking was when we got started. Facebook is one of the most-used products in the history of the world. It is an iconic social media brand, but increasingly, it just doesn’t encompass everything we do. I want to anchor our work and our identity in what we are building towards.

The company has been enduring a bout of bad publicity recently, shrouded in a whistleblower scandal that has prompted a lot of questions about whether the tech giant is keeping people on its platforms safe. On its earnings call, the CEO vehemently disputed all the claims of money chasing at the cost of safety, saying the reports were purposefully released to make Meta look bad.

Facebook shares, which will trade under the ticker MVRS from December 1, stayed steady in after hours trading, but one other stock got the pot of gold at the end of the rebrand rainbow – Canadian materials technology company Meta Materials (MMAT) saw its shares spike 25% in after hours trading in a case of mistaken identity.
On behalf of @Metamaterialtec I would like to cordially welcome @Facebook to the #metaverse. #GoBeyond $MMAT #AR #VR Meta, meet META® :-)
Oct 262021

Facebook investors look on the bright side

Facebook saw its shares jump in after-hours trading after releasing a mixed third quarter report as investors chose to look on the bright side.

After a spate of bad press lately – a global outage and ball-busting whistleblower come to mind – social media giant Facebook releases third quarter earnings that seem to satisfy investors despite missing on revenue expectations. The social media platform reported earnings per share of $3.22 on revenue of $29.01 billion compared to expectations of $3.19 in earnings per share and $29.57 billion in revenue. Its Daily Active Users (DUAs) count jumped up on par with expectations to 1.93 billion, but average revenue per user was down at $10.00 as opposed to the $10.15 analysts were looking for.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg kicked off the call with a passionate defense of his company, hitting back at whistleblower Frances Haugen and her claims against the company, before going on to say he will be steering the company directly into the metaverse going forward. The CEO said that Facebook will invest at least $10 billion into building the metaverse, and expects that amount to increase over the next few years. Snap scared the market last week after releasing third quarter earnings that took a serious hit from Apple’s recent privacy changes, and Facebook warned that that it might soon feel pressure too, saying:

Our outlook reflects the significant uncertainty we face in the fourth quarter in light of continued headwinds from Apple’s iOS 14 changes, and macroeconomic and COVID-related factors. In addition, we expect non-ads revenue to be down year-over-year in the fourth quarter as we lap the strong launch of Quest 2 during last year’s holiday shopping season.

Chris Ward, associate portfolio manager on the Gabelli Growth Fund, added his two cents:

It’ll continue to be critical to watch user engagement over time, perhaps users grow more wary over time. I do think the FB Papers highlighted something that was already a challenge, and already understood but perhaps underappreciated, but Facebook’s ability to maintain engagement in younger demographics. This shows the competitive landscape, with Snapchat, TikTok, and others, is robust, and supports the argument that this is not a monopoly.
Oct 222021

Is there a GIF for this?

Competition regulators in the U.K. slap Facebook with a £50.5 million fine for failing to comply with an initial enforcement order after an investigation into its acquisition of GIF-maker Giphy.

Everyone loves a GIF, let’s be honest, and in March last year Facebook invested $400 million into buying popular GIF-maker Giphy and integrating its library into Instagram and Facebook. U.K. competition regulators weren’t too pleased, and in January launched an investigation into whether the team-up would affect the display advertising market. While the investigation was going on, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) ordered Facebook to keep it up to date on how the social platform is complying with its regulations – which apparently didn't happen, because the CMA has just slapped the tech giant with a £50.5 million fine for ignoring its initial order. Joel Bamford, senior director of mergers at the CMA, said:

We warned Facebook that its refusal to provide us with important information was a breach of the order but, even after losing its appeal in two separate courts, Facebook continued to disregard its legal obligations. This should serve as a warning to any company that thinks it is above the law

Facebook (unsurprisingly) strongly disagrees with the regulator's accusations.
Oct 212021

Novi Wallet goes live

Facebook finally started the rollout of its Novi digital wallet on Tuesday, but the social media company is holding back from releasing its own currency and links the wallet to the Paxos stablecoin.

Two years after first announcing its biggest dive into the world of crypto, the Novi digital wallet, Facebook started a small pilot rollout of the offering, which let’s people send and receive money instantly and with no fees. Coinbase, which manages around $180 billion in assets has been chosen as the wallet’s custody partner. Facebook has chosen Paxos Dollar for the launch of the wallet, instead of its own cryptocurrency project Diem, after the currency failed to get backing from U.S. regulators. The Diem currency (previously called Libra) was heavily criticized when it first came out and lost a bunch of partners including PayPal, Visa, and Mastercard. Despite the lack of regulatory oversight and the departure of a number of execs from its crypto projects, Facebook has not given up hope that it will be able to release Diem soon, saying:

We intend to migrate the wallet to the Diem payment network once it receives regulatory approval.
Oct 202021

Facebook dives further into the metaverse

Facebook has had a bit of a PR crisis recently, and word is that Zuckerburg is considering a rebrand in line with its new metaverse goals.

After a whistleblower scandal and its worst global outage ever, Mark Zuckerberg is thinking about giving Facebook a facelift and a new name. Rumor has it that the CEO will be changing Facebook’s name next week, to better align the company with the metaverse, which is essentially an online world, where people can do everything from communication to gaming to work. Just last week, the social media platform released plans to hire 10,000 highly skilled employees to contribute to building the metaverse, and the new name will likely reflect this new direction for the tech giant.
Oct 182021

Facebook bids big on metaverse

Facebook is expanding its investment into the metaverse by hiring another 10,000 people in the EU.

Facebook is hiring 10,000 new highly-skilled employees across the EU over the next five years that will help to build the metaverse as the world moves from the physical to the digital. A metaverse is essentially an online world, where people can do everything from communicate to game to work. Facebook said:

The metaverse has the potential to help unlock access to new creative, social, and economic opportunities. And Europeans will be shaping it right from the start.
Illustration by TradingView
Oct 132021

Facebook’s crypto project loses more of the team

Tech giant Facebook just released a whole suite of new controls on its platforms to help protect its underage consumers after a whistleblower exposed a bunch of company secrets, but the news is somewhat overshadowed by the company’s latest departures. Facebook has been accelerating its blockchain efforts for a while now, but has yet to make any real progress on the release of its crypto wallet and currency. Now, its efforts are facing another set back as Riyaz Faizullabhoy and Nassim Eddequiouaq – two of the top architects on Facebook’s blockchain and digital currency project – are leaving the company to join venture capitalist Andreessen Horowitz’s crypto team. They’re not the first either, and amid regulatory pushback on the project, there have been a number of key executives leave the team – Morgan Beller (credited as a co-creator of Diem) left at the end of 2020, and Novi’s vice president of product Kevin Weil left in March, to name a few.

Facebook has yet to recover from its outage-induced losses, and closed Tuesday down 0.52% after marking its fourth consecutive week in the red last week.
Illustration by TradingView
Oct 122021

Facebook launches an audio hub

Facebook continues to add to its growing list of features in an effort to keep up with competition, and has just launched an Audio hub in the U.S.

Facebook is pushing further into the audio space, and has just launched a new Audio hub that boasts features like podcasts, short-form clips and live audio.
Florian Schmetz / Unsplash
Oct 052021

Facebook’s flop of a Monday

Social media giant Facebook takes a hit of nearly 5%, wiping $6 billion off Zuckerburg’s fortune on the back of world-wide outages on its apps.

Fresh on the heels of accusations that Facebook controls too much of society, the social media giant sees its biggest outage in history and brings half of the world to a halt. Talk about bad timing. On Monday, Facebook and its associated apps, Instagram and WhatsApp, crashed for hours around the world – bringing the people together on Twitter (TWTR) for some pretty funny moments, but also bringing to light some heavy accusations. The outage lasted over 6 hours and was by far the worst in Facebook history, leaving consumers and businesses without communications – and sending people from all the different platforms flocking to Twitter (TWTR), which fully embraced its moment in the sun and welcomed the conglomerate of social media users with a friendly tweet that got 2.4 million likes in just four hours:

Hello literally everyone

The tweet got a hilarious slew of responses from brands that were making the most of the advertising opportunity, and all three platforms that were experiencing outages turned to Twitter (TWTR) to communicate with their users and get in on the fun. Performer BenDeLaCreme expressed how we all felt, tweeting:

Instagram and Facebook should go down everyday. I haven’t been this productive since 2006.

Not everyone was having such a good time though – the outage sent Facebook’s share price down just under 5% and wiped over $6 billion off CEO Mark Zuckerburg’s personal wealth, taking him down a level on the list of the world’s richest people. On top of that, politicians have been quick to point out that the technical issues only highlight the problem with Facebook’s market dominance, leaving people wondering if the authorities will begin to step in. Popular New York representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, also known as AOC, took to Twitter (TWTR) and said:

It’s almost as if Facebook’s monopolistic mission to either own, copy, or destroy any competing platform has incredibly destructive effects on free society and democracy. Remember: WhatsApp wasn’t created by Facebook. It was an independent success. FB got scared & bought it. If Facebook’s monopolistic behavior was checked back when it should’ve been (perhaps around the time it started acquiring competitors like Instagram), the continents of people who depend on WhatsApp & IG for either communication or commerce would be fine right now. Break them up.

Facebook updated its users when the apps were back up and running, but didn’t explain the reasons behind the outage. The stock ended the day at its lowest price since early June at $326.23.
Kang Mobilan / Twitter
Oct 042021

Investing in the metaverse

Social media giant Facebook has been working towards building a metaverse for a while now – a place where there is no distinction between the real and the online – but the company is making sure to do so responsibly with a new investment of $50 million. The cash will go towards collaborating with policymakers, experts, and industry partners to build the new reality in a safe way.
Richard Horvath / Unsplash
Sep 242021

Facebook moves towards transparency

After its Wall Street Journal expose, Facebook is making moves to ensure transparency.

The Wall Street Journal shredded Facebook in a series of exposes last week, and Facebook is facing the consequences. One WSJ article claimed that Facebook was promoting sensationalism with its news feed content, and in a bid for transparency the social media giant has released its process for how it chooses which content to demote in people’s news feed. A Facebook exec is also set to testify at a Senate hearing after a WSJ report accused Facebook of knowing that Instagram (which Facebook owns) has a significant negative impact on teenage girls. Lawmakers started sniffing around, and Facebook is sending its global head of safety, Antigone Davis, to testify before the Senate Commerce subcommittee on consumer protection.
Harold Mendoza / Unsplash
Sep 232021

Facebook makes a high-profile hire

Facebook promotes Andrew “Boz” Bosworth, who currently leads its hardware division, to Chief Technology Officer after Mike Schroepfer steps down.

Facebook has had an exec management shake-up, saying goodbye to Mike Schroepfer after 14 years and welcoming Andrew “Boz” Bosworth as its new CTO. Zuckerberg said:

As our next CTO, Boz will continue leading Facebook Reality Labs and overseeing our work in augmented reality, virtual reality and more, and as part of this transition, a few other groups will join Boz’s team as well. This is all foundational to our broader efforts helping to build the metaverse, and I’m excited about the future of this work under Boz’s leadership.
Sep 222021

Facebook upgrades

Facebook adds two new Portal video calling devices to its range.

Facebook releases two new additions to its Portal line, which connects families through video calling, and one of the new designs offers a Business Service so companies can start using the device.
Surface / Unsplash
Sep 162021

FB dips as WSJ digs the dirt

Facebook got sucker punched by a Wall Street Journal report this week, which had plenty of secrets to spill about the social media giant. The “Facebook Files” first exposed the company’s XCheck program, which basically allowed high-profile accounts and celebs to circumvent the usual standards, meaning they don't get held to the same community rules as the rest of Facebook's users, resulting in numerous (alleged) examples of nudity and abuse that were overlooked and/or left on the platform for much longer than they should have been. On Wednesday the WSJ released even more damaging info, this time looking into Facebook's mental health impact. And now lawmakers are getting curious.

The WSJ report accused Facebook of knowing that Instagram has a significant negative impact on teenage girls. Turns out Facebook, which owns Instagram, is aware that its platform has proven to be “toxic” and “destructive” to one in three teenage girls, leading to increased mental health issues. The impact of social media has long been a discussion among lawmakers, and now a Congress is demanding answers from Mark Zuckerberg, and asking for updates on a youth-focused platform.

The stock lost over 2% at one point yesterday, working out to a loss of around $20 billion to its market cap.
Sep 132021

Facebook invests in minority businesses

Facebook announces a $100 billion investment into small and minority-owned businesses.

In an effort to build long-lasting relationships with small businesses and their social media advertising, Facebook is investing in a new program that aims to put money in the hands of small businesses owned by women and minority groups.

Facebook will put $100 million towards buying outstanding invoices that will be paid back.
Sep 102021

The future of eyewear?

Facebook teams up with Ray-Ban to bring its first smart glasses to the market.

Smart glasses are no longer just a sci-fi movie thing – Ray-Ban and Facebook have come together to release the social media giant’s first pair of smart-glasses, complete with cameras to take photos at a glance and a microphone and speaker. This will be a step-forward for both companies into the world of augmented reality.

Both companies also see them as a step toward more advanced augmented reality glasses that overlay graphics onto the real world.
Claudio Schwarz / Unsplash
Sep 062021

WhatsApp gets in hot water with regulators

Facebook-owned WhatsApp faces a €225 million fine for breaching European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) rules.

Popular messaging app WhatsApp, which is Facebook owned, has been handed a €225 million fine from Ireland’s Data Protection Commission (DPC) after failing to correctly handle its users data after European GDPR came into effect a few years ago. The app has been under investigation in Ireland since 2018 when a number of complaints rolled in regarding how consumers data was getting processed and shared with parent company Facebook. WhatsApp is going to appeal the decision, saying:

WhatsApp is committed to providing a secure and private service. We have worked to ensure the information we provide is transparent and comprehensive and will continue to do so. We disagree with the decision today regarding the transparency we provided to people in 2018 and the penalties are entirely disproportionate.

This is the second largest fine to be imposed under GDPR after Amazon (AMZN) was fined $887 million in July.
Sep 032021

Is Facebook losing its digital ad dominance?

Facebook got handed a downgrade by Rosenblatt Securities, which changed its rating on the stock from a “buy” to a “neutral” and says that Facebook’s grip on the digital advertising market is slipping. Digital advertising is certainly not dead, if anything the market is in a COVID-fuelled boom and analysts predict the digital ad market to increase by $50 million in 2022 – but only around $20 million of that is expected to go to Facebook as Apple and Google catch up. $20 million is hardly a disappointing cut, but long gone are the days of market dominance in the space.

Despite this, most of Wall Street is still bullish on FB, with a consensus price target of $419, up 11% from Thursday's closing price of $375.28.
Aug 312021

Creative guru Mark D'Arcy resigns

Facebook’s ”creative ad guru” Mark D’Arcy has resigned from the company.

D’Arcy was Facebook’s head of global business marketing and chief creative officer, and his departure comes only months after his fellow head of the division, Carolyn Everson, left the company.
Aug 272021

Facebook makes moves to control its political fate

Facebook is killing two birds with one stone, with the formation of a new election advisory board to combat misinformation and take the regulatory target off its back.

As social media has become a key feature of society, so Facebook has become an increasingly active player in the political world. With great power comes great responsibility, and Facebook is considering creating an election advisory committee to help the company manage its growing political power. The social media giant has approached a number of experts who it hopes might help guide the company through political polarization, misinformation, and political advertising.

Facebook has increasingly become the target of governmental watchdogs, which are concerned that it is abusing its market dominance, so there’s hope that the advisory committee will be able to navigate the ever-growing platform through those hurdles.
Aug 262021

Facebook considers jumping on the NFT craze

Facebook is always trying to be ahead of the curve, and is now potentially building increasingly popular NFT features to go along with its Novi Digital Wallet.

Facebook has been accelerating its blockchain efforts for a while now, recently announcing that its Novi Digital Wallet, which will support Facebook’s Diem currency, is ready to come to market. The Novi wallet would make sending money as easy as sending a message, and Facebook said that it would be launched as a standalone app, as well as a feature within the Messenger and WhatsApp brands.

To add to its digital currency offerings, Facebook is now considering building non-fungible token (NFTs) features alongside its digital wallet. NFTs are a digital asset that assign ownership to a virtual item, like a trading card or picture or meme, and the market has absolutely taken off this year. Not one to get left behind, Facebook is making sure to jump in. Facebook executive David Marcus, who leads the group developing the digital wallet, said Tuesday:

When you have a good crypto wallet like Novi will be, you also have to think about how to help consumers support NFTs. We’re definitely looking at the number of ways to get involved in the space because we think we’re in a really good position to do so.
Aug 202021

The FTC takes another swipe at Facebook

After getting their case thrown out by a judge in June, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has re-filed a new antitrust lawsuit against Facebook.

Facebook hit a $1 trillion market cap for the first time back in June after a judge dismissed antitrust complaints from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) that the tech giant was abusing its monopoly in the social media market. However, the FTC is back to spoil the fun, re-filing an amended version of its lawsuit against Facebook on Thursday, arguing once again that the company should be forced to sell Instagram and Whatsapp to dismantle its anti-competitive monopoly. After the judge argued that the case didn’t have sufficient evidence, the FTC has now submitted a much longer and more detailed argument as to how Facebook uses its power to defeat any potential rivals, specifically referencing its acquisitions of Whatsapp and Instagram. Holly Vedova, acting director of the FTC’s bureau of competition, said:

After failing to compete with new innovators, Facebook illegally bought or buried them when their popularity became an existential threat, (fighting) to win people’s time and attention every day.

Facebook responded:

It is unfortunate that despite the court’s dismissal of the complaint and conclusion that it lacked the basis for a claim, the FTC has chosen to continue this meritless lawsuit. There was no valid claim that Facebook was a monopolist—and that has not changed.

The news outshined other positive news out of Facebook: the company has pledged to be “water-conscious” by 2030 and restore more water than it consumes globally.
Aug 172021

Facebook and Google join forces... underwater

Industry behemoths Google and Facebook team up to build a giant underwater cable that will improve internet access in the Asia-Pacific region.

Alphabet’s Google and social media giant Facebook (FB) have joined forces to bring their tech prowess to Asia-Pacific, with plans to build a 7,500 mile cable under the sea connecting Japan and South-East Asia. The new project, which is called “Apricot,” will see thousands of miles of undersea internet cable laid between Japan, Taiwan, Guam, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Singapore, and is due to come online by 2024. Facebook (FB) has offered to fund part of the project, along with a group of regional telecom providers.

Google and Facebook (FB) have partnered on similar projects before, already laying thousands of miles of cable at the bottom of the ocean together, with new plans in the works to fund two further cables between Singapore and the U.S. West coast.
Image: Yannis Papanastasopoulos / Unsplash
Aug 162021

Facebook may be forced to sell new GIF-maker

UK watchdogs start barking at Facebook, which may have to sell its recently acquired GIF-maker on antitrust concerns.

Everyone loves a GIF, let’s be honest, and in March last year Facebook invested $400 million into buying popular GIF-maker Giphy and integrating its library into Instagram and Facebook. U.K. competition regulators weren’t too pleased, and in January launched an investigation into whether the team-up would affect the display advertising market. Its probe has come out with its preliminary findings, and may soon force Facebook to sell the popular platform.

Giphy's takeover could see Facebook withdrawing GIFs from competing platforms or requiring more user data in order to access them. It also removes a potential challenger to Facebook,

said Stuart McIntosh, chair of the independent investigation for the CMA.

The final report is due in October.
Jul 302021

Facebook worried over Apple privacy changes

Facebook blows past expectations with its second quarter earnings and reports a record $29 billion in revenue, but its CFO warns that a slowdown is on the way.

Shares of social media giant Facebook fell in pre-market trading despite reporting blowout Q2 earnings as investors reacted to a warning that the impressive revenue growth will slow in the second half of the year because of Apple’s new privacy policies and less favourable comparison numbers -– this time last year, the market was depressed by the effects of COVID, giving this years results a little extra glam when they stand next to each other. Facebook reported earnings per share of $3.61 on revenues of $29.04 billion, well outpacing expectations of $3.03 in earnings per share of $27.89 billion in revenue. Its daily active users (DUAs) and monthly active users (MUAs) were about on par with expectations at 1.91 billion and 2.90 billion users respectively, and its average revenue per user came in above expectations at $10.12.

Digital advertising has always been an important revenue source for Facebook, and a recovery in the advertising industry as the effects of COVID have eased have been an important part of Facebook’s success this year. However, the mood was dampened by a warning from Facebook CFO David Wehner that growth is less likely to impress for the rest of the year. One of the primary reasons behind that is Apple’s new privacy policies, which make it harder for apps to track you and send targeted adverts your way, and Facebook’s advertising revenue is going to suffer. The third quarter is due to see the biggest impact of these changes, and given the fact that the third quarter of last year had begun to see some COVID recovery, the next earnings report probably won’t get as many likes from investors.

The warning comes even as other social media platforms like Snap (SNAP) and Twitter (TWTR) post encouraging digital ad forecasts.
Newsroom / Apple
Jun 292021

Facebook hits $1 trillion market cap

It was a very merry Monday for Facebook and its investors, with the share price closing in on a $1 trillion market cap for the first time ever after a judge dismissed the latest FTC complaint.

Facebook stock went cruising up just over 4% in Monday trading, hurdling into trillion dollar territory for the first time on the back of news that a federal judge had opted to dismiss an antitrust case brought against the social media giant by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

Last December, the FTC sued Facebook for allegedly violating antitrust laws by doing stuff like buying WhatsApp and Instagram to create a market monopoly. NY Attorney Leitiia James piled onto the lawsuit train and led 48 separate U.S. states in suing Facebook for similar reasons. But this week U.S. District Judge James E. Boasberg handed the company a win, after determining that the FTC hadn’t provided enough facts to substantiate its antitrust complaints.

The FTC alleges only that Facebook has ‘maintained a dominant share of the U.S. personal social networking market (in excess of 60%)’ since 2011...and that ‘no other social network of comparable scale exists in the United States.’ That is it. (They did) not even provide an estimated actual figure or range for Facebook’s market share at any point over the past ten years. Allegations ultimately fall short of plausibly establishing that Facebook holds market power.

said the judge by way of explanation.

The good news pushed Facebook’s share price to close up 4.18% at $355.64, giving the company a market value of over $1 trillion for the first time ever. The social media company is now the fifth company in the world to reach that milestone, joining the ranks of Apple (AAPL), Amazon (AMZN), Alphabet (GOOGL), and Microsoft (MSFT). Some of those same big tech companies have also come under increasing scrutiny from regulators, and Monday’s decision calls into question whether the authorities actually have enough proof to clamp down on these growing tech giants. Can they ever be stopped, or is tech on the way to taking over the world?
Illustration by TradingView
May 142021

Seize the Diem

A Facebook-backed digital currency project is getting a revamp, after focusing its efforts on addressing U.S. regulators concerns.

The project, formerly known as Libra but renamed Diem last year, is a Facebook-backed digital currency that is getting a facelift after concerns were raised that it could potentially be used for money-laundering or other illegal activities.

The ambitious plan was first proposed in June 2019, when Facebook decided that it wanted to jump on the digital currency bandwagon. The dream was swiftly shot down by regulators, and former President Trump, who said:

Facebook Libra's 'virtual currency' will have little standing or dependability.

The project, originally started in Switzerland, is now moving to the U.S. after having to abandon its bid to secure the endorsement of the Swiss regulators. Originally, the token was meant to be a universal currency able to tie itself to a bunch of sovereign currencies, but several founding members of the original Libra, including MasterCard, PayPal, and eBay, quit the project over money-laundering fears and worries over the reputational impact, so now Diem has scaled down its goal to launching a single coin backed by a single currency, the U.S. dollar.

It’s a realization that the effort will require a presence that is acceptable to U.S. regulators.

Said Richard Levin, chairman of financial tech at the law firm Nelson Mullins.
May 122021

Lawmakers push back on FB's insta-plan

Attorney Generals from 44 states band together in opposition to Facebook’s plans for a new Instagram service for kids, pushing the stock down by more than 4%.

In a letter to Mark Zuckerberg posted this week by the National Association of Attorneys General, members put pressure on Facebook to cancel a planned Instagram service for children under 13, pointing to the detrimental health impact of social media on children and highlighting Facebook’s questionable history with protecting kids on its platform. News hit the stands in March that Facebook was looking at creating the pre-teen service, and the company has already been questioned by federal lawmakers concerned by its implications. When members of congress faced off against the CEOs of FB, Google, and Twitter in a March hearing, the new Insta service was a hot topic that both Republicans and Democrats raised with Zuck (finally something the blues and reds can agree on), along with concerns around fake vaccine news and claims of election fraud.

The attorney generals referred to a wide range of news reports and research pieces indicating the negative effects of Instagram on children, including suicide and low self-esteem. While the letter doesn’t hold any formal legal power, it does show how big of a legal risk it could be to carry on with the project.

It appears that Facebook is not responding to a need, but instead creating one, as this platform appeals primarily to children who otherwise do not or would not have an Instagram account. The attorneys general urge Facebook to abandon its plans to launch this new platform.

Facebook has held its ground though, and although it’s being pretty coy about its plans, there are few signs that it might reconsider.

We’ve just started exploring a version of Instagram for kids. We agree that any experience we develop must prioritize their safety and privacy, and we will consult with experts in child development, child safety and mental health, and privacy advocates to inform it.

Said Facebook policy representative Andy Stone.
May 092021

Oversight Committee upholds Trump ban

Four months after banning then-President Donald Trump from Facebook, the independently-operated Oversight Committee announced that it would uphold Facebook’s original decision.

Trump was banned from both Facebook and Instagram after a political rally on January 6 ended with Trump fanatics storming Capitol Hill, killing five people.

The following day, Facebook said that Trump’s social media posts during the riot severely violated Facebook’s rules and encouraged and legitimized violence, and suspended his accounts. On January 21, Facebook announced that it had referred this case to the Oversight Board, and asked board members to make recommendations about suspensions when the user is a political leader.

The verdict was inconclusive. While the board agreed to uphold the suspension, it flagged concerns about Facebook’s disciplinary process. In fact, the board found that Facebook violated its own rules by imposing a suspension that was ‘indefinite’.

At a press conference, co-chair Helle Thorning-Schmidt said:

We did not have an easy answer. We are telling Facebook to go back and be more transparent about how it assesses these things. Treat all users the same and don't give arbitrary penalties.

The board said that within six months, Facebook must re-examine this “arbitrary penalty” and come to a permanent decision. This decision would create a precedent on how Facebook deals with political leaders and calls for violence in the future.

Trump’s ban was undoubtedly the most high profile case that the board had heard, and it placed new scrutiny on Facebook's self-styled in-house Supreme Court. It also led to a plethora of critical articles which openly queried the independence of the board and questioned its efficacy.

Shareholders clearly read the press, as Facebook’s stock price fell by more than 4% when trading resumed the following day.
Apr 282021

Facebook ads drive Q1 bounce

Facebook earnings obliterate expectations with a 48% revenue increase driven largely by ad revenue, sending stocks flying over 5% in after hours trading. That'll pay for some of Zuck's suncream.

The social media giant reported earnings per share of $3.30 on revenues of $26.17 billion, compared to expectations of $2.37 per share on $23.67 billion in revenue. Its active user count was up too, with 1.88 billion daily active users and 2.85 billion per month. Average revenue per user was $9.27, so it makes sense that revenues knocked it out the park. In fact, total revenue was up 48% from the same period the year before, while net income grew 94% to $9.5 billion: an increase that the company attributes to an increase in the average price per ad and a 12% increase in the number of ads the company delivered.

Facebook expects revenue growth to remain stable or accelerate slightly in Q2, but is predicting a slowdown in Q3 and Q4 compared to the year before, when results were boosted by the pandemic (what else was there to do during lockdown but post pictures of your lunch online?)

Its guidance had to take into account the increased ad targeting headwinds in 2021 from regulatory and platform changes, most notably the recently launched iOS 14.5 update, which the firm expects to start having an impact in the second quarter. The IOS 14.5 includes the App Tracking Transparency (ATT) framework, which is likely to have serious implications for the way mobile advertising operates and could have a major effect on Facebook advertising revenue. Watch this space.
Z S / Unsplash
Apr 072021

Facebook addresses data breach

On April 3 2021, Business Insider reported that more than 500 million Facebook users were discovered on a website for hackers, raising fears of a new Facebook data breach.

According to the publication, the details included information from 106 countries including phone numbers, Facebook IDs, full names, locations, birthdates and email addresses. One of the IDs belonged to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, whose (presumably old) mobile phone number was also revealed.

Facebook tried to reassure users by pointing out that the data leak had actually happened in 2019 and had since been secured. However, critics were unmoved, saying that the breach revealed the extent to which users were trusting Facebook with their privacy. This reignited an old media cycle around antitrust laws and user privacy protections, and led to calls for greater transparency at the platform.

In response, Facebook said it would not be contacting affected users to warn them of the breach, and instead responded with a press release reminding users how to change their privacy settings.

The negative press around the historic hack couldn’t stop the growth trajectory of Facebook’s stock price, which reached an all-time high of $313 by April 7 2021.
Mar 252021

Zuckerberg speaks to Congress again

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg dropped a few bombshells during his latest congressional appearance, including the fact that Facebook was thinking about launching a version of Instagram for kids.

There is clearly a large number of people under the age of 13 who would want to use a service like Instagram.

Zuckerberg said.

Instagram’s existing policy did not allow anyone under the age of 13 to open an account or use the platform.

The virtual hearing was led by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and aimed to address misinformation issues at Facebook, Google and Twitter. It was the first time that the major tech platforms had been publicly grilled since the January 6 Capitol Hill riot, which led to former US President Donald Trump being banned from most mainstream social media outlets.

The Committee said that its intention was to change the incentives which led social media companies to allow and even promote misinformation and disinformation. This once again raised the prospect of government oversight and the introduction of antitrust laws which could limit the growth of big tech companies such as Facebook.

Ahead of the hearing, Facebook’s stock price dipped by approximately 5%, but Zuckerberg’s performance must have reassured shareholders, as the company reversed these losses within a matter of days.
Anthony Quintano / Wikimedia Commons
Mar 152021

Facebook announces plans to help Covid vaccine roll-out

As the vaccine roll-out accelerated across the world, Facebook announced its intention to “help bring 50 million people a step closer to getting Covid-19 vaccines.”

The plan was simple: launch a tool that shows when and where you can get vaccinated and allows you to make an appointment instantaneously; bring its Covid Information Center to Instagram; and work with health authorities and governments to expand their WhatsApp chatbots to help people register for vaccines.

Facebook also said it would create real-time aggregate trends in Covid-19 vaccinations in an effort to encourage more people to get the vaccine when it was made available to them.

In an echo of the platform’s past battles with fake news, Facebook also pledged to amplify credible medical voices and promote reliable information about the various Covid-19 vaccines.

The data shows the vaccines are safe and they work. They're our best hope for getting past this virus and getting back to normal life. I'm looking forward to getting mine, and I hope you are too.

Said Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. / Christian Emmer
Mar 102021

Facebook files to dismiss antitrust laws

In December 2020 the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) – along with the attorneys general of 46 US states – sued Facebook for “illegally maintaining its personal social networking monopoly through a years-long course of anticompetitive conduct.” It cited Facebook’s ownership of WhatsApp and Instagram as evidence.

The company’s vice president and general counsel Jennifer Newstead immediately criticised the lawsuit, stating that “billions of people use Facebook’s products every day. To earn their time and attention, we compete fiercely against many other services across the world”, and pledged to fight the case in court.

Three months later, Facebook formally filed a motion to dismiss the FTC-led lawsuit. In a message on the company blog, Facebook repeated its view that “people around the world use our products not because they have to, but because we make their lives better”.

The company’s legal team laid out its case against the FTC lawsuit by identifying four main points that it expected to challenge:

1. The FTC has not alleged a plausible relevant antitrust market.
2. The FTC has not plausibly alleged monopoly power.
3. The FTC has not plausibly alleged unlawful exclusionary conduct.
4. The FTC lacks statutory authority to maintain this suit.

This multi-pronged legal strategy proved that Facebook was serious about holding on to its place at the top of the social networking mountain. It also told the world that Facebook was prepared to use its substantial resources to fight for its future success. Bad news for the FTC legal team, but good news for Facebook investors, who sent the company’s share price up by 3% after reading the news.
Tingey Injury Law Firm / Unsplash
Feb 172021

Facebook argues with Australian government

It was probably the most bizarre US-Australia tiff since Johnny Depp and Amber Heard were forced to apologise for smuggling their pet dogs into the country on a private jet.

In February, Australia declared war on Facebook when it blocked a wealth of content designated as ‘news’, in response to the federal government’s news media code.

Under the terms of Australia’s new media code, social networks would have to negotiate with news publishers for payment for content. Facebook responded by shutting down all news services for Australian users.

However, in a move that would later be described as “over-enforcement”, Facebook also banned public service content including health department and emergency services sites, family violence support information, and community news hubs.

The tech giant quickly backpedalled.

It wasn’t a decision taken lightly. But when it came, we had to take action quickly because it was legally necessary to do so before the new law came into force, and so we erred on the side of over-enforcement. In doing so, some content was blocked inadvertently. Much of this was, thankfully, reversed quickly.

Said Facebook’s VP of public affairs, Nick Clegg.

Shareholders bore the brunt of the controversy, as Facebook’s share price took a nosedive from $273 on February 17, to $261 by February 19, picking up again only after Clegg’s apology was published.
Michael Marais / Unsplash
Jan 272021

Facebook plays politics amid economic uncertainty

We had a strong end to the year as people and businesses continued to use our services during these challenging times.

Said Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg at the company’s surprisingly robust fourth quarter and full year report for 2020.

Over the previous 12 months, Facebook had battled regulatory interventions, antitrust concerns, advertising boycotts, and accusations of political censorship on its platforms.
Nonetheless, the company ended the year with earnings of $85.9 billion – a 22% year-on-year increase. More significantly, net income rose by 58% year-on-year, after the previous year’s profits were reduced by regulatory fines.

CFO David Wehner told investors that Facebook had benefited from two economic trends which emerged during the pandemic: the shift towards online commerce, and consumer demand for products as opposed to services. This helped the company to maintain strong advertising volumes in the second half of the year, when some of its competitors struggled.

However, by the time Facebook’s 2020 financials were reported – on January 27 2021 – political headwinds threatened to overshadow the company’s gains. On January 6, political extremists had stormed the US Capitol building in protest at the 2020 election results. It was alleged that extreme groups had planned the attack using Facebook groups. The following day, outgoing president Donald Trump was banned from the platform, with Zuckerberg saying that

The risks of allowing the president to continue to use our service... are simply too great.

Zuckerberg used the fourth quarter earnings call to confirm that Facebook would stop offering algorithm-driven recommendations of political groups on the platform, as well as reducing political content in users’ news feeds.

Despite this, Facebook’s stock dropped by 6% in after-hours trading, as wider market volatility (hello GameStop shorters!) dragged on the US markets.
Illustration by TradingView
Jan 112021

Roy Austin Jr joins Facebook as VP of civil rights

Following some harsh criticism of its diversity policies, Facebook hired civil rights attorney and advocate Roy Austin Jr to establish the company’s new civil rights organization as VP of civil rights and deputy general counsel.

The appointment came six months after Facebook completed a two-year civil rights audit. The report concluded that despite some good work, “Facebook’s approach to civil rights remains too reactive and piecemeal”.

In response, Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg said that some of the auditor’s recommendations would be actioned.

The creation of a new civil rights organisation showed that Facebook was serious about making positive change, although clearly there was still some way to go.

I am excited to join Facebook at this moment when there is a national and global awakening happening around civil rights. I could not pass up the opportunity to join a company whose products are used by so many and which impacts the civil rights and liberties of billions of people, in order to help steer a better way forward.

Said Roy Austin Jr.
Jan 072021

Facebook bans President Donald Trump

In January 2021, Facebook made the unprecedented decision to suspend the Facebook and Instagram accounts of US President Donald Trump, after the events on Capitol Hill on January 6 2021.

Following a political rally led by Trump, a group of protestors stormed the Capitol building in Washington DC, calling for the execution of Vice President Mike Pence, and pledging to stop the official counting of the electoral college votes that would eventually go on to make Joe Biden the next US President.

Hundreds of rioters broke into the building where senators and members of Congress were sitting. The ensuing insurrection left 140 people injured and five dead.

Throughout the day, Trump used his social media accounts to tell the rioters that he “loved” them, and to reaffirm the falsehood that he had won the election. Facebook initially removed these posts, before ultimately deciding to ban the President altogether.

We believe the risks of allowing President Trump to continue to use our service during this period are simply too great, so we are extending the block we have placed on his Facebook and Instagram accounts indefinitely and for at least the next two weeks.

Said Guy Rosen, VP, Integrity, and Monika Bickert, VP, Global Policy Management.

Snapchat, YouTube and Twitter followed Facebook’s lead and banned Trump indefinitely.

However, it may have been too little, too late for Facebook investors. The company’s share price went on to drop by almost 7% in the days after the announcement.
Nov 302020

Facebook acquires Kustomer

After the ad boycott earlier in the summer, Facebook appeared to double down on its efforts to diversify its income streams.

The acquisition of customer relationship management firm Kustomer showed that Facebook was fixing its focus on digital businesses.

Announcing the acquisition, Dan Levy, VP of ads and business products, and Matt Idema, COO of WhatsApp, said that their goal with Kustomer was “to give businesses access to best-in-class tools that deliver excellent service and support.”

Kustomer specialised in building software which enables businesses to effectively manage all customer interactions across channels. This meant that client conversations which took place via text, video, email, or phone could all be viewed together on a single screen. The technology also allowed for the automation of repetitive tasks, potentially allowing small businesses to place greater focus on other responsibilities such as outreach.

Facebook revealed that it had integrated Kustomer’s functionality in its most recent WhatsApp and Messenger updates. It would not reveal the cost of the deal, but several reporters found sources who valued the purchase at $1 billion. If true, that would make Kustomer one of Facebook’s five most expensive acquisitions of all time.

Shareholders responded enthusiastically to the deal, and to the notion of Facebook as a business services provider. After the acquisition was announced, Facebook’s share price soared by more than 3.5%.
Nov 042020

Joe Biden wins US presidency

The 2020 US presidential elections were unusual for many reasons; a surplus of Democratic candidates, a global pandemic, and rising dissatisfaction around incumbent President Donald Trump’s handling of the economy.

Former Vice President Joe Biden would go on to win the election with the most votes ever cast for a presidential ticket in the history of the US – 74 million.

His victory speech hinted at the policies to come, but the most significant challenge was undoubtedly the pandemic.

Our work begins with getting Covid under control. We cannot repair the economy, restore our vitality, or relish life’s most precious moments – hugging a grandchild, birthdays, weddings, graduations, all the moments that matter most to us – until we get this virus under control.

Biden said.

However, Biden’s victory was marred by Trump’s refusal to concede defeat to his political rival. On Twitter, Trump claimed that the election had been rigged, and vowed to challenge the result at every possible opportunity.

In the days after the election, the stock market rose amid hopes that a Biden administration would be better placed to manage the pandemic, distribute vaccines and regain control of the US economy. Facebook benefitted from this uplift, with the company’s share price rising a massive 11% over a two-day period.
Oct 292020

Strong Q3 for Facebook but challenges persist

Facebook beat market expectations in the third quarter of the year, as quarterly earnings topped $20 billion for the first time in the company’s history. This translated to a 22% year-on-year increase, despite warnings that the company’s revenue growth was slowing.
As CEO Mark Zuckerberg put it:

We had a strong quarter as people and businesses continue to rely on our services to stay connected and create economic opportunity during these tough times.

Although user volumes decreased slightly as national lockdowns were lifted, advertising demand increased. CFO David Wehner said that he believed that “the pandemic has contributed to an acceleration in the shift of commerce from offline to online”, which would lead to higher advertising demand later in the year.

However, Wehner’s also admitted that 2021 is likely to bring a “significant amount of uncertainty” for the company, as political and economic events threatened to overshadow the company’s growth plans.

During the third quarter of the year, Facebook faced ongoing regulatory scrutiny, tough congressional hearings, and new criticism around its handling of political content ahead of the 2020 US presidential elections.

Apprehensive shareholders sent the stock value tumbling by more than 6%.
Illustration by TradingView
Oct 262020

Cloud-based gaming launched

Rumours had been circulating for a while that Facebook was trialling cloud-based gaming functionality, but on October 26, the company finally confirmed it.

We recently had 200,000 people playing our cloud-streamed games per week in limited regions. So while it’s not exactly a secret, I’m excited to lay out what we’re building.

Revealed Facebook’s VP of play, Jason Rubin.

However, Rubin seemed to be particularly keen to clarify what the rollout didn’t represent.

We’re not spinning off a separate cloud gaming service

He said.

Instead, all cloud-streamed games could continue to be played via the gaming tab or the News Feed, with no special hardware or controllers needed.

Facebook used the launch announcement to tell shareholders just how popular its gaming tab had been. More than 380 million people were playing games on Facebook each month, the company said, and the addition of cloud-streamed games would only compliment this existing offer.

The cloud gaming market represented a lucrative new channel for Facebook. By storing games remotely, users did not require high-cost computers and gaming accessories to enjoy their favourite titles. This meant that it would be easier for more people to use Facebook as a gaming resource, which could help the platform win over new users in the long and short term.

The launch was well received by both gamers and shareholders alike. Facebook’s stock price rose by approximately 2% following the announcement.
Oct 222020

Oversight Board starts hearing cases

Two years after Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg outlined his vision for online governance, on October 22 2020, Facebook’s Oversight Board started hearing its first cases.

This meant that any Facebook or Instagram user had the right to appeal any decision to remove content.

Facebook has committed to enforcing the board’s decisions on individual pieces of content, and to carefully considering and transparently responding to any policy recommendations. The board will make decisions on which cases to take, selecting from both cases appealed by users and cases referred by Facebook.

Explained Brent Harris, Facebook’s director of governance and global affairs.

Harris added that the board would have final say on which, if any, of the Facebook referred cases to review. However, Facebook would be able to obtain an urgent review of content decisions in exceptional circumstances via expedited review.

The Oversight Board came with an extensive set of bylaws and rules and would be funded by Facebook via a specially created trust. This was intended to keep the board independent from Facebook’s operations, in an effort to protect user privacy and avoid undue influence.

Following the announcement, Facebook announced that the board would be ready to hear its first cases in a matter of weeks. Initially, it would only hear appeals from Facebook users who have had their content removed. However, Harris said that the end goal was to bring all types of content into scope as quickly as possible.

Shareholders seemed happy with Facebook’s efforts to self-regulate, sending Facebook’s share price up by more than 2% in after-hours trading.
Oct 132020

Oculus Quest 2 launched

In September, Facebook announced the launch of Oculus Quest 2 and opened pre-orders for the device. One month later, the company was ready to post the latest version of its flagship virtual reality (VR) device.

Facebook said that the Quest 2 was the fastest, smallest and lightest VR device that it had produced to date. Along with the product launch, Facebook announced a series of new features for its VR community. Quest 2 came with access to the full library of Quest content, and new games and updates were added to popular games such as Beat Saber and The Walking Dead.

The Quest 2 was also billed as a productive tool for those still unable to head back to the office. The device came with a ’Work from Home’ app collection already pre-installed on the device.

However, despite the fanfare of the launch, the device received mixed reviews. Some criticised the ‘Facebook-ification’ of the VR market, bemoaning the fact that users had to have a Facebook account to use the Quest 2. Others called it the one of the best VR headsets on the market.

But the most important review came from Facebook’s shareholders. Historically, Facebook’s VR ventures had been met with indifference and even annoyance by investors who were tired of the mounting costs of the company’s VR division. This trend continued, with Facebook’s stock price falling after the Oculus launch announcement was made.
Flickr / Maximilian Prandstätter "Oculus Quest II"
Sep 182020

Facebook acquires Lemnis Technologies; opens Nigerian office

Two pieces of Facebook news hit the press on September 18. First, the company announced that it was opening a new office in Lagos, Nigeria, “as part of our ongoing investments in Africa”.

Later in the day, reporters broke the news that Facebook had made yet another acquisition in the virtual reality (VR) space.

Facebook did not immediately confirm the acquisition of Lemnis Technologies, a startup which created varifocal optics for use in VR headsets. However, a series of reports speculated that the Singapore-based company had been added to the Facebook Reality Labs. Lemnis was well known in the VR community for building technology which solved the ‘vergence-accommodation conflict’. This occurs when the viewer eyes need to continuously compensate for incorrect focal-depth in VR; producing discomfort, fatigue, nausea, and headaches for many users. This would make it seem like a good fit at Facebook, which has invested heavily in it VR division in recent years.

Meanwhile, Facebook’s new Nigeria office highlighted the company’s growing focus on Africa. The Lagos office would become the first office in Africa with a team of engineers, and it would also house a full team of sales, business development, policy and communications staff.

All across Africa we’re seeing immense talent in the tech ecosystem, and I’m proud that with the upcoming opening of our new office, we’ll be building products for the future of Africa, and the rest of the world, with Africans at the helm. We look forward to contributing further to the African tech ecosystem.

Said Ime Archibong, Facebook’s head of new product experimentation.
Sep 162020

Project Aria launched

After spending years heavily investing in augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), Facebook was finally ready to start testing one of its highly-anticipated products: AR glasses.

Described by Nathan White, privacy policy manager at Facebook Reality Labs, as “the next step in the evolution of computing”, the glasses would “enhance your surroundings with a 3D layer of useful, meaningful and contextually relevant information.”

White said that the glasses had been designed to “blend into the flow of everyday life”, for instance, by translating foreign languages or by offering directions in an unfamiliar city.

Project Aria was the name of the research stage of the glasses.

Facebook would give prototypes to a number of employees and contractors so that they could wear them as they go about their day.

Project Aria would track any issues with the glasses, with an emphasis on user privacy.

We built this research device with privacy in mind and we put provisions in place around where and how we’ll collect data, as well as how it will be processed, used and stored. Ultimately, Project Aria is going to help us develop the safeguards, policies and even social norms necessary to govern the use of AR glasses and other future wearable devices.

Added White.

Unfortunately, Facebook’s shareholders – perhaps mindful of the Google Glass rollout - did not seem too enthused at the prospect of an expensive and lengthy research process for an unknown product. The following day, Facebook’s stock fell by 3.5% to a month-long low.
Sep 142020

Facebook launches Watch Together

Seeing opportunity in the disruption that spun out from the Covid-19 pandemic, Facebook set its sights on movie streaming tech. The platform’s newly-added Watch Together feature tapped into the growing trend of virtual movie nights. As global lockdown orders continued, families and friends used streaming technology to safely socialise together. Watch Together allowed multiple viewers to watch the same video at the same time, while also being able to see each other’s reactions.

The launch of the Watch Together feature also gave Facebook an opportunity to rave about its video success, and gave shareholders a sense of Facebook’s performance during the pandemic. As it turned out, Facebook was able to command a massive share of the video-sharing market, with more than 150 million video calls being made each day via Messenger, and more than 200 million videos being sent.

Facebook Watch showed investors how the platform planned to survive – and thrive – during the pandemic. And as long as the company continued to launch value-adding features, the longer this winning streak would last.

After the Watch Together announcement, and subtle reveal of Facebook’s video figures, the company’s share price rose by a decisive 2.5%.
Sep 102020

Facebook Campus launched

Remember when Facebook was only available to a select few colleges and universities? Well the social media platform has come full circle, launching Facebook Campus as a “college-only space designed to help students connect with fellow classmates over shared interests”.
Campus took the college Facebook experience back to basics.

Facebook Campus would appear as a dedicated section of the Facebook app, with a Campus profile that’s different from the user’s main Facebook profile. Once the Campus profile has been set up, students can be connected with people, groups and events that are unique to their school.

Charmaine Hung, the product manager of Facebook Campus, said that the feature was introduced in response to the spike in distance learning during the Covid-19 pandemic.

College is a time for making new friends, finding people who share similar interests and discovering new opportunities to connect – from clubs to study groups, sports and more. In the early days, Facebook was a college-only network, and now we’re returning to our roots with Facebook Campus to help students make and maintain these relationships, even if they’re away from their college.

Hung said.

Campus was initially made available to just a selection of colleges in the US although surprisingly, Facebook’s birthplace - Harvard University - didn’t make the list.
Sep 032020

1.25 billion are tuning into Facebook Watch

Three years ago Facebook Watch was launched by none other than Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson. Now, the video streaming platform was attracting 1.25 billion viewers every single month.

Paresh Rajwat, Facebook’s head of video products, put this down to the pandemic effect, as more people opted for virtual entertainment and connectivity.

During a time when people can’t come together physically, more people are turning to Watch to stay connected to creators, artists, sports, entertainment and what’s happening in the world.

Said Rajwat.

He went on to announce a range of new features for the Watch function. These included a dedicated section within Watch for live videos, including live sporting events. He also revealed that Facebook would be introducing music videos in Watch to all users in the US, India and Thailand.

Rajwat’s announcement came just after Facebook’s share price had passed the $300 mark for the first time ever. The platform had been witnessing a prolonged surge in user activity since the start of the pandemic, and by tweaking and updating its offerings it was telling shareholders that it was doing everything in its power to keep those users active in the foreseeable future.
Jakob Owens / Unsplash
Aug 192020

Facebook addresses its policy towards violence

For years, Facebook – and specifically its CEO Mark Zuckerberg – had been leading proponents of the right to free speech, even if that free speech was occasionally harmful.

Facebook had repeatedly avoided taking action against extremist content on the platform, claiming that everyone had the right to freedom of expression, and any intervention should only happen where there was a clear threat to a user or users.

However, in the summer of 2020 the platform changed its stance, and started to take action against Facebook Pages, Groups and Instagram accounts tied to “offline anarchist groups that support violent acts amidst protests”.

Surprisingly, this included the conspiracy theorist group QAnon, which had long been affiliated with President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign.

We have seen growing movements that, while not directly organizing violence, have celebrated violent acts, shown that they have weapons and suggest they will use them, or have individual followers with patterns of violent behavior. While we will allow people to post content that supports these movements and groups, so long as they do not otherwise violate our content policies, we will restrict their ability to organize on our platform.

Said a Facebook spokesperson.

Facebook revealed that it had already removed more than 790 groups, 100 Pages and 1,500 ads tied to QAnon from Facebook, blocked over 300 hashtags across Facebook and Instagram, and imposed restrictions on over 1,950 Groups and 440 Pages on Facebook and over 10,000 accounts on Instagram.

These actions told the world that Facebook was serious about stamping out hate crimes on its platforms, and it was rewarded with a 2.6% uplift in its share price in next-day trading.
Jul 302020

Facebook shows resilience amid global turmoil

The second quarter of 2020 was difficult for most businesses, but Facebook bucked the trend by reporting 11% revenue growth, bringing its quarterly earnings to a new record of $18.7 billion.

The company announced that it had reached another milestone, with more than 3 billion people now using Facebook’s family of products around the world.

User engagement rose as national lockdowns were put in place, although Facebook said that it expected engagement to peter off as restrictions were eased.

However, Facebook’s pre-Covid problems appeared to remain. The company said that it expects to suffer “headwinds related to ad targeting and measurement, including the impact of regulation”, which could weigh on its ad prices.

In July, more than a thousand advertisers boycotted Facebook to protest the platform’s apparent lack of action when it came to censoring hate speech. However, the boycott had little impact on Facebook’s quarterly revenue from advertising, which was still ten% higher than it was during the second quarter of 2019.

Amid ongoing stock market volatility, Facebook’s ability to grow its revenue was enough to attract new investment, and the stock rose by more than 6% in after hours trading, to reach a new share price record of $253.67 the following day.
Jul 272020

Facebook reschedules Q2 results

There are not many reasons why a major corporation would reschedule its quarterly financial reports, but an appearance before Congress is as good a reason as any.

For the first time ever, Facebook announced that it was delaying its second quarter results to July 30 due to a “scheduling conflict” as CEO Mark Zuckerberg was set to provide testimony before The House Judiciary Committee on July 29.

Zuckerberg had been summoned, along with other Big Tech CEOs, to face questions on the dominance of their brands in the online market. Along with Facebook, the committee heard from Amazon, Google, Apple and Twitter.
This would be Zuckerberg’s second major appearance before US legislators – with the first taking place in 2018.

Unsurprisingly, following the announcement of the delay to the Q2 financials, Facebook’s share price fell down slightly. Any delayed financial report would likely have met this fate, but the possibility of a new Congressional grilling surely had shareholders worried about more negative headlines and advertiser backlash. Already in July, Facebook had been dealing with a mass advertising boycott, fuelled by the Stop Hate for Profit group which was protesting Facebook’s approach to hate speech on the platform.

Against this background, a share value dip was not unexpected, although Zuckerberg’s confident performance in front of Congress, and a resilient financial report helped boost the stock price over the coming days.
Jun 302020

Facebook cracks down on boogaloo groups

Following accusations of Russian interference in the 2016 US elections and 2016 Brexit referendum, Facebook pledged to crack down on hate groups and terrorism threats on the platform.

It updated its community standards to clarify its stance on “dangerous individuals and organisations”, and on June 3 2020, it took action against one US-based anti-government network affiliated with the derogatory slang word boogaloo.

This network uses the term boogaloo but is distinct from the broader and loosely-affiliated boogaloo movement because it actively seeks to commit violence. For months, we have removed boogaloo content when there is a clear connection to violence or a credible threat to public safety, and today’s designation will mean we remove more content going forward, including Facebook Groups and Pages.

Explained Facebook.

Announcing the ban, Facebook offered some insight into its “rigorous” moderating process, which included identifying an actor’s goals and whether they had a track record of offline violence.

Facebook said that it had been following the development of the boogaloo movement since 2019, and once the key actors began making violent threats or alluding to future violence, Facebook conducted a “strategic network disruption”, removing 220 Facebook accounts, 95 Instagram accounts, 28 Pages and 106 Groups.

We are stepping up our efforts against this network and know there is still more to do. We are committed to reviewing accounts, Groups, and Pages, including ones currently on Facebook, against our dangerous individuals and organizations policy.

Facebook said.

This new approach to hate speech was welcomed by shareholders, who pushed Facebook’s share price up by more than 5% in next-day trading.
Jun 222020

Facebook acquires Ready at Dawn

Facebook wasn’t going to let a global pandemic distract from its virtual reality shopping spree. In June 2020, the social network acquired California-based Ready at Dawn Studios – the creators of the Lone Echo series of VR games.

On the same day, it was announced that Microsoft would shut down its Mixer livestreaming service on July 22, and transition all users to Facebook Gaming.

Microsoft also said it would migrate its Project xCloud streaming games service to Facebook, so that gamers could play high-end games on any device via streaming technology. By partnering up, Microsoft and Facebook were making a play for the lucrative game-streaming market, in an effort to compete with Amazon’s Twitch and Google’s YouTube services.

Mike Verdu, VP of AR/VR content at Facebook, said that as part of Facebook’s Oculus team, Ready at Dawn would “continue creating memorable, immersive, and innovative VR content for gamers around the world as an independently-operated studio”. He confirmed that the entire Ready at Dawn team would be making the move to Facebook, and teased the upcoming launch of Lone Echo II.

Shareholders appeared to endorse Facebook’s aggressive approach to its gaming features, with a slight uplift in the company’s share price following the news of the acquisition.
Jun 182020

Facebook acquires Mapillary

Facebook’s acquisition of Swedish geo-mapping startup Mapillary suggested that the platform was gearing up to compete with Google Maps and Apple Maps.
The Malmo-based firm specialised in sharing crowdsourced geotagged photos, with the aim of creating a highly detailed mapping service supported by real-time imagery.

Mapillary’s co-founder and CEO Jan Erik Solem, said that under Facebook ownership, the company would “continue being a global platform for imagery, map data, and improving all maps”. He added that users would still be able to upload imagery and use map data on the platform.

Although much has happened since we first launched Mapillary, we’re still just at the beginning. So much of the world still needs to be mapped, and so many of the world’s maps still require updates. As the world changes, our maps need to change with it. Together with Facebook, we’ll be able to build the tools that will keep our maps detailed, accurate, and up to date - for everyone, everywhere.

Solem added.

This was by no means Facebook’s first foray into the world of crowdsourced geo-mapping. In May 2019, an academic paper revealed that Facebook was responsible for contributing more than 800,000km of mapped roads to OpenStreetMap - one of the largest crowdsourcing projects in history.

By onboarding of Mapillary, Facebook was demonstrating its ability to expand into every corner of the online consumer market. This was music to the ears of the company’s shareholders. The possibility of a Facebook Maps function sent the company’s share price up by more than 1% as the acquisition news made the rounds.
Jun 162020

Facebook releases Portal updates

Facebook’s flagship video-calling device got a few updates in June 2020, in response to heightened demand during the pandemic.

Created for use with Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and Zoom, Portal from Facebook was described as a smart camera, which could track the movement of the people on the call so that users always stay in the frame.

From June 16 2020, Facebook made Messenger Rooms available on Portal, to allow people to host private video calls via the hands-free Portal device.

Facebook also introduced a new functionality which allowed users to blur their background, or replace their background with a pre-selected image – a tool that many users were already using on apps such as Zoom.

Portal users could also use their devices to stream via Facebook Live, and to share photos with friends and family.

Furthermore, the period saw the addition of voice-command functionality. Users, who were already familiar speaking to devices like Amazon’s Alexa, could simply say ‘Hey Portal’ to connect with their Facebook-powered device.

The Portal updates appeared to tap into a captive market for voice-activated, smart video technology. With billions of people forced to stay at home, the use of products such as Zoom and Teams was booming, and Facebook had all the technology in place to compete with these brands.

However, shareholders did not seem too impressed, keeping Facebook’s share price around the $235 mark even after the updates were announced.
Jun 022020

Facebook allows users to archive or delete activity

As part of its latest effort to promote transparency, Facebook introduced the ability to archive and even delete previous posts.

The Manage Activity tool was initially made available on the Facebook mobile app and Facebook Lite. It allowed users to move old posts to the trash and to archive content that they no longer wished to see on their timeline.

Whether you’re entering the job market after college or moving on from an old relationship, we know things change in people’s lives, and we want to make it easy for you to curate your presence on Facebook to more accurately reflect who you are today. The archive feature is for content you no longer want others to see on Facebook, but that you still want to keep for yourself. For example, you could archive a post you made when you were in high school that you still find amusing but that you’d rather not be seen by anyone else on Facebook.

Said Facebook, in a blog post explaining the new function.

Any deleted content would sit in a trash folder for 30 days before being deleted, unless the user decided to manually delete or restore them before then.

Manage Activity would also allow users to view and manage posts in bulk, and to use filters to find and edit posts from specific people or from a chosen date range.

While the new feature was welcomed by Facebook users, shareholders were less enthused. The company’s share price dipped slightly after the announcement.
Unsplash / Austin Distel
May 262020

Digital wallet Novi launched

Before the launch of digital wallet Novi, Facebook had been teasing a crypto product for several years. The digital currency would be provisionally called Libra, and it would be held in a digital wallet called Calibra.

However, in May 2020, Facebook announced a rebrand of the digital wallet, and introduced Novi to the world as a “new name and brand for the digital wallet that will help people send and hold Libra digital currencies”.

The Novi wallet would make sending money as easy as sending a message. Facebook said that it would be launched as a standalone app, as well as a feature within the Messenger and WhatsApp brands.

Novi users would be verified using government-issued ID, and there would be no hidden charges to add, send, receive or withdraw money.

Unlike other digital wallets, transfers would arrive instantly.

Our hope is to introduce an early version of Novi when the Libra network is available. We’ll roll it out in an initial set of countries, with features that will make cross-border money transfers instant, secure, and with no hidden fees.

Said David Marcus, head of Novi.

However, progress would be slow. Libra was later rebranded as Diem and the launch was repeatedly delayed due to regulatory scrutiny.

Facebook’s shareholders appeared wary of the currency roll-out and rebranding efforts, as the company’s share price slipped to a week-long low.
May 192020

Facebook fined $6.5 million by Canada

The Cambridge Analytica scandal continued to haunt Facebook more than two years after a whistle blower revealed the extent to which user data had been compromised.

This time, it was Canada’s government which was criticising the platform. In May 2020, Canada fined Facebook C$9 million ($6.5 million) as part of a settlement over the company's handling of users' personal information between August 2012 and June 2018.
Canada's Competition Bureau said that "the company made false or misleading claims about the privacy of Canadians' personal information on Facebook and Messenger", adding that Facebook must also pay a C$500,000 surcharge to cover the costs of the Bureau’s investigation.

In a familiar refrain, Facebook said that it did not agree with the findings, but that it would settle the case in the interests of resolving the matter.

The ruling did not appear to have much of an impact on Facebook’s share values, which had been on a steady climb over the previous month, as more and more people turned to social media to stay connected during the Covid-19 pandemic. For Facebook, this may have been seen as a sign that the news cycle had moved on. After more than two years of apologies, congressional hearings, multi-billion dollar fines and privacy updates, it was starting to feel like the Cambridge Analytica scandal was finally over.
May 192020

Facebook Shops launched

By May 2020, with global lockdowns ongoing, small businesses were struggling. So the time was right to launch Facebook Shops.

Like Facebook’s Marketplace, Facebook Shops was intended to make buying and selling online easier.

The Shops function also showed how Facebook planned to monetise its family of apps, by making it easier to buy directly via Instagram and Facebook, and by advertising via Stories as well as traditional ads.

Facebook also used this opportunity to introduce live shopping, and interactive chat boxes, to better mimic the experience of real-life shopping.

The platform told users that it planned to test ways to make it easier to earn rewards with businesses by allowing them to connect their loyalty programmes to their Facebook accounts.

We hope these tools can relieve some of the pressure small businesses are facing right now and help businesses of all sizes prepare for the future.

The platform said.

Facebook product manager George Lee told reporters that the Shops function had been in the pipeline for at least six months, but the Covid-19 pandemic meant that the company accelerated and expanded the roll-out.

We're in a unique position to be able to contribute to the survival of a bunch of these businesses.

Said Lee.

Shareholders seemed impressed at Facebook’s ability to meet the challenges of a global pandemic, and introduce new revenue streams while offering a service that would help both businesses and consumers. The following day, Facebook’s share price shot up by approximately 6%.
May 152020

Facebook acquires Giphy

Not even a global pandemic could stall Facebook’s acquisition habit.

In mid-May, it was announced that the company had agreed to buy image sharing platform Giphy for a reported $400 million. This would make it Facebook’s fifth largest acquisition.
Axios reported that the two companies first began talking prior to the pandemic, although that was more about a partnership than an acquisition.

As the name suggests, Giphy operated a web-based animated gif search engine which was already popular across a number of different social apps, including Facebook.

However, the deal would quickly face regulatory scrutiny, with both US Congress and the UK government raising competition concerns around the purchase.

Announcing the deal, Vishal Shah, VP of product at Instagram pointed out that half of Giphy’s traffic already comes from the Facebook family of products – half of that from Instagram alone.

By bringing Instagram and Giphy together, we can make it easier for people to find the perfect gifs and stickers in Stories and Direct. Both our services are big supporters of the creator and artist community, and that will continue. Together, we can make it easier for anyone to create and share their work with the world.

Said Shah.

In the immediate aftermath of the acquisition, Facebook’s share price rose slightly. However, the deal would come back to haunt the company within months, as it became subject to global antitrust investigation.
May 062020

Oversight Board members announced

After more than a year of preparation, Facebook’s Oversight Board was finally complete.

Four co-chairs and 16 other members were announced in May, as well as a brand new website and confirmation of the Oversight Board charter and bylaws.

Board members included Alan Rusbridger, former editor of the Guardian newspaper; Helle Thorning-Schmidt, former prime minister of Denmark; Sudhir Krishnaswamy, vice chancellor of the National Law School of India University; Nobel Peace Prize laureate Tawakkol Karman; and human rights advocate Evelyn Aswad.

Thorning-Schmidt was named co-chair, alongside Jamal Green, professor at Colombia Law School, Michael McConnel, a former judge of the US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit; and Catalina Botero-Marino, an alternate judge of the Colombian Constitutional Court.

Facebook said the members of the Oversight Board were chosen to represent diverse professional, cultural, political, and religious backgrounds and viewpoints.

We expect them to make some decisions that we, at Facebook, will not always agree with – but that’s the point: they are truly autonomous in their exercise of independent judgment. We also expect that the board’s membership itself will face criticism. But its long-term success depends on it having members who bring different perspectives and expertise to bear.

Said Nick Clegg, Facebook’s VP of global affairs and communications.

Facebook’s shareholders appeared to be happy with the board selection, boosting the company’s share price by approximately 1% after the members were revealed.
Apr 292020

Facebook meets Covid-19

The Covid-19 pandemic hit all businesses differently in the first quarter of 2020. For Facebook, user engagement was up, but advertising volumes petered off during the last three weeks of the quarter as the global economy shut down.

Covid also presented an opportunity for Facebook to win back the trust of its users after years of privacy and data sharing issues.

In its first quarter report, Facebook announced that it was

Supporting the global public health community's work to ensure everyone has access to accurate information.

It launched a Covid-19 information centre to provide real-time information to users, and donated $25 million to support healthcare workers on the front lines.

But shareholders were more concerned with the effect that a global pandemic might have on Facebook’s bottom line.

By the end of March 2020, Facebook’s revenues were up by 18% year-on-year, totalling $17.7 billion for the quarter.

After the previous year’s first quarter profits were distorted by regulatory fines, the first quarter of 2020 saw profits rise by a massive 102% to $4.9 billion. User engagement was also up, after months of flatlining user stats. Almost three billion people were using Facebook’s family of products in the first quarter of the year, an increase of 11% year-on-year.

However, the company warned that the pandemic would take its toll in the months ahead, saying that it would not provide specific revenue guidance for the second quarter or full-year 2020, although it added that it has seen signs of stability reflected in the first three weeks of April, where advertising revenue was largely flat year-on-year.

Shareholders showed their confidence in Facebook’s ability to navigate the pandemic, boosting the stock price by approximately 10%.
Apr 242020

Messenger Rooms launched

As the world went into lockdown, more and more people turned to digital media to stay connected with loved ones.

Facebook was quick to capitalise on this growing trend, and introduced Messenger Rooms as a “new way to spend time with friends and family through group video calls when you can’t be together in person”.

Messenger Rooms was the first Facebook product of the Covid-19 era – created specifically with connectivity and privacy in mind.

The idea was Zoom-like in its simplicity. The person who creates the room controls the settings for who can join, how easy a room is to find and whether to enable or share. Rooms could be locked or unlocked, participants could be removed, and room names could be reported if any troubling behaviour is witnessed.

Facebook said that it would soon roll out the function to its other brands, Instagram and WhatsApp.

In a sign of the platform’s ongoing commitment to user privacy, Facebook specifically stated “we don’t watch or listen to your audio or video calls” – perhaps an allusion to then-widespread complaints that rival platform Tik Tok was listening to its users.

Facebook’s foray into private video chatting did not do much for the company’s stock price, which dipped slightly during the next trading day.
Apr 212020

Facebook invests $5.7 billion in Jio Platforms

Facebook doesn’t have the best track record when it comes to improving its connectivity in India. Four years earlier, India blocked Facebook’s ‘Free Basics’ internet service in favour of net neutrality. This sparked a nasty war of words in which a Facebook board member made made some offensive comments about India on his Twitter account.

But in April 2020, Facebook finally made inroads into the subcontinent market through a multi-billion dollar investment in Jio Platforms – India’s largest 4G network.

Facebook’s $5.7 billion investment made it Jio’s largest minority shareholder, and offered access to Jio’s 338 million customers.

This investment underscores our commitment to India, and our excitement for the dramatic transformation that Jio has spurred in the country. We are committed to connecting more people in India together with Jio.

Said Facebook.

The focus of Facebook’s collaboration with Jio was similar to Facebook’s plan for Free Basics – to create new ways for people and businesses to operate more effectively in the growing digital economy. WhatsApp was already an incredibly popular app across India, and Facebook stated its aim to play an even larger role in everyday life across the subcontinent.

It was hard to ignore the huge financial potential of India’s digital market. After the investment was announced, Facebook’s stock went up by 7%, making up for some of the losses the company had incurred since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Apr 202020

Zuckerberg says data can fight Covid-19

In an op-ed published in Washington Post, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg explained how data can be used to help fight the spread of Covid-19.

Better data can help governments determine where to send resources such as ventilators and personal protective equipment — and eventually which areas are safe to start opening up again.

He said.

He pointed out that Facebook’s global reach placed it in the perfect position to help researchers and health authorities get the information they need to respond to the outbreak and start planning for the recovery. He also used the op-ed to promote Facebook’s new Covid-tracking tools, which included symptom checkers and data on the spread of the virus.

This is work that social networks are well-situated to do. By distributing surveys to large numbers of people whose identities we know, we can quickly generate enough signal to correct for biases and ensure sampling is done properly.

Zuckerberg said.

Facebook labelled this initiative “data for good” in a pointed reference to the company’s past battles with regulators and legislators over the way in which user data is stored and used. Less than a year earlier, Zuckerberg was on a ‘transparency tour’ where he apologised for Facebook’s numerous data breaches and promoted its new privacy tools. Now, this same data could be used to save lives and consolidate Facebook’s position as an essential part of modern life.
Mar 312020

Covid-19 leads to global lockdowns

By the end of March 2020, the BBC was reporting that three in four Americans were under some form of lockdown as the Covid-19 pandemic took hold.
Millions of people were unable to work due to local and national restrictions, millions more were asked to work from home, while travel had become almost impossible for most people. The economic impact was instant, with stock markets crashing and governments rushing to implement financial support measures. Much harder to measure was the sense of fear and uncertainty about the future. No one could predict how long the pandemic might last, or what its impact might be.

In the meantime, more and more people were falling seriously ill and dying, often away from their loved ones.

This meant that more people were using online tools than ever before. Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram experienced huge spikes in use, while newer brands such as Zoom, TikTok and Houseparty started to carve out their own place in the global connectivity market.

Facebook quickly added a Covid-19 information button on its app, and the company made sure that its users and investors knew exactly what the platform was doing to manage usage spikes and keep its users safe and online.

While the company’s share price was not immune to the widespread market crashes of March, by the end of the month its share price had begun ticking back up again, as opportunistic investors realised that social networking was about to become a lot more important, and existing shareholders put their faith in the company’s ability to weather the crisis.
Mar 262020

Robert M Kimmitt appointed as lead independent director

It was musical chairs in Facebook’s boardroom in March 2020, with a series of surprise departures and arrivals taking place within days of each other.

Less than two weeks after the resignation of Kenneth Chenault, Facebook’s board welcomed a new addition.

Former deputy secretary of the Treasury Robert M. Kimmitt was appointed to the company's board of directors as lead independent director – a role which had been left vacant since the departure of Dr Susan Desmond-Hellman five months earlier.

At the same time, Jeffrey D. Zients, CEO of The Cranemere Group told his fellow board members that he would not stand for re-election at the 2020 annual meeting of stockholders.

Zients had been with Facebook since 2018, and said that he was leaving to devote more time to his business and other professional engagements. The press suggested that his decision to leave came amid disagreements with how the social media platform handled misinformation. He would go on to accept a position in President Biden’s administration as White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator.

Meanwhile, Zuckerberg welcomed Kimmitt to the team, describing him as “a leader who can bring significant oversight and governance experience.”

But Kimmitt’s appointment could not assuage shareholder concerns about the high turnover on Facebook’s board. The company’s share price dipped by more than 4% the following day, marking the end of a difficult first quarter for the company.
Mar 242020

Facebook responds to Covid-19

March 2020 will forever be synonymous with a particular type of existential dread. The Covid-19 virus had been spreading silently around the world for months, and each new outbreak confirmed that this was one of the deadliest and most infections diseases that the modern world had ever experienced.

By March 24 2020, Covid-19 cases had been recorded in almost every country, leading to national lockdowns in Italy, Ireland, New Zealand, and many other countries and regions. These lockdowns sparked a stock market crisis, with stock markets around the world crashing amid the uncertainty.

Facebook’s stock price was not immune to the madness, with its share price bottoming out at a year-long low of $137.

By Alex Schultz, Facebook’s VP of analytics, and Jay Parikh, VP of engineering were quick to reassure investors and platform users that Facebook was doing everything in its power to keep its services stable and reliable during the outbreak. They revealed that Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram had seen an enormous spike in traffic since the start of the year, as families and friends around the world used social media tools to keep in touch with each other.

The usage growth from Covid-19 is unprecedented across the industry, and we are experiencing new records in usage almost every day. We’re monitoring usage patterns carefully, making our systems more efficient, and adding capacity as required.

Said Schultz and Parikh.
Mar 132020

Kenneth Chenault leaves board

Just as some stability appeared to be returning to Facebook’s board, another director departed.

Kenneth Chenault, the chairman and managing director of venture capital firm General Catalyst, told Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg that he would not stand for re-election at the company’s 2020 annual meeting of stockholders.

Chenault had been a board member for more than two years. His departure came just days after Nancy Killefer and Tracey T Travis were appointed to the board.
In a statement on the Facebook blog, Chenault said that he was stepping down to pursue:

Once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work more closely with my friend Warren Buffett, the Berkshire Hathaway board and the management team. I also believe good corporate governance entails limiting the number of board commitments for any director.

However, behind the schemes, there were reports that Chenault had left following a series of disagreements with Zuckerberg. Chenault was believed to have been disappointed with Zuckerberg’s decision not to fact-check political ads.

If true, this would represent another example of Zuckerberg’s management style causing long-serving senior staff to leave. This understandably spooked investors. By the following day, Facebook’s stock had tumbled by a massive 14% to reach a 14-month low of $146.
Mar 092020

Nancy Killefer and Tracey T Travis added to board

Facebook spent Q1 of 2020 working to fill its empty board seats. Dropbox CEO and co-founder Drew Houston was added to the board in February, and just a few weeks later, Facebook welcomed Nancy Killefer and Tracey T Travis to its board.

Killefer was a former executive at consultancy firm McKinsey, and she had spent years working at the US Treasury department under the Obama administration. Between 2002 and 2004, she served as chair of the IRS Oversight Board, making her well-placed to advise on any tax issues which Facebook may encounter.

Travis’ background was similarly prestigious, with years of experience as CFO and executive VP of The Estée Lauder Companies under her belt. Travis had also sat on the board of Accenture plc since 2017.

The two new board appointments meant that Facebook’s board was now 40% female. Eight years earlier, when Facebook’s stock first became public, the company’s board had no women at all.

Nancy brings a great deal of private and public sector experience to this position. She's held a number of senior roles in the U.S. government and was a leader at McKinsey for many years.

Said Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Tracey has a strong finance and corporate leadership background, not just in her role as CFO at The Estée Lauder Companies, but also serving on the board at Accenture. We have a lot we need to get done in the coming years and I think their experience is going to be very valuable. They're both very accomplished business leaders and I'm looking forward to working with them.

More importantly, the appointments brought to an end a year-long board reshuffle, which saw Dr Susan Desmond-Hellmann, Reed Hastings, and Erskine Bowles all depart for various reasons.

Shareholders appeared delighted with the new board members, and they helped push Facebook’s stock value up by more than 5% in response.
Feb 252020

Facebook acquires Sanzaru Games

Oculus made its second major acquisition in three months when it purchased virtual reality game developer Sanzaru Games. Sanzaru was the company behind the hit game Asgard’s Wrath, and was one of the first companies to develop games for the Oculus back when it launched in 2016.

In December 2019, Facebook bought the Prague-based VR game studio Beat Games, the creators of the popular Beat Saber game.

For years, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg had been pushing VR as a future focus for Facebook, and it appeared that 2020 would be the year that Facebook ramped up its VR capabilities. In fact, even within the Sanzaru acquisition announcement, Oculus hinted that more VR-themed acquisitions could be announced soon.

We’re exploring many ways to accelerate VR, and 2020 is going to be an incredible year for VR game launches and announcements. We are thrilled to have Sanzaru joining our team. This is just one of the many amazing VR announcements we have in store this year.

Said Mike Verdu, Oculus’ head of content.

Following the acquisition announcement, Facebook’s stock rose slightly. However, by late February 2020 any stock movements would have been tempered by the growing unease over the rapidly-spreading Covid-19 virus.
Feb 162020

Zuckerberg calls for more Big Tech oversight

Some industry onlookers may have been surprised to hear Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg call for more regulation of Big Tech platforms like his own. But of course, when Zuckerberg spoke about Big Tech regulation, he had his own idea of how that might work.

In an article for the Financial Times, and an accompanying white paper on the subject, Zuckerberg laid out his idea of what regulation should look like.

In the FT article, he specifically called for regulation in four areas: elections, harmful content, privacy and data portability. But the white paper went a step further, tackling complex issues such as global connectivity, freedom of expression, and the constant evolution of new technology.

We have to balance promoting innovation and research against protecting people’s privacy and security.

Zuckerberg said.

Of course, Facebook was already working on its own solution to the issue of regulation. Last year, the company announced that it was creating an Oversight Board of experts who would help to police content and hear appeals over Facebook actions.

This in-house regulator had not even been set up yet, but it had already attracted plenty of criticism. Despite this, Facebook’s shareholders were clearly impressed by Zuckerberg’s forward-thinking approach to platform governance, and the company’s share price rose slightly in the wake of his article.
Feb 122020

WhatsApp reaches 2 billion users

WhatsApp was famously acquired by Facebook for a record $19 billion. Six years after that deal was closed, WhatsApp reached its 2 billion user milestone.

Just a few months earlier, Facebook had introduced new branding which distinguished the Facebook group of companies from the Facebook social media app. This new milestone proved that there was more to Facebook than likes and shares. Now, the company’s suite of social media products had the eyes of billions of users across the world – even if they weren’t using Facebook’s flagship app.

The Facebook group took the opportunity to once more highlight its commitment to user privacy, across all of its apps.

We know that the more we connect, the more we have to protect. As we conduct more of our lives online, protecting our conversations is more important than ever. That is why every private message sent using WhatsApp is secured with end-to-end encryption by default.

Said a company spokesperson.

WhatsApp’s latest milestone helped to push Facebook’s share price up by several points, as the Facebook group showed that there was more to it than just one, scandal-hit app.
Feb 082020

Scape Technologies acquisition

Facebook’s latest acquisition flew somewhat under the radar, and was only spotted when journalists changed across a regulatory filing.

According to a Companies House update, by early February 2020 Facebook was the majority owner of London-based startup Scape Technologies.

Facebook eventually released a statement on the deal, simply saying:

We acquire smaller tech companies from time to time. We don’t always discuss our plans.

So why the secrecy? Scape Technologies was indeed a small company, although it had completed a successful $8 million fundraising round just a year earlier. Some reports suggested that Facebook may have paid as much as $40 million for Scape’s team and technology.

The company’s technology specialised in location accuracy using computer vision which goes beyond the capabilities of GPS. They called this VPS, or ‘Visual Positioning Service’.

The technology had primarily been used in augmented reality apps, but it had the potential to enable any machine equipped with a camera to understand its surroundings. Scape’s ‘Vision Engine’ would act as a large-scale mapping pipeline which could create 3D maps from video and images. This feature could compliment some of Facebook’s augmented reality and virtual reality plans, and signified that this was going to be an area of focus for the company going forward.
Feb 032020

Drew Houston appointed to board

Dropbox co-founder and CEO Drew Houston was appointed to the board, replacing Netflix CEO Reed Hastings who left in May 2019. The board had been operating below capacity since the departure of lead independent director Dr. Susan Desmond-Hellmann in October.

Houston founded Dropbox in 2007 with Arash Ferdowsi, and the pair grew it into a global cloud-based service used by 600 million people, including 13 million paying subscribers. However, market onlookers were quick to point out his other major selling point: his close friendship with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Announcing Houston’s appointment, Zuckerberg praised his ability to “think deeply about where technology is going and how to build a culture that delivers services that always work well." This statement hinted at the culture war within Facebook, which had led to a number of high-profile resignations over the previous couple of years. In late 2018 and again in early 2019 Facebook’s shareholders had tried – and failed – to remove Zuckerberg from his position as chairman of the board. The appointment of an ally suggested that he would not be going anywhere any time soon.

It's been inspiring to watch Facebook grow into a platform that reaches billions of people around the world. I'm looking forward to working with Mark and the rest of the Board on the many opportunities and challenges ahead.

Said Houston.
Flickr / TechCrunch
Jan 292020

Slow growth drags on share values

Facebook’s reputation has taken a beating over the past few years, and the consequences of its various privacy scandals were plain to see in its fourth quarter and full year earnings for 2019.

Profit growth slowed substantially over the course of the year, with net income of $18.49 billion - 16% lower than the $22 billion profit earned in 2018.

Expenses rose from $30.9 billion in 2018 to $46.7 billion for 2019, which reflected a year of fines, marketing campaigns, and investment in enhanced privacy measures.

Revenue growth slowed, as predicted by CFO David Wehner earlier in the year. Facebook earned $21.08 billion in the fourth quarter of the year, and $70.69 billion across the whole of 2019 – an increase of 25% quarter-on-quarter, and 27% year-on-year. By contrast, at the end of 2018, revenue had grown by 37%, and by the end of 2017 it had logged a 47% annual revenue increase.

In an earnings call, Wehner said that he expected regulatory and privacy headwinds to continue to impact the company in the year ahead. He also cautioned that the pace of its growth was always going to slow, almost eight years after the company’s IPO.

We expect our year-over-year total reported revenue growth rate in Q1 to decelerate by low-to-mid single digit percentage points as compared to our Q4 growth rate

Wehner said.

Factors driving this deceleration include the maturity of our business as well as the increasing impact from global privacy regulation and other ad targeting related headwinds.

Prior to the earnings announcement, Facebook’s shares had been trading at an all-time high of $223.23. By the following day, the company’s stock price had dropped by more than 7%, although share values remained (just) above the $200 mark.
Jan 282020

Thomas Hughes appointed first director of Oversight Board administration

Facebook promised that it would start appointing members to its Oversight Board in early 2020, and it was true to its word. By the end of January, the first board member had been announced.

Thomas Hughes – a well-known freedom of expression activist - was named the board’s first director of Oversight Board administration.

Hughes had spent the previous six years as executive director for Article 19, a non-governmental organisation which fights for freedom of expression and digital rights worldwide.

In his new role, Hughes would lead the board’s administrative staff and ensure that the board’s rules were being upheld.

Speaking to journalists after the hiring announcement, Hughes said that the new job aligned with what he had been doing over the previous couple of decades, which is “promoting the rights of users and freedom of expression.”

Intended to exist independently of Facebook, the Oversight Board would hear cases relating to offensive content on Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp.

In a note on its website, Facebook said that it would announce more board members and trustees as the company and Hughes continued to hire staff.

Hughes’ appointment was met with interest by the media and shareholders alike. Following the announcement, Facebook’s share price benefitted from an uplift of almost 3%.
Wikimedia commons / Maina Kiai
Dec 302019

Facebook faces another $1.64 million fine

Facebook ended an expensive year with yet another fine – again, related to the historical Cambridge Analytica scandal.

This time, the fine came from Brazil, which imposed the maximum cash penalty allowable – 6.6 million reais, or $1.64 million.

The fine came after Brazil’s Ministry of Justice and Public Security said that data relating to 443,000 Brazilian Facebook users was used for "at the very least, questionable" purposes.

Facebook responded by reiterating its familiar message - that it was focused on protecting user’s privacy, and took transparency very seriously.

By now, this was a well-honed apology, coming at the end of a year that saw $5 billion paid out to the FTC, $100 million to the SEC, £500,000 to the UK’s ICO, and the possibility of another $2.2 billion from the EU regulator.

For shareholders, the concern was not around the cost of the fines, but the impact on Facebook’s global reputation. With each new story about the Cambridge Analytical data breach, Facebook users were being reminded once again that their private details could have been placed at risk.

Regardless, Facebook ended 2019 on a relative high note, with its stock price reaching a record $205.
Dec 202019

Facebook acquires Packagd

Facebook has historically made its money from advertisers, but this decision has often led to criticism over the years, particularly around the way in which Facebook shares user information with third parties.
Across 2019, the social network appeared to show that it was open to creating new revenue streams, via gaming channels, live streaming features, and online shopping.

The acquisition of Packagd showed the company’s commitment to growing its shopping features, and gave it the power to make online shopping transactions faster and easier.

Before the acquisition, Packagd had been focused on enabling users to make direct purchases of products via live-stream, unboxing-type videos. It was reported that Facebook intended to use the technology to build a new live shopping feature within its Marketplace product.

Bloomberg revealed that Packagd’s 5-person team had already joined Facebook, suggesting that takeover discussions had been completed well before the news became public.

Earlier in the month, it was revealed that Facebook had already begun trialling a livestreaming shopping feature with users in Thailand. This live shopping experience would be rolled out globally the following year.

Following news of the deal, Facebook’s share price ticked up very slightly.
Dec 182019

Facebook acquires PlayGiga

Facebook signalled its interest in the video gaming market with its latest acquisition – a Madrid-based cloud video gaming company. Spanish media reported that the deal was worth €70 million, or approximately $78 million, but Facebook declined to comment on the financial terms of the deal.

PlayGiga was founded in 2013 and once ran its own European cloud gaming service.

We are excited to announce that the PlayGiga team is moving on to something new. We are continuing our work in cloud gaming, now with a new mission. We want to thank all of our partners and customers for their support over the years.

The company said in a statement.

Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg has made no secret of his love for virtual reality gaming, with the Facebook-owned Oculus Quest being rolled out earlier in the year.

With PlayGiga, Zuckerberg was telling shareholders that Facebook saw a future in VR gaming and other cloud-based gaming options. Earlier in the year, Facebook had added its Gaming hub to the main navigation menu, making it easier for users to tap into the platform’s livestreaming service and follow gaming pages. By the time of the PlayGiga acquisition, Facebook claimed that its gaming business had more than 700 million monthly users.

The acquisition seemed to reassure shareholders that the platform was focusing on the right things. During the following day’s trading, Facebook’s stock rose by almost 2%.
Dec 052019

Ad fraud lawsuit issued

Facebook’s crackdown on fake news and potential security breaches continued, with a high-profile ad fraud case in December 2019.

The lawsuit was filed against ILikeAd Media International Company Ltd. and Chen Xiao Cong and Huang Tao for creating malware, tricking people into installing it, compromising people’s Facebook accounts and then using people’s accounts to run deceptive ads.

The defendants deceived people into installing malware available on the internet.This malware then enabled the defendants to compromise people’s Facebook accounts and run deceptive ads promoting items such as counterfeit goods and diet pills.

Said Jessica Romero, Facebook’s director of platform enforcement and litigation and Rob Leathern, director of product management, business integrity.

ILikeAd Media was also alleged to have used “celeb bait” and “cloaking” – two techniques that had become more commonplace over the previous months. Celeb bait involved using pictures of celebrities to attract more clicks on their ads. Cloaking methods were used by the defendants to deliberately disguise the true destination of the link in the ad, by showing one version of an ad’s landing page to Facebook’s systems and a different version to Facebook users.

To protect Facebook users and disrupt these types of schemes, we will continue our work to detect malicious behavior directed towards our platform and enforce against violations of our Terms and Policies. Creating real world consequences for those who deceive users and engage in cloaking schemes is important in maintaining the integrity of our platform.

Said Romero and Leathern.

Shareholders rewarded Facebook’s initiative with a modest boost to the company’s share price during the next trading day.
Nov 262019

Facebook acquires Beat Games

Another month, another VR acquisition for Facebook. Beat Games was the creator of the hit virtual reality game Beat Saber, where players swing a virtual lightsaber at blocks in time with music.

The Prague-based startup would join Facebook’s dedicated VR division, Oculus, although the Beat team was expected to remain in Czechia.

Beat Games’ accomplishments are already impressive, but Facebook and the Beat Games team know that there is so much more that can be done across VR, games, and music.

Said Mike Verdu, Oculus’ director of content.

They have only scratched the surface with Beat Saber in terms of social features, new modes, music, and more. We are thrilled to join forces to see where this talented team takes VR gaming in the future.

Verdu added that Facebook was “exploring many ways to accelerate VR” and hinted at more VR-themed acquisitions to come.

News of the acquisition pushed Facebook’s stock price up by just over 1% to pass $200 per share for the first time since July.
Nov 132019

Transparency report released

Facebook’s latest transparency report was released in November 2019, outlining the measures which had been taken by the company in the first half of the year to promote openness across its brands.

In a dedicated post about the report, Guy Rosen, Facebook’s VP of integrity, revealed the metrics being used to assess transparency across Facebook and Instagram. These included: the prevalence of non-transparent content; how much content had to be acted on; how much of this content was detected before somebody reported to the platform; how much content has been appealed; and how much content had been restored after being taken down by Facebook.

For the first time, Instagram was included in Facebook’s transparency report, primarily focusing on four areas: child nudity and child sexual exploitation; regulated goods — specifically, illicit firearm and drug sales; suicide and self-injury; and terrorist propaganda.

The highly-detailed report explained Facebook’s reasons for banning certain types of content, and emphasised its commitment to clamping down on harmful articles and posts. In the second quarter of 2019, Rosen revealed that Facebook took action on around 2 million pieces of content – rising to 2.5 million in the third quarter of the year.

Rosen added that in the time since this latest report was completed, Facebook had expanded its reporting to include the volume of content restrictions based on local law, the number of global internet disruptions that limit access to our products and reports of intellectual property infringement.

This told users and governing bodies that Facebook was taking a hands-on approach to content moderation. More importantly, it showed that the company was keen to get ahead of any negative news cycles as another election year approached.
Unsplash / Nicholas Cappello
Nov 072019

Facebook outlines plan to protect US elections

With another closely-watched US election on the horizon, Facebook was under pressure to prove that it had learned from the mistakes of the 2016 election.

A year before the election was due to take place, Facebook outlined its strategy in a highly detailed news release authored by Guy Rosen, VP of integrity; Katie Harbath, public policy director, global elections; Nathaniel Gleicher, head of cybersecurity policy and Rob Leathern, director of product management.

We have a responsibility to stop abuse and election interference on our platform. That's why we've made significant investments since 2016 to better identify new threats, close vulnerabilities and reduce the spread of viral misinformation and fake accounts.

The executives said.

The social network pledged to fight foreign interference on its platform ahead of election day, and to increase transparency so that it was easier to understand political ads. It also said that it was working to reduce misinformation, including banning paid ads that suggest voting is useless or advise people not to vote.

Facebook pointed to a number of measures that it had taken over the previous years to fight fake news, prosecute fraudulent activity, and protect users from misinformation. This meant that the company had “built a deeper understanding of different threats and how best to counter them”, read the release.

A new feature called Facebook Protect was launched to protect the accounts of candidates, elected officials and their teams.

New measures would be introduced on both Facebook and Instagram to keep confirmed misinformation from spreading.

Time would tell if these election protecting measures would be successful. In the meantime, shareholders may have been reminded of the mistakes of the past, sending Facebook’s stock price down slightly.
Nov 042019

New company branding introduced

After a year spent paying fines, apologising to users, and pushing a new transparency message, Facebook – perhaps inevitably – announced a rebrand.

Antonio Lucio, chief marketing officer at Facebook, said that the branding update was an effort to “be clearer about the products that come from Facebook.”

Specifically, this meant launching a new logo that would be used for the Facebook group of products, including Oculus, Instagram and WhatsApp. The Facebook social networking platform would continue to use the classic ‘f’ logo.

This was an attempt to “distinguish” the Facebook company from the Facebook app, Lucio said.

People should know which companies make the products they use. This brand change is a way to better communicate our ownership structure to the people and businesses who use our services to connect, share, build community and grow their audiences.

Lucio added.

However, media commentators suggested that the company’s rebranding was an effort to ”hide how powerful it really is by not making it absolutely clear they are behind most of the biggest apps in social media” amid growing calls for antitrust laws by prominent US politicians.
Oct 302019

Facebook is fined another £500,000

Just when shareholders thought the Cambridge Analytica scandal was behind them, another fine was announced.

This time it was the UK regulator who fined Facebook £500,000 over the data breach, claiming that it placed UK citizens at risk.

James Dipple-Johnstone, deputy commissioner of the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) said that “the ICO's main concern was that UK citizen data was exposed to a serious risk of harm.”

Facebook’s lawyer stated that the company had already made changes to restrict the information that developers could access in the wake of the scandal, but added that the ICO had produced no evidence that the data of Facebook users in the EU was transferred to Cambridge Analytica.

Nonetheless, Facebook paid the fine, which was the maximum fine that the ICO was able to issue.

However, this latest fine didn’t seem to have much of an impact on Facebook’s share value. Compared with the SEC’s $100 million and the FTC’s $5 billion, the ICO’s paltry £500,000 must have seemed like loose change in comparison.

Facebook’s share price rose slightly in after-hours trading.
Oct 302019

Dr Susan Desmond-Hellman leaves board

Another board reshuffle loomed after renowned oncologist Dr. Susan Desmond-Hellmann announced that she was stepping down from the company’s board of directors, effective immediately.

Dr Desmond-Hellmann had been a member of the board for more than 6 years, and served as lead independent director since June 2015.

In a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Dr Desmond-Hellmann said that she was stepping down due to the increasing demands of her position as CEO at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, her extended family, and her own health.

I remain positive about Facebook and the mission to give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together. Facebook’s shareholders require a Board of Directors that is fully engaged and committed to address the critical issues confronting Facebook at this time.

She said.

Zuckerberg paid tribute to Dr Desmond-Hellman’s “wonderful and thoughtful voice” and thanked her for all she had done for the company.

He said that her replacement would be announced in due course.

Shareholders did not seem too concerned about the departure, as the share price of the company continued its steady uptick in the days after the announcement.
Flickr / Brainstorm Health
Oct 302019

Share price gets a boost after Q3 results

Facebook has always been good at maintaining user growth, even when battling public relations crises and regulatory fines. But for the first time this year, the company was able to report year-on-year growth across every metric.

Monthly user volumes rose by 8%, while quarterly revenue grew by 29% over the third quarter of 2018. More importantly, Facebook was able to get its spending under control after a year of multi-billion-dollar fines and legal expenses.

Profits for the quarter were up by 19%, year on year, topping $6 billion. By comparison, in Facebook's first and second quarterly reports of the year, profits were lower than they had been during the same time frames in 2018.

In a company earnings call, CFO David Wehner said that he expects Facebook’s revenue growth deceleration in 2020 to be “much less pronounced” than it had been in 2019.

Shareholders breathed a sigh of relief and sent Facebook’s stock price up by approximately 3%.
Oct 252019

Facebook News launched

After years of fake news investigations and source analysis, Facebook decided to take matters into its own hands by launching Facebook News.

In a post on the company website, Campbell Brown, VP, global news partnerships and Mona Sarantakos, product manager, news, laid out its mission statement.

Journalism plays a critical role in our democracy. When news is deeply-reported and well-sourced it gives people information they can rely on. When it’s not, we lose an essential tool for making good decisions.

Said Brown and Sarantakos.

Facebook News would give people more control over the types of news stories that they see. Initially rolled out on a test basis to US users, Facebook News aimed to collate and display personalised news stories to each user, based on the news that they already read, shared and followed.

A team of journalists would work with Facebook to determine the best sources for different topics of news. Furthermore, users would be able to migrate their paid news subscriptions to their Facebook accounts to further personalise the experience. New controls would be added to allow users to hide the topics and publishers that they don’t want to see.

Facebook News was built to bring people closer to the stories that affect their lives. We’ll continue to learn, listen and improve News as it rolls out more broadly. We hope this work aids in our effort to sustain great journalism and strengthen democracy.

Said Brown and Sarantakos.

Following the announcement, Facebook’s share price rose by around 1%.
Oct 172019

Zuckerberg speaks out on free speech

Speaking at the prestigious Georgetown University, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg took the opportunity to advocate for free speech…and promote Facebook while he did so.

The 30-minute talk revealed details about Facebook’s new transparency-first policy. Zuckerberg argued that in order to make sure everyone has a voice, people should:

1) Write policy that helps the values of voice and expression triumph around the world,
2) Fend off the urge to define speech we don’t like as dangerous, and
3) Build new institutions so companies like Facebook aren’t making so many important decisions about speech on their own.

I’ve focused on building services to do two things: give people voice, and bring people together. These two simple ideas — voice and inclusion — go hand in hand.

Zuckerberg said.

He went on to say that the concept of free speech was being increasingly challenge, a clear reference to Facebook’s recent barrage of media and political scrutiny. He used the rest of the speech to make the case for freedom of speech for everyone, citing historical precedents and social movement such as Black Lives Matter and #MeToo. He claimed that Facebook’s engineers had taken down 99% of offensive content on the platform, and said that he is committed to enforcing the platform’s existing policies, not broadening its definition of what is dangerous.

If we do this well. We should be able to stop a lot of harm while fighting back against putting additional restrictions on speech.

He said.

The media described the Georgetown speech as another stop on Zuckerberg’s “transparency tour”, with the CEO described as being “defiant” in the face of criticism.

During the following day’s trading, Facebook’s share price dropped by more than 3%, suggesting that shareholders remained as unconvinced as the media.
Oct 072019

Facebook faces $40 million fraud fine

Facebook was on the receiving end of another multi-million dollar fine, after several advertising agencies revealed that that the social network had agreed to pay $40 million to settle a class action lawsuit which alleged that the social media giant was overstating the average amount of time that its users spent watching video content.

The average viewership metrics were not inflated by only 60%-80%; they were inflated by some 150%-900%.

The complaint stated.

The advertisers alleged that Facebook’s exaggerated claims amounted to unfair competition law, breaching contract, and committing fraud.

Facebook denied all the allegations. After settling the suit for $40 million, the platform said that it maintained that the suit was “without merit”.

The fact that the lawsuit centred around video engagement was significant for Facebook’s reputation. For several years, Zuckerberg had pushed video integration – particularly via mobile devices – as a major source of ad revenue. If the platform had been lying about its actual viewer figures, as alleged in the class action suit, that could have a significant impact on the company’s ad sales.

This was not lost on Facebook’s shareholders. As news of the settlement came out, Facebook’s share price began to slip.
Sep 232019

CTRL-labs acquisition

With its CTRL-Labs acquisition, Facebook officially entered the mind-control market. Well, sort of.

CTRL-Labs had spent four years developing software which lets people control a digital avatar using only their thoughts. The system used a bracelet to measure the neuron activity in a person’s arm to work out what they are thinking about, even if they aren’t actually moving.

Bloomberg reported that Facebook paid between $500 million and $1 billion for the company, which would have made it one of the company’s most significant acquisitions.

A couple of months after the deal was made public, CTRL-Labs CEO Thomas Reardon predicted that neural interfaces could become the norm in as little as five years. He told reporters that the technology would enable people to use the power of thought to control technology.

This idea of being able to decode neural activity in real time and translate that into control. So, your body does it. Each cascading series of neurons are different layers, say in the cortex, and then they send output to the spinal cord. Each set of neurons is interpreting the set before it. And in some millisecond timescale, turning that into a final action.

Reardon said.

Facebook has made no secret of its interest in virtual reality, artificial intelligence and machine learning, and this acquisition appeared to confirm that this would be a focus for the company going forward.

CTRL-Labs would go on to join Facebook Reality Labs, where a team of researchers, developers, and engineers would use the technology to build “the future of augmented and virtual reality.”

However, the deal didn’t go down well with investors. The following day, Facebook’s share price was down by more than 3%.
Sep 172019

Facebook reveals more about its Oversight Board

Almost six months after the last Oversight Board update, Facebook revealed more details about how the enforcement board would work.

In a note to users, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg described the board as being independent of Facebook and staffed with its own board. The Oversight Board would report to a specially-created trust, which would receive its funding from Facebook.

In short, the Oversight Board was intended to act as a self-governed regulator of Facebook content.

The board will be an advocate for our community - supporting people’s right to free expression, and making sure we fulfill our responsibility to keep people safe. As an independent organization, we hope it gives people confidence that their views will be heard, and that Facebook doesn’t have the ultimate power over their expression. Just as our Board of Directors keeps Facebook accountable to our shareholders, we believe the Oversight Board can do the same for our community.

Zuckerberg wrote.

The board would be accompanied by a charter outlining its purpose, structure and appeals process. The charter also defined the board’s mandate and its relationship with Facebook.

Brent Harris, director of governance and global affairs, said that Facebook would continue testing its assumptions and ensuring the board’s operational readiness ahead of a planned launch in early 2020.
Sep 052019

Facebook Dating is launched

Facebook entered the dating market in September 2019 with the launch of Facebook Dating.

Initially offered to US-based users only, Facebook promised to make it available worldwide by early 2020.

The new dating services allowed people to integrate their Instagram posts and create secret crush lists from their follower lists. By the end of the year, the service would make it possible to add Facebook and Instagram Stories to dating profiles.

Facebook Dating makes it easier to find love through what you like — helping you start meaningful relationships through things you have in common, like interests, events and groups. It takes the work out of creating a dating profile and gives you a more authentic look at who someone is.

Said Nathan Sharp, product manager, Facebook Dating.

Sharp was careful to point out that Facebook Dating would be “safe, inclusive and opt-in” with user security and privacy a top priority. He also emphasised that dating activity will not be shared to the rest of Facebook.

The launch of the dating service brought Instagram and Facebook even closer together and gave users another reason to use Facebook services.

However, the launch had little impact on Facebook’s see-sawing share price, which dipped again after the Dating announcement.
Aug 202019

New transparency measures are introduced

After a summer of fines and political scrutiny, Facebook was keen to prove to its users and shareholders that it was a new kind of company with a focus on transparency.

Erin Egan, Facebook’s chief privacy and policy officer, and David Baser, director of product management, said that the platform was introducing new controls for users which would allow them to manage their off-Facebook activity as well as their on-Facebook activity.

This meant that for the first time, Facebook users could see and control the data that other apps and websites share with Facebook, and could even disconnect this information if they so wished.

If you clear your off-Facebook activity, we’ll remove your identifying information from the data that apps and websites choose to send us. We won’t know which websites you visited or what you did there, and we won’t use any of the data you disconnect to target ads to you on Facebook, Instagram or Messenger. We expect this could have some impact on our business, but we believe giving people control over their data is more important.

Egan and Baser explained.

The mere suggestion that Facebook’s ad revenues might suffer left shareholders worried, and sent the company’s share price on a downward trend.
Jul 242019

SEC fines Facebook $100 million and the platform reaches $5 billion agreement with FTC

During a company-wide event on July 24 2019, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg proudly announced that after months of negotiations, the company had reached an agreement with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) around how the platform will protect its users privacy and data.

This represented the end of a year-long battle between Facebook and the regulator, after the investigation was opened in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal. However, it came with a price tag. Zuckerberg revealed that Facebook would pay the FTC a $5 billion penalty, pointing out that this was “multiple times what any previous company has paid the FTC”.

Zuckerberg tried to spin the $5 billion sanction as a good thing for the company, telling his employees that it would pave the way for a new era of privacy controls at the platform.

Over the past year we’ve made large strides on privacy. We’ve given people more control over their data, closed down apps and applied more resources to protecting people’s information. But even measured against these changes, the privacy program we are building will be a step change in terms of how we handle data.

He said.

He promised a sea change at Facebook in the way it manages its data, saying that:

Transparency and accountability will be two driving concepts” going forward.

However, that same day Facebook was hit with yet another multi-million dollar fine, this time by the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The social network agreed to pay $100 million to settle a charge of “making misleading disclosures regarding the risk of misuse of Facebook user data.” Again, this fine was linked with the Cambridge Analytica data breach.

This double whammy of bad news sent Facebook’s share price down by more than 2%, as shareholders did the math on a year of international fines.
Jul 242019

Bills take their toll on Facebook’s earnings

Facebook’s second quarter earnings beat Wall Street estimates, but expenses once again ate into the company’s profits and the platform’s privacy scandal rumbled on.

Last quarter, Facebook set aside $3 billion to pay fines related to the Cambridge Analytica data breach. Another $2 billion was allocated to pay fines in the second quarter of the year. A one off tax expense of $1.1 billion also dragged on the company’s quarterly profits, which were nearly half what they were the previous year.

In June 2019, the Federal Trade Commission announced that it had opened an antitrust investigation into Facebook, and the following month the Department of Justice announced its own antitrust review.

In an earnings call, CFO David Wehner confirmed that “the privacy efforts do require significant investments obviously in compliance processes, people and technical infrastructure,” adding that this will lead to a “reallocation of resources around privacy” which will have an impact on the company’s overall product development in the future.

However, there were a few bright spots on the company’s balance sheet. Revenue rose by 28% over the previous 12 months to reach $16.9 billion, beating consensus forecasts of $16.5 billion. Customer engagement remained strong, and Facebook increased its monthly active user base by 8%, year-on-year.

These mixed results were met with a mixed response from shareholders. While the stock price ticked up slightly in after-hours trading, the following day the company’s share price had dropped by almost 2%.
Jul 162019

Facebook appears before US antitrust committee

Facebook’s director of public policy Matt Perault took his turn in the hotseat as Facebook’s representative at a US House judiciary antitrust subcommittee hearing.

Following in the footsteps of CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg before him, Perault told members of congress that Facebook was in a fiercely competitive market, which therefore meant that it did not require antitrust legislation.

In the United States and around the world, new apps enabling users to connect, discover, communicate, and share are emerging all the time. Facebook faces intense competition for all of the products and services that we provide. To name a few examples, Twitter, Snapchat, Apple, iMessage, Pinterest, Skype, Telegram, Viber, Google, YouTube, and Amazon offer photo and video sharing, messaging, advertising, and other services that compete with Facebook. And the competition we face is not just here in America. We have competitors all around the world, notably in China, including companies like WeChat and TikTok.

He said.

He described Facebook’s rise as a “quintessentially American story”, and spoke about the investments in innovation that the company had made. In short, it was a stirring advertisement for Facebook’s brand.

However, under questioning from increasingly angry senators, Facebook was accused of being “dangerous”, with plans for a new Facebook-led currency described as a “scam”.

By the end of the next day’s trading, Facebook’s share price had stumbled once again, amid growing concerns about antitrust legislation.
Jun 282019

Facebook receives $1.1 million fine from Italy

The fallout from the Cambridge Analytica scandal rumbled on in the summer of 2019, when Italy became the latest country to impose a fine on Facebook for data mishandling.

The Italian regulator found that 57 Italian Facebook users downloaded a quiz app which was ultimately used by Cambridge Analytica to scrape user data from the social network without their consent.

Italian authorities concluded that the scale of the data breach, and the fact that it occurred before GDPR rules came into action, meant that it warranted a €1 million ($1.1 million) fine.

Let’s face it - $1.1 million was pocket change for Facebook. But the public relations cost would have been much higher. Facebook was already facing multi-billion dollar fines from US and EU authorities in response to the Cambridge Analytica breach, and each new fine served to keep the scandal in the news.

Facebook hinted that it intended to appeal the ruling.

We have said before that we wish we had done more to investigate claims about Cambridge Analytica in 2015. However, evidence indicates that no Italian user data was shared with Cambridge Analytica.

Said a Facebook spokesperson.
Jun 272019

Facebook updates terms and conditions

It’s no secret that Facebook has been under increased regulatory scrutiny over the past few years, and this scrutiny resulted in a number of policy changes. The latest change was announced in mid-2019 by VP and associate general counsel Anna Benckert.

People should have clear, simple explanations of how online services work and use personal information. Today we’re announcing updates to our Terms of Service to clarify how Facebook makes money and better explain the rights people have when using our services.

Benckert said.

Benckert emphasised that the updates did not change any of the platform’s policies, but simply made it easier for users to understand why they see particular ads or posts, and how Facebook makes money.
The update was inspired by Facebook’s work with the European Consumer Protection Cooperation Network – an organisation which promotes transparency.

Facebook’s new terms and conditions included more information on how Facebook makes money through advertising; information on what happens when Facebook removes content that violates its policies; and who owns the intellectual property rights on content which has been created and shared on Facebook. It also offered more insight into what happens when content is deleted. For instance, although a deleted post may disappear instantly, many users may not have been aware that it can take up to 90 days for the data to be removed from Facebook’s systems.

This latest commitment to transparency was greeted warmly by shareholders, who pushed Facebook’s share price up by approximately 1%.
May 102019

Facebook files lawsuit against Rankwave

Facebook filed a lawsuit against the South Korean data analytics company Rankwave, claiming that it had not complied with Facebook’s data verification policies.

Rankwave ran several apps on the Facebook platform, all of which were suspended ahead of the lawsuit filing. In a statement on the company’s blog, Jessica Romero, Facebook’s director of platform enforcement and litigation, said that she hoped that the lawsuit would:

Send a message to developer that Facebook is serious about enforcing our policies, including requiring developers to cooperate with us during an investigation.

Just two weeks later, Facebook confirmed that it had settled the case, saying:

Under the settlement, Rankwave has agreed to an audit and a permanent injunction banning them from using Facebook in the future, which is what we requested from the Court during the litigation. This legal action was one of the first of its kind and demonstrates our commitment to enforcing our policies and holding developers accountable.

Interestingly, the company’s share price dropped slightly after the lawsuit was announced, but rebounded a little upon news of the settlement.
Apr 262019

Facebook fined $2.2 billion

In its first quarter 2019 earnings call, Facebook revealed that it would be setting aside $3 billion to cover the costs of an investigation by the US Securities and Exchange Commission around privacy infractions on the platform.

The following day, the company was forced to open up its check book once again, as it faced the prospect of a new $2.2 billion fine for accidentally storing hundreds of millions of people's passwords in plain text, where they could easily be accessed by members of Facebook’s staff.

This time, the fine was being issued by Ireland's Data Protection Commission (DPC) - the default privacy regulator for Facebook in Europe.

Under the terms of Europe’s GDPR data-collating rules, any firm that is in breach of the data storage regulations could be fined up to €20 million, or 4% of global annual turnover, whichever proved to be higher. For Facebook, 4% of global turnover would amount to approximately $2.2 billion.

A Facebook spokesperson said:

We are working with the IDPC on their inquiry. There is no evidence that these internally stored passwords were abused or improperly accessed.

Facebook’s shareholders did not seem too perturbed by the prospect of a new multi-billion dollar fine. While the company’s share price stuttered slightly after the investigation was announced, by the next trading day the price had stabilised around $190 per share.
Apr 242019

Facebook shrugs off scandals with buoyant Q1

Facebook used its first quarter earnings report to let investors know that everything was fine...up to $5 billion worth of fines.

The company continued to deal with the fallout of the previous year’s privacy scandals. In the European Union, there were rumours of a multi-billion euro fine for lack of compliance with the EU’s newly-introduced privacy laws. And in the US, Facebook was in the midst of a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) investigation into the platform’s user data practices.

As a result, in the first quarter of 2019, Facebook set aside $3 billion, and warned shareholders that FTC fines could run as high as $5 billion.

This meant that for the first time ever, Facebook’s profits were down on the previous year. Quarterly revenues rose by 26% on the previous year, to reach just over $15 billion. But $11 billion of expenses meant that net income for the quarter was approximately $2.41 billion, less than the $4.98 billion that was earned in profits during the first quarter of 2018.

However, shareholders were pleased to see evidence that Facebook’s reputation was on the mend – at least among its users. By the end of March 2019, Facebook had 2.38 billion active monthly users – a 2.5% increase on the previous quarter.

Facebook’s share value rose by more than 8% after the earnings report was released, as shareholders took their lead from Facebook’s user base and decided to stick around.
Apr 222019

Jennifer Newstead becomes general counsel and John Pinette becomes VP of global comms

Almost a year earlier, Facebook’s general counsel Colin Stretch announced that he planned to leave the company, and in April 2019 his replacement was finally announced. Former state department adviser Jennifer Newstead was announced as Stretch’s replacement by Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg.

Jennifer is a seasoned leader whose global perspective and experience will help us fulfil our mission. We are also truly grateful to Colin for his dedicated leadership and wise counsel over the past nine years. He has played a crucial role in some of our most important projects and has created a strong foundation for Jennifer to build upon.

Said Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s COO.

Newstead would have her work cut out for her. By April 2019, the company was in the midst of creating an Oversight Board, amid the ongoing backlash against fake news and privacy concerns.

Luckily, Newstead seemed to relish the challenge saying that she was:

Looking forward to working with the team and outside experts and regulators on a range of legal issues.

On the same day that Newstead’s appointment was announced, Facebook revealed that it had named John Pinette as vice president of global communications, taking over from Caryn Marooney, who announced her plans to leave in February.

Pinette joined Facebook from Vulcan Inc, the philanthropic, technology and business organization established by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. For five years he led the communications team at Gates Ventures, the private office and innovation lab of Bill Gates.

John’s deep understanding of the technology industry and his experience leading communications teams will be invaluable to helping us communicate the work we do at Facebook every day. We are also thankful to Caryn for her exceptional contribution to Facebook over the past eight years. She has been an inspiring and thoughtful leader to our communications team and countless others at the company. Both she and Colin will be greatly missed.

Sandberg said.
Apr 122019

Peggy Alford nominated to Facebook board

Ahead of Facebook’s annual general meeting (AGM) on May 30, the company announced its latest board nominee.

Peggy Alford was a senior vice president at payment site Paypal, and she had previously worked as chief financial officer and head of operations at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, a philanthropic organisation named after Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan.

Peggy is one of those rare people who's an expert across many different areas — from business management to finance operations to product development. I know she will have great ideas that help us address both the opportunities and challenges facing our company.

Said Zuckerberg.

Alford added that she hoped her role as a Facebook board member would help:

The company's drive and desire to face hard issues head-on while continuing to improve on the amazing connection experiences they have built over the years.

Her nomination coincided with the announcement that Erskine B. Bowles, President Emeritus, University of North Carolina and Reed Hastings, chairman and CEO of Netflix, would not be nominated for re-election at the 2019 AGM. Bowles and Hastings had both served on the board since 2011.

Alford’s abomination would make her the first African-American woman and second African-American to join the board, and followed public pressure for the social media giant to diversify its board.
Apr 012019

Call for input on Oversight Board

The impact of Facebook’s fake news crisis was felt well into 2019, and the platform was clearly keen to reassure users that it was truly committed to change. So Facebook introduced its first Oversight Board.

The Oversight Board made good on the promises made by chief executive Mark Zuckerberg a few months earlier.

Many of us got into technology because we believe it can be a democratizing force for putting power in people's hands. I've always cared about this and that's why the first words of our mission have always been "give people the power". I believe the world is better when more people have a voice to share their experiences, and when traditional gatekeepers like governments and media companies don't control what ideas can be expressed.

Zuckerberg said.

Facebook’s Oversight Board would hear cases from users about what content should stay up and what should come down. A draft charter was drawn up to better explain what the board would do. In short, it would act as an independent moderator, fielding content cases from the public and advertisers. The idea was that it would ensure that Facebook maintains accountability of its content policy and enforcement decisions.

In a message to Facebook users, Brent Harris, director of governance and global affairs, opened a public consultation so that all users could have a say in the way the board was designed. The consultation period would remain open for six weeks, and the responses would be parsed with the help of law firm Baker McKenzie.

The consultation was seen as a step in the right direction for Facebook, and the company’s share price rose by more than 3.5% after Harris’ announcement.
Mar 142019

Chief product officer Chris Cox and WhatsApp VP Chris Daniels leave

A year after the high-profile departure of WhatsApp’s two co-founders, Facebook lost two more members of its executive management.

Chief product officer Chris Cox – who was one of the original Facebook engineers – announced that he was leaving to do ‘something new, without revealing what that particular something might involve.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg confirmed that Cox had been talking about leaving for “a few years,” but stayed with the social network in order to help the company through the fake news outcry post-2016.

After 2016, we both realized we had too much important work to do to improve our products for society, and Cox stayed to help us work through these issues and help us chart a course for our family of apps going forward. At this point, we have made real progress... As we embark on this next major chapter, Chris has decided now is the time to step back from leading these teams.

Said Zuckerberg.

Cox was a 13-year veteran of Facebook, but his departure did not come as a huge shock to those in the know.

However, Chris Daniels’ decision to leave was a little more surprising. Daniels had been with Facebook since its pre-IPO days, and had recently been named VP of WhatsApp, after heading up Zuckerberg’s pet project,

Press leaks soon confirmed that Daniels left the company over a disagreement around the company’s planned unification of apps.

The departures cast a shadow over Menlo Park, and painted Facebook as Zuckerberg’s company before all else. This clearly worried shareholders, and the company’s share price dropped by almost 3% after Daniels and Cox confirmed their resignations.
Mar 052019

Zuckerberg letter promises to improve privacy

In a new note to users and shareholders, Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg outlined what the company was doing to improve privacy.

This was the latest effort by the platform to reassure users after several years of security breaches and privacy scandals.

The company declared that it was committed to allowing private interactions between users, and that these private communications should be secure via end-to-end encryption. Zuckerberg also said that the platform was working to “reduce permeance” so that people don’t have to worry about what they share coming back to hurt them later.

He went on to say that user safety was of paramount concern to the platform, and that “people should expect that we won’t store sensitive data in countries with weak records on human rights like privacy.”

This note represented a vision for the future of Facebook, post-Cambridge Analytica, and confirmed that the company was on a new path to win back user trust before anything else. It seemed to do the trick, as shareholders responded by boosting the company’s share price by around 3% in next day trading, as the company slowly started to reverse the losses of the previous year.
Feb 082019

Facebook acquires GrokStyle

GrokStyle represented Fakebook’s third AI-focused acquisition, following its purchase of Redkix and the previous year. And as we all know, three repetitions equals a trend.

So what was Facebook trying to tell its shareholders with the GrokStyle deal?

GrokStyle specialised in visual searches using machine learning and artificial intelligence. It was best known for developing technology that allowed retailers to make computer vision that helps people shop. Swedish brand IKEA had used GrokStyle’s technology on its app to allow shoppers to ‘point and shoot’ images of furniture or other household items, before using AI to match the item with a similar (or identical) item for sale
A Facebook spokesperson gave a statement saying that the GrokStyle team and technology would contribute to Facebook’s AI capabilities, suggesting that the social network saw AI as a future focus on its business.

Observers noted that GrokStyle’s computer vision systems carried the potential to be used across Facebook’s range of products, from its buy-and-sell Marketplace to content moderation. However, Facebook didn’t reveal the cost of the deal, or how it intended to use the new technology, and news of the acquisition did little to the company’s share value.
Feb 042019

Facebook acquires Chainspace

Blockchain had been a buzzword in Silicon Valley for a few years before Facebook decided to invest in the ledger technology with its Chainspace acquisition.

Often associated with Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, blockchain is a secure form of data storage, whereby key information is held in ‘blocks’ of code, which cannot be changed. This has made blockchain increasingly popular outside of the crypto universe, and by acquiring Chainspace, Facebook was getting on board the trend.

The acquisition was not accompanied by a press release from Facebook, and may have gone unnoticed if the news hadn’t been leaked by Cheddar News. It reported that the deal took the form of an acqui-hire, with Chainspace’s entire London-based team migrating to Facebook to work on its in-house blockchain development team.

According to a 2017 white paper written by Chainspace, the team aimed to create:

A distributed ledger platform for high-integrity and transparent processing of transactions within a decentralized system.

The UCL-founded startup focused on using this technology to speed up online payments, which made it a perfect fit for Facebook as it sought to diversify its income streams away from advertising.

The acquisition reignited speculation that Facebook was considering a crypto launch of its own. The social network already had a 40-person strong blockchain division, and was known to have been in talks with a number of other blockchain companies before the Chainspace deal.

Shareholders appeared to endorse this new direction for Facebook, as the company’s share price rose by approximately 1% after the deal was announced.
Jan 302019

2018 ends with bad press but good profits for Facebook

2018 was Facebook’s annus horribilis.

By the end of the year, the platform was still smarting from a series of data breaches and privacy scandals. CEO Mark Zuckerberg had appeared in front of US and European legislators and embarked on a global apology tour which involved taking out full-page ads in national newspapers.

During the second half of the year, these crises took their toll on the company’s share price. This saw values plummet as low as $124 at the end of December. In total, 25.71% was knocked off the value of Facebook’s shares in 2018, and it closed the year at $131.

In the company’s fourth quarter and full year report, Zuckerberg said that Facebook had:

Fundamentally changed how we run our company to focus on the biggest social issues. And we're investing more to build new and inspiring ways for people to connect.

But despite the bad press and endless apologies, Facebook’s financials were relatively robust. The company broke another revenue record, recording more than $55.8 billion in annual earnings and $22.12 billion in net income – a 37% and a 39% increase, respectively. In the fourth quarter alone, Facebook earned $16.9 billion and $6.88 billion in profit.

The number of active monthly users rose by 9% between 2017 and 2018. More importantly, Facebook’s users didn’t abandon the platform. 2.32 billion people continued to use the social network monthly – a 9% year-on-year increase - and 66% of them logged in daily. Significantly, Facebook managed to grow its user base in both the US and Europe, suggesting that Facebook had been forgiven for its past transgressions.

This was good news for shareholders, who sent Facebook’s share price shooting up by more than 11% in after-hours trading.

Although Facebook ended 2018 with a lower share price and changing priorities, there were plenty of reasons to believe that better days lay ahead.
Jan 242019

Facebook marks 15th anniversary

Ahead of Facebook’s 15th birthday in February 2019, the company’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg penned a note to users and shareholders, reflecting on the company’s growth and recent troubles.

When I started Facebook, I wasn’t trying to build a global company. I built a service people could use to connect and learn about each other.

He said.

He went on to reassure users that their data was safe, that any ads they see will be based on their interests, and that Facebook does not actively promote divisive or hateful content.

He also appeared to hit out at media reports, saying:

Sometimes…people assume we do things that we don’t do. For example, we don’t sell people’s data, even though it’s often reported that we do. Ultimately, I believe the most important principles around data are transparency, choice and control. We need to be clear about the ways we’re using information, and people need to have clear choices about how their information is used. We believe regulation that codifies these principles across the internet would be good for everyone.

He added.

Unfortunately, Zuckerberg’s message was overshadowed by the news that he had once killed a goat and served it to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, reinforcing the media perception of Zuckerberg as an odd, inaccessible figure in Silicon Valley – a far cry from the friendly, transparency-chasing CEO that was presented in the company’s 15th anniversary celebrations.
Jan 172019

Russian fake news removed from Facebook

By 2019, Facebook was doing everything it could to promote transparency and to reassure users that their privacy and security were of paramount concern.

For the first time, the platform started to update the public on its cybersecurity actions, tapping Nathaniel Gleicher, head of cybersecurity policy, to let users know that it had removed “multiple Pages, groups and accounts that engaged in co-ordinated authentic behavior on Facebook and Instagram.”

‘Co-ordinated authentic behaviour’ was Facebook’s chosen synonym for ‘fake news’.

Gleicher noted that the two fake news purveyors originated in Russia, with one being active in a variety of countries, while the other was specifically active in Ukraine.

We are constantly working to detect and stop this type of activity because we don’t want our services to be used to manipulate people. While we are making progress rooting out this abuse, as we’ve said before, it’s an ongoing challenge because the people responsible are determined and well funded. We constantly have to improve to stay ahead.

He said.

Gleicher added that Facebook had already shared this information with US law enforcement, the US Congress, other technology companies, and policymakers in impacted countries, in an effort to demonstrate its commitment to improving transparency.

Gleicher’s report was surprisingly detailed, offering insight into the number of pages which had been removed, the number of accounts which had been exposed to them, and the countries that had been impacted. This newfound openness suggested that Facebook had learned some valuable lessons from 2018’s barrage of Congressional hearings and media criticism.

The message seemed to reach shareholders – the following day, Facebook’s share price had risen by several points.
Nov 142018

Zuckerberg says he won’t stand down

If Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg thought 2016 was a bad year, 2018 must have felt like a nightmare. After a year of public scrutiny, data breaches and whistle-blower exposés, in November, Facebook’s investors called for company founder Zuckerberg to stand down as chairman of the board.

In early November, a New York Times report claimed that Zuckerberg had wilfully ignored signs of Russian meddling in the 2016 US election, and suggested that Facebook was covering up the extent to which its user data was being used and misused.

Zuckerberg used a CNN interview to tell the world that he was not going anywhere.

A lot of the criticism around the biggest issues has been fair, but I do think that if we are going to be real, there is this bigger picture as well, which is that we have a different world view than some of the folks who are covering us. There are big issues, and I'm not trying to say that there aren't. But I do think that sometimes, you can get the flavor from some of the coverage that that's all there is, and I don't think that that's right either.

He said.

Privately, Zuckerberg was said to have described Facebook’s 2018 press coverage as “bullshit”. But shareholders didn’t seem to agree. In the days following the interview, Facebook’s share price plummeted to $131 – a two-year low for the company.
Oct 232018

Stocks slide after Q3 earnings report

After a disastrous second quarter report, Facebook’s third quarter earnings didn’t do much to reassure investors that the company was in good order.

Earnings rose by 33% year-on-year to $13.7 billion, but this represented a significant slowdown on previous years. By comparison, at the end of 2017 Facebook’s revenue was up by 49% year-on-year.

Quarterly profits reached $5.14 billion – a 9% rise on the previous year. However, the profits recorded for the third quarter of 2017 represented a massive 79% year-on-year increase, making 2018’s efforts seem paltry by comparison.

User growth also appeared to have stalled, even though the platform’s monthly active user base grew to 2.27 billion – up from 2.23 billion the previous quarter. Despite a bruising summer filled with data leaks and security breaches, Facebook still managed to attract another four million users.

However, shareholders weren’t so sure about CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s latest plans for the company’s future. He used the third quarter earnings announcement to cement Facebook’s new focus on private messaging and stories, sparking concerns about the impact this might have on ad revenues.

By the following day, Facebook’s share price had dropped by 5%.
Oct 182018

Nick Clegg named as new comms chief

Eyebrows were raised when Facebook revealed its latest headline-grabbing hire. Sir Nick Clegg was named head of Facebook’s global affairs and communications team, replacing Elliot Schrage. His appointment was met with surprise in the UK, where Clegg was best known as the former head of the Liberal Democrat party, and former deputy prime minister under the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government from 2010-2015.

In an op-ed in the Guardian, Clegg explained his decision to move to California and pursue a career in Silicon Valley.

As vice-president of global affairs and communications at Facebook, I hope to help it navigate the numerous challenges it faces, in common with other leading tech companies, as the data-driven technological revolution continues to affect every aspect of our everyday lives: the control we have over our personal data; the integrity of our democratic process; the power and concerns about artificial intelligence; the tension between the global internet and national jurisdictions; the balance between free speech and prohibited content; and the wellbeing of our children. It is time to build bridges between politics and tech so that tech can become the servant of progress and optimism, not a source of fear and suspicion.

He said.

His appointment was seen as a savvy move by Facebook, as Clegg’s political experience and international connections could help the company navigate the ever-changing regulatory environment.
Flickr / Liberal Democrats
Sep 282018

Facebook hack affects 50 million users

2018 had been characterised by whistleblower revelations, senatorial hearings and concerns around Facebook’s privacy. And by the end of September, Facebook was facing even more bad press, as it was revealed that a new data breach had hacked 50 million user accounts.

The breach had actually occurred three days earlier, but Facebook waited until it had been fixed before announcing the news. Affected users were asked to log out of their accounts and log back in again with a new password.

I’m glad we found this and fixed the vulnerability, on a conference call with reporters. But it definitely is an issue that this happened in the first place. I think this underscores the attacks that our community and our services face,

said Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

But the delay in reporting the breach left users wondering how secure their profiles really were, although Facebook reassured users that no credit card information had been stolen, and no private messages had been hacked.

Furthermore, Facebook later revealed that the vulnerability that allowed the hack to happen had been introduced on the site in July 2017, but Facebook didn’t know about it until this month. Facebook added that it did not yet know who was responsible for the hack.

Facebook’s share price – already trading at a six-month low – took another hit, as investors wondered when the bad press would end.
Sep 262018

Facebook launches Oculus Quest

There was a time not so long ago, before Russian hacking scandals and Senate appearances, when Mark Zuckerberg seemed to be obsessed with virtual reality. So obsessed that he paid no less than $2 billion to acquire Oculus back in 2014.

The launch of the Oculus Quest was the culmination of four years of research, development, and investment.

Described as “the VR experience everyone’s been waiting for”, the Quest was an all-in-one virtual reality system which allowed users to look around in any direction and walk through a virtual space just as you would in real life.

It was modelled by Zuckerberg himself at the Oculus Connect 5 event, with the VR superfan describing it as “just wonderful.”

The device would debut at the surprisingly reasonable price of $399, and would ship in spring of 2019, and Facebook promised that more than 50 games and experiences will be available for use.

It received generally positive reviews in the days after the launch announcement, although CNBC reviewers warned that users may need a lot more space than they realise in order to use the device safely.

Most importantly, the launch changed the conversation around Facebook – at least for a while – and delivered on a promise that Zuckerberg had been making for years; to make VR better and more accessible to all. Shareholders rewarded his perseverance by sending Facebook’s stock price up to a four-month high.
Sep 252018

Instagram founders leave Facebook

Six years after Facebook’s $1 billion acquisition of Instagram, the picture sharing platform’s two founders quit.

Instagram’s CEO Kevin Systrom and CTO Mike Krieger did not immediately give a reason for their joint resignation, but widespread reporting suggested that it had to do with some senior management changes at Instagram. According to reporting by TechCrunch, Systrom and Krieger were unhappy that their VP of Product Kevin Weil was being moved to Facebook’s blockchain team – and they were even more unhappy that his replacement was former VP of Facebook News Adam Mosseri. It was believed that the addition of a Facebook veteran ignited long-running tension around Instagram’s status as a standalone platform.

The resignations were preceded by several other high profile Instagram departures. Director of public policy Nicole Jackson Colaco left earlier in the year, and Instagram COO Marne Levine moved to a senior role in Facebook two weeks prior.

The fluid movement of senior staff between Facebook and Instagram showed just how intertwined the companies had become – despite Mark Zuckerberg’s acquisition promise that Instagram could remain largely independent. Rumours swirled that Systrom and Krieger may have left in protest at Zuckerberg’s growing involvement in Instagram’s business, and jealousy at Instagram’s well-liked status.

The following year, a mammoth Wired article would confirm these initial suspicions, but shareholders clearly didn’t pay attention to the gossip.

Facebook’s stock grew by 1% while tech journalists scrambled to get the inner scoop.
Flickr / Scott Beale
Sep 052018

Sandberg appears in front of Senate

Another day, another Facebook executive being grilled by politicians. This time, it was COO Sheryl Sandberg’s turn, as she appeared before US senators to answer questions on how foreign influence operations can use social media to intervene in elections.

For once, it wasn’t just Facebook in the firing line. Senators also called Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter, and representatives of Google (who sent a legal representative rather than Larry Page or Sundar Pichai, who had been requested).

Google’s no-show took some of the heat off Sandberg and Dorsey, but Facebook was not immune to criticism.

Sandberg claimed that any fake news, or “inorganic content” represented just 0.004% of content in Facebook’s News Feed, and was therefore “immaterial to earnings”. Under intense questioning from senator Kamala Harris, Sandberg argued that Facebook had been clamping down on hate speech, and had nothing to gain from the proliferation of fake news on the platform.

She also indicated that Facebook would be open to some form of regulation, if it meant protecting users from disinformation and hate speech.

We don’t think it’s a question of whether regulation, we just think it’s a matter of the right regulation that doesn’t squash innovation.

Sandberg said.

Although Sandberg performed well by most metrics, it was not exactly a good look for Facebook to once again find itself in the hotseat being grilled over privacy issues. Shareholders appeared to be fed up with Facebook’s never-ending political scrutiny, and the company’s share price suffered.
Aug 292018

Facebook Watch launched globally

Facebook continued to pivot towards streaming solutions throughout 2018. In late August, the platform’s head of video Fidji Simo announced that the Facebook Watch streaming channel would be rolled out globally, after a trial run in the US a year earlier.

Facebook Watch initially allowed users to share videos and even create their own content. It quickly started to commission original content, such as Jada Pinkett Smith’s viral Red Table Talk show.

The global rollout brought with it some updates to the Watch channel.

Simo said that there would be “new opportunities for creators and publishers around the world”, primarily via an expansion of its Ad Breaks programme, which helps advertisers make more money from videos.

The platform also introduced customised watch feeds, a place to save videos, and new interactive video experience.

Every month, more than 50 million people in the US come to watch videos for at least a minute in Watch. And total time spent watching videos in Watch has increased by 14X since the start of 2018.

Said Simo.

Shareholders were quick to spot the potential of a Facebook-backed video streaming channel, and pushed the company’s share price up by just over 1%.
Aug 132018

Facebook acquires Vidpresso

With the Vidpresso deal, Facebook was returning to a favourite M&A tactic: the acqui-hire.

A year after debuting Facebook Live, the social network gained Vidpresso’s seven person team, but not the company’s brand. The startup said that it would seek to transition its existing clients over to Facebook as it wound down its operations.

In a message on its (now defunct) website, Vidpresso said:

Wow. We’re really excited to share we’re joining Facebook effective today. We will continue to help creators, publishers, and broadcasters create great live experiences, and focus on what we’re best known for: Enabling world-class interactive streams on Facebook Live.

The terms of the deal were not disclosed, but the value was obvious for Facebook. Vidpresso’s team already worked closely with Facebook Live, and they had experience developing software to make online videos more interactive with on-screen social media polling and comments and other graphics. However, the wording of the Vidpresso statement, and the growing popularity of Facebook Live suggested that Facebook was looking at introducing more interactive streaming tools.

Shareholders seemed happy with this latest addition to the Facebook family, and the company’s stock ticked up slightly in the following day’s trading.
Jul 262018

Facebook acquires Redkix

The day before the Redkix acquisition was announced, Facebook’s stock plunged after a lacklustre earnings report. News of a takeover deal was always going to be overshadowed by the slowing growth reported in the company’s Q2 finances. But the Redkix deal deserved more attention than it received.

The two-year-old startup has been compared with Slack, and creates tools to communicate more effectively by combining email with a more formal collaboration tool. Under the terms of the acquisition, both Redkix’s team and technology would migrate to Facebook Workplace – a subscription-based social platform for businesses. By July 2018, Workplace was being used by 30,000 companies.

We've seen how companies thrive when people work together. Bringing people closer together is at the core of Facebook. Workplace brings this mission to enterprises to make them more connected and productive. We're aligned with their vision and excited to work with them to help companies collaborate and get work done.

Said brothers and Redkix co-founders Oudi and Roy Antebe.

While Facebook didn’t reveal the cost of the acquisition, Reuters reported that it was close to $100 million.

Analysts suggested that the acquisition could represent Facebook’s efforts to diversify and generate new revenue streams.

This would surely have been good news for shareholders, but not good enough to lift the company’s stock price out of the doldrums.
Jul 252018

Growth slows in Q2 2018

Facebook underperformed market expectations in the second quarter of 2018, as years of privacy concerns and data breaches started to take their toll.

Quarterly revenue was up by 42%, to reach $13.23 billion – a new earnings record for the company. However, analysts had predicted earnings of $13.36 billion.

Although the platform continued to grow its user base, the pace of this growth was starting to slow. By the end of June 2018, Facebook had 2.23 billion monthly active users - an increase of just 11% year-on-year. In Europe, one million users left the social network, an exodus which was attributed to the introduction of the new GDPR rules on data protection.

In an earnings call later that day, Facebook’s CFO David Wehner told analysts that he expected to see the platform’s earnings fall consistently over the next few quarters. He blamed currency fluctuations and investment in new services, warning that these factors are “going to have a negative impact on revenue growth.”
Shareholders were quick to react. Before the second quarter results were announced, Facebook’s share price was at another all-time high of $217.50. However, within a matter of hours, the company’s share value had plummeted by 20%, knocking $123 billion off Facebook’s market capitalisation.
Jul 032018

Facebook acquires Bloomsbury AI

Facebook’s shiny new London office got a few new residents after the company acquired London-based machine learning firm Bloomsbury AI.

The Bloomsbury team has built a leading expertise in machine reading and understanding unstructured documents in natural language in order to answer any question. Their expertise will strengthen Facebook’s efforts in natural language processing research, and help us further understand natural language and its applications.

Said Facebook.

Although the financial details of the acquisition were not disclosed, TechCrunch reported earlier in the week that Facebook was prepared to spend between $23 million and $30 million on the deal.

Bloomsbury AI was founded in 2015 and specialises in natural language processing technology. It has developed an AI which is able to ‘read’ documents and answer questions about their contents. One of the company’s founders – Sebastian Riedel – also co-founded Factmata, a startup that developed tools to combat fake news. The timing and value of the acquisition prompted some to suggest that Facebook was hoping to use Bloomsbury AI tech to solve its own fake news problem.

Shareholders appeared pleased with the potential of this latest acquisition. The company’s share price rose by more than 3% during the following day of trading.
Jun 202018

Instagram hits one billion users

Hot on the heels of its parent company’s platform, Instagram marked its one billionth user in mid-2018. The speed at which the company reached that milestone was staggering. By September 2017, the company reported that it had passed 800 million active monthly users, with 500 million daily users. Less than a year later, its monthly user base had grown by 20%, dwarfing Facebook’s own growth rates.

The billion-user milestone was reached on the same day that Instagram announced the launch of IGTV – a longer-form video hub which could rival YouTube.

The success of Instagram was a ringing endorsement of Facebook’s decision to buy the photo sharing platform for $1 billion in 2012. While Facebook’s demographic was skewing older, Instagram’s users were predominantly teens, meaning that as a corporate entity, Facebook was expanding its customer base in every direction.

The news was a welcome reprieve for Facebook investors, who had become used to negative press and political scrutiny. Instagram’s success helped to push Facebook’s share price to an all-time high, with share values breaching $200 for the first time ever.
Apr 262018

Facebook CTO appears in front of UK Parliament

Just two weeks after Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg appeared before senators and members of congress, Zuckerberg’s CTO Mike Schroepfer was tapped to perform a similar duty before UK politicians.

However, members of Parliament were clearly disappointed that they were dealing with Zuckerberg’s proxy, using the opening remarks of the hearing to repeat calls for the CEO to appear in person.

In the meantime, Schroepfer would have to do. Over five hours of questioning, Schroepfer discussed everything from the policing of ‘fake news’ to misuse of Facebook data. But despite his absence, Zuckerberg was the topic of the hour, with politicians repeatedly asking what he knew about the platform’s operations, the extent to which Facebook colluded in the Cambridge Analytical data breach, and why Zuckerberg didn’t attend the session himself.

When one MP asked Schroepfer where the buck stops, Schroepfer quickly responded “it stops with Mark”.

We believe that, given the large number of outstanding questions for Facebook to answer, Mark Zuckerberg should still appear in front of the Committee.

The Committee said in a formal statement after the hearing.

As the political criticism stacked up, shareholders backed away slightly, causing a slight dip in Facebook’s stock price.
Apr 252018

Facebook faces 2018 with strong Q1

The first few months of 2018 were brutal for Facebook cheerleaders. In March, a Cambridge Analytica whistle-blower revealed how his company harvested millions of Facebook profiles to target US voters and influence the results of the 2016 US election, and the UK’s Brexit referendum.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was promptly summoned before Congress to face eight hours of questioning. Although this hearing took place in mid-April after Facebook’s first quarter had ended, it threatened to overshadow the good news story of rising revenues and increasing margins.

For the first three months of 2018, Facebook announced revenue of $11.97 billion. To put this in context, the company reported revenue of $12.47 billion for the entirety of 2014. Operating margins grew from 41% in the first quarter of 2017, to 46% for the three months ending March 31 2018.

Despite the ongoing criticism over privacy and neutrality, Facebook continued to grow its monthly active user base by 13%, year-on-year, to reach 2.2 billion – that’s just over a third of the entire population of Earth.

The company indicated that it was confident about its future performances by authorising an additional $9 billion for its share repurchasing scheme in April. This certainly helped to boost the platform’s stock value.

Although Facebook’s stock dropped below $160 in the run up to the Congressional hearing, after its first-quarter results were announced, shares shot up to around $174.
Apr 242018

Facebook tells users how to control privacy settings

As privacy concerns rumbled on, Facebook decided to speak directly to its users and explain exactly how their data was being stored, and how to control what third parties see.

You've been hearing a lot about Facebook lately and how your data is being used. While this information can sometimes be confusing and technical, it's important to know that you are in control of your Facebook, what you see, what you share, and what people see about you.

The platform said.

Facebook told users that they can take a privacy checkup to review who is able to read posts, to manage or delete apps that have been connected to user accounts, and to edit privacy settings.

A number of new features were introduced to Facebook’s flagship platform. Users could snooze a person for 30 days, unfollow people who have been appearing in the News Feed, and add close friends to a See First list.

Crucially, it also allowed users to manage their advertising settings. This ensured that they are only seeing the ads that are most relevant to them. This feature also stopped allowing advertisers to market to users based on which websites or apps they were visiting off Facebook.

Facebook was clearly trying to find a balance between its keeping advertisers happy and protecting the privacy of its users, while allowing users to have more control over their experience on Facebook. Investors appeared sceptical, and Facebook’s share price remained static before shooting up by 9% in the next day’s trading.
Unsplash / Dayne Topkin
Apr 102018

Zuckerberg is grilled by Congress

Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg was questioned for almost 10 hours by US legislators about the company's privacy policies, and the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

Over two days, Zuckerberg answered questions around Facebook’s political bias (“we don’t have any bias in the work we do”), data collection (“In general, we collect data on people who are not signed up for Facebook for security purposes”), whether or not Facebook uses smart phone mics to listen to user conversations (“my understanding is that a lot of these cases that you're talking about are a coincidence”).

The hearing also addressed the possibility of regulation in the social networking space ("it is inevitable that there will need to be some regulation"), and the possibility that Facebook might sue Cambridge Analytica for its data breach ("it's something we're looking into").

For shareholders, the hearing could have been much worse. Despite intense questioning, Zuckerberg remained calm and collected while giving the impression that he was keen to make positive change to the platform. However, the optics of a senate hearing weren’t great for the company’s stock price, which dipped slightly both during and after Zuckerberg’s appearance.
Mar 172018

Cambridge Analytica scandal breaks

On Saturday March 17 2018, the Observer released its latest bombshell. A Cambridge Analytica whistle-blower named Christopher Wylie told the British broadsheet that he had been part of a data analytics team that harvested the data of millions of Facebook users in an effort to influence the 2016 US elections and the 2016 Brexit referendum.

We exploited Facebook to harvest millions of people’s profiles. And built models to exploit what we knew about them and target their inner demons. That was the basis the entire company was built on.

Wylie said.

The wide-ranging expose found that by late 2015, Cambridge Analytica was harvesting Facebook data “on an unprecedented scale”. However, the platform did not notify users and took limited steps to recover and secure the private information of more than 50 million users.

The report sparked a series of official enquiries into both Cambridge Analytica and Facebook. The British Information Commissioner’s Office and the Electoral Commission both announced that they would be investigating the company, and Facebook’s ability to secure the privacy of its users.

Unsurprisingly, the news sent Facebook’s share price into freefall, losing more than 6% in the immediate aftermath of the publication.
Jan 312018

A hard year ends with $40bn earned for Facebook

After weathering a year of controversy, Facebook’s core business remained strong throughout 2017. By the fourth quarter of the year, more than $40 billion had been earned in revenues, with $12.97 billion earned in the last quarter alone.

But this was also the year that Facebook reckoned with its responsibilities, and promised to change. After years spent driving up customer engagement, CEO Mark Zuckerberg told shareholders that the platform had implemented changes which have actually reduced the amount of time spent on Facebook by approximately 50 million hours per day.

2017 was a strong year for Facebook, but it was also a hard one.

Said Zuckerberg.

In 2018, we're focused on making sure Facebook isn't just fun to use, but also good for people's well-being and for society. We're doing this by encouraging meaningful connections between people rather than passive consumption of content.

In real terms, this meant higher costs for the company as it overhauled its algorithms, and the possibility of lower ad revenues in the near future.

Despite these challenges, shareholders were mostly supportive of Facebook over the course of 2017. By the end of the year, the company’s stock price had risen by 53.38%, peaking out at an all-time high of $183 in November.
Jan 232018

Facebook acquires ID specialist Confirm

In another sign of the company’s future focus, Facebook acquired three-year-old identity checking software startup Confirm.

Confirm’s software was built to allow proof of identity for online transactions, with a view to combat financial fraud. Privacy concerns had swirled around the online identity checking market for years, but Confirm seemed to offer a workaround for Facebook. Its technology uses mobile biometrics and facial recognition to confirm a person’s identity, with the information deleted almost instantly once captured and checked.

It was easy to see the appeal for Facebook. The social network had been plagued with data breaches and privacy scandals for years, and the Confirm software offered a way to protect user privacy while also combatting fraud.
In a statement issued to the press after the deal was made public, Facebook said that Confirm’s:

Technology and expertise will support our ongoing efforts to keep our community safe.

Meanwhile, Reuters reported that Confirm would begin the process of winding down its business, with all 26 of its employees migrating to Facebook.

However, in the absence of further details on the deal, shareholders responded with indifference. Facebook’s share price wavered slightly after the news broke, before recovering the following day.
Dec 032017

Facebook opens new London office and increases headcount

After maintaining a London office for ten years, Facebook decided it was time for an upgrade. In December 2017, it announced plans to move into a swish new office just off Oxford Street, with plans to grow its London-based staff by 50%.

The company said it would create 800 new jobs in London in the year ahead, with a focus on engineering positions. This would make its London office its biggest engineering hub outside of the US.

In a sign that the company was committed to maintaining its UK operations, despite the ongoing turmoil of Brexit, Facebook also announced a tech startup scheme. Called LDN_LAB, the scheme would initially be open to six startups, which would receive mentoring from Facebook’s experienced engineer and product development teams.

Today’s announcements show that Facebook is more committed than ever to the UK and in supporting the growth of the country’s innovative startups. The UK’s flourishing entrepreneurial ecosystem and international reputation for engineering excellence makes it one of the best places in the world to build a tech company. And we’ve built our company here – this country has been a huge part of Facebook’s story over the past decade, and I look forward to continuing our work.

Nicola Mendelsohn, vice-president of Facebook’s European operations, said.
The UK government welcomed the news, with chancellor Philip Hammond saying that:

It’s a sign of confidence in our country that innovative companies like Facebook invest here.

However, investors weren’t so confident, and Facebook’s stock price slid to a six-week low soon after the announcement.
Nov 162017

Trust Indicators launched, with the aim of flagging fake news

Facebook’s war on fake news continued throughout 2017, forcing the platform to come up with new ways to balance its commitment to free speech with the safety of its users.

Trust Indicators was intended to do just that. In early October the platform introduced a new test feature that gave users additional context on the articles in their News Feed. A button would appear next to a news story, offering users the opportunity to pull a brief background summary from reputable online sources, to help them distinguish between trustworthy and untrustworthy news sources.

The following month, Facebook unveiled its Trust Indicators. These would be attached to all articles shared on Facebook, and they would offer information about publishers, including their ethics and fact-checking policies. The idea was to start with a small group of publishers and build from there, until the majority of news sources could be easily checked.

We believe that helping people access this important contextual information can help them evaluate if articles are from a publisher they trust, and if the story itself is credible. This step is part of our larger efforts to combat false news and misinformation on Facebook — providing people with more context to help them make more informed decisions, advance news literacy and education, and working to reinforce indicators of publisher integrity on our platform.

Said Facebook.

The new feature appeared to have little immediate impact on Facebook’s stock price, coming as it did after a prolonged period of criticism for the way the platform handles news. Some analysts went as far as to call Trust Indicators ”problematic” and ”way too little too late”.
Nov 012017

Rising revenue can’t outshine fake news in Q3 2017

From a financial point of view, the third quarter of 2017 was a triumph for Facebook. The company recorded more than $10 billion in quarterly revenue for the first time, while net income was up by 47% year-on-year.

Unfortunately, these results were announced amid a far-reaching enquiry into election interference and fake news by the US House Intelligence Committee.

Along with Google and Twitter, Facebook was grilled by lawmakers over its failure to prevent Russian meddling during the 2016 election campaign.

Facebook’s general counsel Colin Stretch acknowledged that the platform had played a role in spreading misinformation, but denied that Facebook had a responsibility to change its algorithms to demote “fear-based or anger-based” content.

Yes we do have an obligation to prevent foreign interference in the election. We take that obligation seriously. With respect to the algorithm, our goal is to provide the most relevant information.

Stretch said.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg used the company’s third quarter earnings report to reassure investors that the platform is serious about preventing abuse.

However, he warned that Facebook is:

Investing so much in security that it will impact our profitability.

Shareholders were understandably concerned, and the company’s share price fell by approximately 2% the following day.
Oct 112017

Facebook and Instagram crash worldwide

Both Facebook and Instagram went down for millions of users worldwide in an embarrassing global outage for the firm.

Affected users were based in the US, Greece, the UK, Poland and other European countries, and the outages lasted for most of the morning, while engineers tried to get to the bottom of it.

Frustrated Facebook users took to rival social media platforms such as Twitter to air their frustrations, before the issue was resolved a few hours later. Facebook addressed the outage and apologised to those affected, in what would be one of the platform’s lesser scandals in recent years.

Earlier today, a networking issue caused some people to have trouble accessing Facebook services. We quickly investigated and started restoring access within about an hour, and we have nearly fixed the issue for everyone. We're sorry for the inconvenience.

Said a Facebook spokesperson in a statement.

Shareholders seemed relatively unfazed by the downtime, with Facebook’s share price falling only slightly in next-day trading.
Unsplash / John Schnobrich
Sep 142017

Safety checks and centres for crisis launched

The concept of a safety check was first introduced to Facebook after a major earthquake and tsunami hit Japan in March 2011. A group of engineers in Tokyo created a message board on the platform to allow people to ‘check in’ and let friends and family know they were safe.

Similar checks were introduced after the Boston marathon bombing in 2013 and Typhoon Ruby in the Philippines in 2014.

By 2017, Facebook knew exactly what its users needed from these safety checking features, and a purpose-built suite of crisis response tools was introduced.

This included the creation of a new Crisis Response centre which brings together a mass of relevant safety information, including safety checks, community help and fundraiser.

Since the first Safety Check tool in 2011, Facebook has continued to develop a number of crisis response tools to better serve its community. When there is a crisis, people use Facebook to let their friends and family know they're safe, learn and share more about what's happening, and help communities recover.

The platform said.

This launch of the safety features came just three months after Facebook introduced a fundraising feature, and signified the company’s focus on philanthropic uses as it continued to recover from 2016’s annus horriblis. This was Facebook’s way of saying “we care”, while also giving users a reason to stick with the platform despite fake news accusations and security breaches.

It seemed to satisfy shareholders at least, as the company’s share price ticked up slightly the following day.
Jul 262017

A strong Q2 sends Facebook’s share value soaring

By the second quarter of 2017, Facebook had more than two billion active monthly users, an increase of 17% year-on-year. This translated into $9.32 billion in revenue, and close to $4 billion in net income.

However, although CEO Mark Zuckerberg described it as “a good second quarter and first half of the year," some issues remained.

CFO David Wehner used Facebook’s second quarter earnings call to reiterate his prediction that the platform will run out of News Feed ad space by the end of 2017, which will affect its ability to maintain such high ad revenues.

In the second quarter of 2016, Facebook’s revenue grew by a massive 59% off the back of increased ad spending. But by the second quarter of 2017, revenue had grown by ‘just’ 45%, indicating that this shortage of ad space was already putting the brakes on Facebook’s speed of growth.

The message was clear – Facebook will have to evolve in order to maintain its status as a blue-chip behemoth. Zuckerberg pledged to spend more on AI solutions and moderating fees to meet this challenge, and shareholders appeared to agree.

In after-hours trading, Facebook’s share price grew by 1.35%, before rising to another all-time high of $170 the following day.
Jun 272017

Facebook marks two billion users

Just two years after revealing that it had a billion active daily users, Facebook celebrated another user milestone.

As of today, there are now two billion people connecting and building communities on Facebook each month. It's a milestone that wouldn't have happened without the millions of people and communities who make meaningful contributions every day.

Said the company in a press release.

By June 2017, more than 800 million people were "liking" something on Facebook, each day and over 750 million new ‘friendships’ were being made.

To mark the occasion, Facebook introduced a ‘thank you’ scheme, whereby users received a message in their News Feed thanking them for reacting to a friend's post with love, wishing someone happy birthday, or creating a group.

Facebook used this milestone event to promote its other good works. US users could see “inspiring stories of people connecting with one another, contributing to their local communities and helping make the world a better place.”

Some users were also gifted a personal "Good Adds Up” video which would highlight their history of giving.

However, this new hugs ‘n’ kisses Facebook did not go down so well with shareholders, and Facebook’s share value stuttered slightly after the announcement.
May 242017

Facebook introduces fundraising feature

Initially available in the US only, Facebook’s personalised fundraising feature was launched to allow users to more easily support their favourite causes.

Previously, user-shared fundraising campaigns were originated on third party sites such as GoFundMe or JustGiving. By bringing this feature onto the platform, Facebook could cut out the middleman, and originate its own campaigns, while boosting user interaction.

Announcing the news, Facebook said that it was inspired by the good that people do on Facebook.

Facebook is a place where people come together to connect with their communities and support one another in meaningful ways. Today, we are giving people another way to mobilize around causes they care about by introducing personal fundraisers to everyone over 18 in the US.

The company said.

The new feature allowed users to start a fundraiser with just a few taps, without leaving Facebook. They could then share their fundraisers with their friends and family to build momentum.

All fundraisers would initially come with a 6.9% and $.30 fee that goes to payment processing, fundraiser vetting, and security and fraud protection. Facebook was emphatic that its goal was not to make a profit from its giving tools.

The feature was soon rolled out to other international markets, and would go on to raise more than $2 billion over the next couple of years.
May 212017

The Facebook Files are published

Facebook’s inner-most workings were revealed when the Guardian published The Facebook Files – a vast data dump of internal emails and training manuals which laid out the company’s policies on everything from how to moderate hate speech and terrorism, to dealing with pornography and self-harm, and even attempting to deal with topics like match fixing and cannibalism.

The files raised major questions about Facebook’s moderation policies, including has Facebook become a forum for misogyny and racism? The Guardian concluded that Facebook was in a ‘lose lose’ situation when it came to moderating content. Too much moderation and the platform would be accused of censorship. Too little, and disturbing content could run rampant across the site.

When the files were made public, journalists across the world began to unpack the data, with some accusing Facebook’s algorithm of racial prejudice.

If this had been the only scandal that Facebook had ever experienced, it might have been easier for shareholders to overlook the files. However, after a year of fake news accusations, data breaches, and politically-motivated critiques, Facebook’s share price was becoming increasingly volatile. After the files were published, the company’s share price stalled for a couple of days at approximately $148.
May 032017

The scandals pile up for Facebook in Q1 2017

By all standard metrics, the first quarter of 2017 was a success for Facebook.

The company beat Wall Street estimates to report $8.03 billion in quarterly revenue – up from $5.38 billion in the first quarter of 2016. Approximately $3.06 billion of that was profit.

The platform’s user base also continued to grow, with 1.94 billion users in the first quarter of the year, representing an impressive 4.3% increase on the previous year. While it may seem as though Facebook has reached saturation in the social media market, these stats told investors that there are still avenues for growth.

So why did the company’s share price drop in the hours following this latest trading announcement?

Some analysts believed that investors were turned off by a new reporting format that Facebook introduced this quarter. For the first time, Facebook opted not to disclose non-GAAP expenses, income, tax rate, and earnings per share. Historically, Facebook’s non-GAAP earnings have painted a fuller picture of the company’s finances than the more restrained GAAP figures.

Facebook was also reckoning with a series of bad press cycles in early 2017. In February, Facebook’s VR subsidiary Oculus was ordered to pay $500 million in compensation to Zenimax after it lost a lawsuit over stolen intellectual property rights. This led to the departure of Oculus co-founder Palmer Luckey and raised questions around the future of Facebook’s virtual reality ambitions.

And then there was the fake news crisis. After it was revealed that Russian agents had bought Facebook ads in an attempt to influence the 2016 US election, Facebook promised to invest in better fact checking processes.

These looming expenses were surely on investors’ minds when they sent the company’s share price down by 2.37% in after-hours trading.
Feb 162017

Zuckerberg writes mission statement

After enduring a raft of criticism throughout 2016, Facebook’s new year’s resolution appeared to be to win back the public’s trust.

In a lengthy statement, CEO Mark Zuckerberg laid out his vision for the Facebook of the future.

Facebook stands for bringing us closer together and building a global community. When we began, this idea was not controversial. Every year, the world got more connected and this was seen as a positive trend. Yet now, across the world there are people left behind by globalization, and movements for withdrawing from global connection. There are questions about whether we can make a global community that works for everyone, and whether the path ahead is to connect more or reverse course.

He wrote.

In response to this trend, Zuckerberg said that the most important thing that Facebook can do is to develop the social infrastructure to give people the power to build a global community. He laid out five ways in which Facebook planned to do this.

1. By fostering “supportive communities” on the platform
2. By creating a “safe community” for all users
3. By ensuring that the Facebook nurtures an “informed community”
4. By promoting a “civically-minded community”
5. And by building an “inclusive community”

Can you spot the hidden message there? After months of being accused of promoting fake news and division, Zuckerberg was keen to remind people how the platform brings people together. In a ‘community’, if you will.

After the mission statement was published, Facebook’s stock began a tentative climb, as shareholders tried to put the bad press behind them and believe in the company’s ability to learn and grow.
Wikimedia Commons / Brian Solis
Jan 032017

Fake news and slowing growth for Facebook in 2016

2016 was a watershed year for Facebook, one marred by accusations of fake news and political interference. By the end of the year, even Pope Francis was weighing in on the dangers of fake news.

In November 2016, after Donald Trump’s surprise win in the US elections, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that the platform would be taking steps to counter fake news through its apps. But investors were more interested in the platform’s financial performance.

While growth slowed somewhat towards the end of 2016, Facebook still reported $8.8 billion in fourth quarter revenues, and $27.638 billion across the entire year. That was a 51% increase on 2015’s fourth quarter earnings, and a 54% increase on the annual revenue stats.

Furthermore, user engagement remained solid, with 1.23 billion daily active users, and 1.74 billion monthly mobile users across the globe.

Crucially, around 66% of Facebook’s monthly users were coming back every day, proving the platform’s huge reach among its user base.

While all of these figures combine to paint a rosy picture of Facebook’s finances, analysts noted that quarter-on-quarter growth was starting to slow down slightly, after several years of rocketing progress. This was in line with CFO David Wehner’s prediction that ad revenues were peaking.

Shareholders seemed happy with the company’s fundamentals and plans for the year ahead, but this translated into a share price increase of just 1.56%.
Dec 152016

Facebook addresses ‘fake news’ concerns

By December 2016 there was no escaping the ‘fake news’ epidemic. Donald Trump had won the US presidency amid concerns about election interference by the Russian government, and the emergence of politically-motivated fake news stories, primarily distributed via social media channels.

Having previously avoided using the term ‘fake news’ in its public communications, by the end of 2016 Facebook could ignore the issue no longer.

In a Facebook post in November 2016, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that the company was committed to “disrupting fake news economics”.

A lot of misinformation is driven by financially motivated spam. We're looking into disrupting the economics with ads policies like the one we announced earlier this week, and better ad farm detection.

Zuckerberg said.

By mid-December, Adam Mosseri, Facebook’s VP of News Feed, said that Facebook was “approaching this problem carefully.”

Mosseri outlined four areas of focus for Facebook during the fake news era: making it easier for users to report a hoax; creating a program that will flag any disputed stories; ranking News Feed stories based on how many people are sharing the stories that they have read; and disrupting the financial incentives for spammers.

It’s important to us that the stories you see on Facebook are authentic and meaningful. We’re excited about this progress, but we know there’s more to be done. We’re going to keep working on this problem for as long as it takes to get it right.

Added Mosseri.

The announcement came at the end of a rough year for Facebook. By the start of December, Facebook’s stock price was at a 7-month low, and the clampdown on fake news did not do much to revive it. Media criticism kept Facebook in the news for all the wrong reasons, and threatened to overshadow the company’s financial performance and attempts to win back public support.
Dec 022016

Facebook to create affordable housing

For years, Silicon Valley had been criticised for the widening wealth gap in the San Francisco area, where homelessness was rapidly rising.

Maybe it was the Christmas spirit, but Facebook decided to do its bit to help the local community by announcing plans to create affordable housing and new economic opportunities in the region. The platform seeded the project with $20 million - $18.5 million of which was earmarked for housing alone.

In December, Facebook announced that it had partnered with Envision Transform Build-East Palo Alto (ETB) - a coalition of community groups – and the cities of East Palo Alto and Menlo Park to increase the supply of affordable housing in the Bay Area.

The partnership will foster new ways to approach the acute regional housing crisis by stabilizing neighborhoods and stemming the tide of displacement. A Catalyst Housing Fund will be created to develop and preserve affordable housing in the area, an innovative model that can be expanded to address affordable housing problems throughout California.

Said Facebook in a press release.

Facebook’s aim was to create 750 affordable homes by 2022, and the company pledged more funding in the future to meet this target.

The charitable announcement helped to rehabilitate Facebook’s image after a tough year. After the partnership was announced, Facebook’s share price ticked up slightly.
Nov 082016

Donald Trump wins US presidency

The second big political upset of 2016 (after Brexit) unfolded in the early hours of November 8 2020, when Donald Trump – of The Apprentice and Trump Tower fame – beat Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton in the 2016 US elections.

Throughout the election campaign, Trump had relied on jingoism and division to win over voters with the slogan ‘Make America Great Again’.

Clinton – who had been Secretary of State under the previous president Barack Obama – was favourite to win, and Trump’s eventual victory was met with shock across the world.

As with Brexit, Trump’s win was partly credited to his campaign’s use of social media – and especially Facebook. His team eschewed TV ad spending and instead spent heavily on social media ads, targeted to specific types of voters. In fact, Trump’s digital director Brad Parscale told Wired that Facebook was the campaign’s “biggest incubator” that allowed the team to raise $250 million in online fundraising.

Facebook was also accused of allowing fake news to influence voters on the platform – a claim that CEO Mark Zuckerberg instantly rejected.

Needlesstosay, the election created more bad press for Facebook, and saw its stock price fall sharply in the aftermath of the election results, as shareholders braced for the fallout.
Gage Skidmore
Nov 022016

Facebook earns $7bn in Q3 2016

Soaring revenues should have translated to stock value gains. With quarterly earnings of more than $7 billion, CEO Mark Zuckerberg was right to describe it as “another good quarter”. For the first time, more than one billion users were actively using Facebook each month, while user volumes continued to grow across the Facebook family of apps.

But shareholders worried that the company’s growth potential had plateaued. The previous quarter, both Zuckerberg and his CFO David Wehner told investors to brace themselves for slowing growth, as the platform had more or less reached capacity on its advertising space. Wehner repeated these predictions in Facebook’s earnings call later that day.

Ad load will play a less significant factor driving revenue growth after mid-2017. An aggressive investment year.

Wehner said.

During which the company plans to increase its head count and expand its data centres.
The company was also battling a slew of negative press stories. As the US election became increasingly bitter, Facebook was alternately blamed for either encouraging or suppressing right-wing viewpoints; depending on who you asked. In the earnings call, Zuckerberg said that:

Facebook really is the new town hall, and we’re proud of the role that we’ve played in enabling dialogue and increasing civic engagement.

After the results were published, Facebook’s share price dropped slightly, suggesting that sometimes record-breaking revenues are not enough to maintain the trust of your investor base.
Jul 272016

Facebook’s share price hits a new high after Q2 earnings

Once again, Facebook beat Wall Street expectations by reporting $6.44 billion in quarterly revenue, representing a 59% year-on-year increase.

However, on an earnings call, CEO Mark Zuckerberg warned investors not to expect this turbo-powered growth to last forever. As he set out in his recently-unveiled 10-year plan, Facebook has a lot more spending to do.

Zuckerberg’s attention appeared to be firmly on the growth of the platform’s video capabilities, saying

We're particularly pleased with our progress in video as we move towards a world where video is at the heart of all our services.

While Facebook’s share price rose again following the publication of its second quarter results, it was not the double-digit boost that shareholders may have expected. Multiple factors could have caused this shift. It could be due to the company’s ongoing investment in products and capabilities that may not bear fruit in the immediate future. It may also have been a reaction to the news that slowing growth is on the horizon. Or perhaps it was a response to the bad press that the platform received in the run-up to the US 2016 elections.

Several anonymous sources told the press that Facebook was purposefully supressing conservative news in its ‘Trending Topics’ feed. Facebook denied the allegations, but it did change its News Feed algorithm to prioritize posts from friends and family over stories from news publishers and brands.

For investors, there was concern that this algorithmic change could lead to a drop in advertising revenue, which makes up the bulk of Facebook’s earnings.

But it appeared that Zuckerberg had earned the trust of his shareholders, who continued to back the stock, sending it to a new high of $123.90.
Jun 292016

Facebook News Feed takes on fake news

Following criticism that it was promoting too much fake news, Facebook announced plans to update its News Feed.

In a message to users, Facebook said that it has been updating the News Feed to ensure that stories posted directly by friends and family will be higher up. Although the platform avoided using the term ‘fake news’, it did highlight the importance of “authentic communication” on the feed.

The feedback we’ve gotten tells us that authentic stories are the ones that resonate most. That’s why we work hard to understand what type of stories and posts people consider genuine — so we can show more of them in News Feed. And we work to understand what kinds of stories people find misleading, sensational and spammy, to make sure people see those less.

Said Lars Backstrom, Engineering Director.

Facebook also shared the driving values behind its News Feed rankings, in an effort to demonstrate its commitment to transparency. In short, the News Feed should “inform” and “entertain”. The company also pledged to keep updating the algorithm in line with these values.

However, Backstrom added:

We are not in the business of picking which issues the world should read about…We don’t favor specific kinds of sources — or ideas. Our aim is to deliver the types of stories we’ve gotten feedback that an individual person most wants to see.

This suggested that the company was still inclined to take a hands-off approach to its moderating of news.
Jun 242016

UK votes to leave EU

The results of the UK’s EU referendum left shockwaves across Europe. In a 48/52 vote split, the UK voted to end its membership of the European Union, after more than 40 years.

The pro-Brexit campaign had been led primarily by right wing politicians including UKIP, the DUP, and right-leaning factions of the ruling Conservative party. The surprise success of their campaign was seen as a sign of things to come, while the close nature of the vote suggested that the UK electorate was more divided than ever.

Contemporaneous reports found that Facebook had played a crucial role in promoting pro-Brexit commentary, with several analyses finding that the platform’s News Feed algorithm had disproportionally favoured the Leave message.

This shone a spotlight on the social network’s growing influence as a new media company. Although Facebook did not label itself as a news organisation or a publishing platform, it was starting to serve a similar purpose. With a US election looming later in the year, Facebook was at the beginning of a particularly damaging news cycle, which would raise questions about advertising access, user privacy and the company’s News Feed management.
May 262016

Facebook teams with Microsoft to build subsea cable

Facebook teamed up with Microsoft to create the highest-capacity subsea cable to ever cross the Atlantic, with construction set to start in August 2016 and end in October 2017.

The purpose of the subsea cable was to:

Help meet the growing customer demand for high speed, reliable connections for cloud and online services for Microsoft, Facebook and their customers.

The MAREA cable was partly inspired by Hurricane Sandy, which hit the north east cost of the US particularly badly. At the time, most of the world’s transatlantic subsea cables landed in New York and New Jersey.

Microsoft and Facebook decided that this cable would stretch from the coastline of Virginia in the US, to Bilbao, Spain, 4,000 miles away. Facebook said that the cable would improve global connectivity and reduce the risk of outages, while also reducing costs and making it easier to improve bandwidth rates with real-time updates.

Facebook wants to make it possible for people to have deep connections and shared experiences with the people who matter to them most — anywhere in the world, and at any time. We're always evaluating new technologies and systems in order to provide the best connectivity possible. We want to do more of these projects in this manner — allowing us to move fast with more collaboration. We think this is how most subsea cable systems will be built in the future.

Said Najam Ahmad, Vice President of Network Engineering at Facebook.

The announcement came at a good time for Facebook. By May 26 the company’s stock was trading at a month-long low, but within three days it had rebounded by more than 5%, as Facebook entered the transatlantic cable game.
Apr 272016

Zuckerberg reveals his 10-year plan in Q1 2016

In the first quarter of 2016, Facebook almost tripled its net income year-on-year, reaching $1.5 billion – an all-time high for the company.

Revenues rose from $3.54 billion in early 2015, to $5.38 billion in the first three months of 2016, and operating margins rose from 26% in 2015 to 37% in 2016.

But despite these impressive stats, investors and market movers were more interested in Mark Zuckerberg and his ambitious ten-year plan for the company.

Unveiled earlier in the month, the ten-year roadmap laid out the platform’s intentions to eventually add connectivity to drones, satellites, and lasers, while also expanding into the augmented reality market and making better use of artificial intelligence (AI).
Shareholders appeared to endorse this plan, as Facebook’s stock soared by 8% in after-hours trading.

But there were hints that trouble may lie ahead for the company. With more than one billion active daily users, and over $5 billion coming in from advertisers, some legislators and tech experts started calling for the company to be more closely regulated.
Facebook also endured some damaging publicity after the Indian government accused it of “digital colonialism” over the roll out of its “Free Basic” programme.

Intended as a way to bring free mobile apps to users in the developing world, critics pointed out that the apps were overwhelmingly Facebook-owned. On February 8, India’s telecoms regulator blocked Free Basics.
Jan 272016

Everything points up for Facebook in Q4 2015

Facebook’s growth streak continued throughout 2015 as the platform grew its presence in the developing world and continued to onboard – and retain – new users. This was largely thanks to a years-long focus on mobile and video services, spearheaded by CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg.

By the end of 2015, Facebook had delivered $17.93 billion in revenue, a 44% increase on the previous year.

For the fourth quarter alone, Facebook once again beat Wall Street expectations of $5.37 billion in revenue, by posting $5.84 billion of earnings for the final three months of the year. This represented a 29.8% quarter-on-quarter increase, as the platform’s growth story continued.

2015 was a great year for Facebook. Our community continued to grow and our business is thriving.

Said Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s founder and CEO.

Zuckerberg went into more detail on an earnings call with analysts later that day, revealing that users spent more than 100 million hours each day engaging with Facebook’s video content.

What’s more, there are a billion monthly users on the Groups app, and 1.59 billion people using Facebook’s core app on a monthly basis. That’s a huge audience for any advertiser to target, and explains Facebook’s emphasis on making ads more personal and more engaging.

As usual, advertising revenues made up the vast majority of the company’s profits in 2015, while payments and fees from users continued to flatline as the platform pivoted towards an ad-led model.

Mobile advertising revenue was worth approximately 80% of all advertising revenue in the fourth quarter of 2015, in a ringing endorsement of the platform’s mobile engagement strategy.

The platform’s growth in the developing world also helped its bottom line. More than 80 million people were using Facebook Lite by the end of 2015. This was a specially-created stripped down version of the original Facebook app, which was designed specifically for people living in developing countries with lower internet speeds.

All of these stats tell the story of a company that knows what its audience wants, and understands its value for advertisers.

As a result, Facebook’s share price rose from $94.45 on the morning of January 27, to $109.11 the following day, before reaching a new peak of $115 by February 1.
Nov 042015

Facebook’s growth continues in Q3 2015

The third quarter of 2015 saw Facebook increase its presence in the Asia-Pacific region and the rest of the world, while retaining millions of new users and rolling out a series of headline-grabbing features.

Video integration seemed to be the main driver of Facebook’s growth. In August 2015, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson became the first person to gain access to Facebook’s new live streaming service - Facebook Live.

In an earnings call, CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that the platform was seeing an average of eight billion daily video views from 500 million users – double the number of video views that were recorded in April 2015. Facebook also revealed that it had been running a series of experiments designed to improve video engagement on the platform, signalling a continued focus on this area of the business going forward.

In October, Facebook’s stock price reached $100 per share for the very first time, and a largely positive third quarter report pushed the stock price above $108 – another all-time high for the tech firm.
Aug 282015

Facebook has a billion users per day

Facebook officially became a user billionaire in 2015, with one billion individuals logging on to the site within a 24 hour period for the first time. However, it should be noted that this milestone was different from the one billion active monthly users that had been recorded in October 2012.

This milestone was even more significant, as it proved that the platform’s global influence. As CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a Facebook post on his personal page, it also meant that “1 in 7 people on Earth used Facebook to connect with their friends and family".

When we talk about our financials, we use average numbers, but this is different. This was the first time we reached this milestone, and it's just the beginning of connecting the whole world.

Added Zuckerberg.

This meant that Facebook was officially the largest social network in the world, with a user base the size of a large country, and growing.

The news was a welcome relief to Facebook’s shareholders. By August 24 2015, the company’s share price was at a months-long low of $82, but it soared by almost 5% on the news of the billion-user milestone.
Aug 052015

Facebook Live is launched

2015 was the year that Facebook really ramped up its video functionality. Earlier in the year, it acquired video compressing firm QuickFire Networks, and in its recently-released Q2 results, CEO Mark Zuckerberg used an earnings call to highlight the company’s focus on integrating video.

On August 5, Facebook revealed its latest bid for video dominance – Facebook Live.

Initially only available to the celebrities on Facebook’s Mentions app, Facebook Live would allow for live broadcasts to be transmitted on the News Feed, with users able to interact and make comments in real time.

Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson was the first to use the service, headlining a day of live broadcasting from the likes of Serena Williams, Martha Stewart, and Michael Buble.

Unlike rival video broadcasting apps like Snapchat, Facebook Live videos can be saved and viewed in full at a later date.

Users would be alerted when a new celebrity starts a broadcast. Comments are streamed at a steady pace, and certain words can act as moderation triggers to avoid trolling and abuse.

The service wouldn’t be rolled out to all users for another year, but the celebrity premier let shareholders know that Facebook was truly committed to its video-powered future, even if the Live launch didn’t lead to any immediate stock market gains.
Wikimedia Commons / European Parliament
Jul 292015

Income concerns hit Facebook’s share price

Another quarter, another milestone for the social networking platform.

For the first time ever, Facebook recorded quarterly revenues in excess of $4 billion - $4.042 billion to be precise. By comparison, revenue for the second quarter of 2014 was $2.9 billion.

CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg hailed it as “another strong quarter” and used an earnings call to again highlight the company’s focus on integrating video and improving ad conversions.

However, analysts voiced concerns about the company’s ability to grow its income over the long term.

In the second quarter of 2014, net income was $791 million, but a year later this had fallen to $719 million. This was largely due to skyrocketing expenses, which totalled $2.769 billion for the two months ending June 30. By comparison, total expenses for the second quarter of 2014 were a relatively thrifty $1.52 billion.

The rising costs seemed to worry some shareholders, who sold enough stock to cause Facebook’s share price to fall by 1.39% in after-hours trading.
Apr 222015

Spending weighs on revenues as Facebook’s stock price slips

For the first time since its IPO, Facebook’s quarterly performance underperformed market expectations. While Wall Street had predicted $3.56 billion in revenue, Facebook reported $3.54 billion instead. This is an increase of 42%, year-on-year.
In a muted first quarter report, the company said that its operating margins had narrowed significantly from 43% in the first quarter of 2014 to 26% in the first quarter of 2015. This appeared to be a hangover from the company’s spending spree in the previous year, when Facebook made a series of major acquisitions and product launches.

However, there were some positive signs for shareholders. Platform engagement was up across both mobile and conventional channels, with mobile monthly users totalling 1.25 billion – a 24% increase on the previous year.

By the end of the first quarter of 2015, more than 1.4 billion people were using the core Facebook service, while another 800 million were using WhatsApp, 700 million were using Facebook’s Groups product, 600 million were using Messenger and 300 million were using Instagram. This, said Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, marked its evolution from “a single blue app on your phone into a family of apps”.

But the larger the company, the higher the bill, and Facebook’s expenses were starting to stack up. First quarter expenses totalled $2.61 billion – a huge increase on 2014’s Q1 expense bill of $1.43 billion.

These rising costs were the focus of much media and shareholder scrutiny, reducing Facebook’s stock by 2% in after-hours trading.
Mar 172015

Facebook Messenger introduces free payment system

The introduction of a free payment service on Messenger was another sign of Facebook’s ambition to become a one-stop shop for its users. By making it free and easy to transfer money to friends via the Messenger app, Facebook was effectively pitching itself as a competitor of PayPal and Venmo.

To send money, users simply had to start a message with a friend, tap the $ icon and enter the amount to send, then tap the ‘pay’ button and add their debit card details to send money.

To receive money, users just had to open the conversation and tap ‘add card’ to add their debit card details and accept money for the first time.

Users could enable Touch ID and a PIN service to make it easier to use the money transfer service again. Facebook also assured its customers that it was incorporating security best practices to protect user accounts.

We use secure systems that encrypt the connection between you and Facebook as well as your card information when you ask us to store it for you. We use layers of software and hardware protection that meet the highest industry standards. These payment systems are kept in a secured environment that is separate from other parts of the Facebook network and that receive additional monitoring and control.

A company spokesperson said, in a notice announcing the payment feature.

The company’s stock price ticked up by almost 2% in the following day’s trading, as Facebook’s growth plans appeared to take shape.
Jan 282015

Facebook’s revenue tops $10 billion by end of 2014

"We got a lot done in 2014,” said Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, in what might be the understatement of the year.

Facebook used its full-year earnings report to announce that the company had passed the $10 billion revenue milestone in 2014. Revenue for the full year increased by 58% year-on-year, reaching $12.47 billion for the 12 months ending December 31 2014.

Once again, the company beat Wall Street’s expectations by posting fourth quarter earnings of $3.85 billion, compared with consensus estimates of $3.78 billion, sending a message to traders that they should not underestimate the staying power and the growth potential of this tech giant.

By the end of the year, Facebook had well and truly completed its pivot towards mobile. Mobile ad revenue accounted for 69% of Facebook's total $3.59 billion ad earnings in the fourth quarter of the year, meaning that mobile-only ads brought in more than $2 billion for the company in the final three months of 2014.

Early investors were rewarded for their loyalty with a small uplift in share price, but this period of Facebook’s financial life was characterised by a lack of volatility, with share prices mostly hovering between $75 and $80 for the next several months.
Jan 082015

Facebook acquires QuickFire Networks

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has made no secret of his aim to ramp up Facebook’s video-sharing business, but the acquisition of QuickFire Networks really cemented the platform’s new focus on video.

QuickFire specialises in video compression software, which reduced video file sizes and upload times without loss of image quality. By acquiring this software, Facebook should be able to reduce buffering time for videos, making it easier for users to share and watch video content.

In a message on QuickFire Networks’ website, CEO Craig Lee confirmed that the entire QuickFire team would be migrating to Facebook, and described the acquisition as

The next step in our growth.

The day before the acquisition was reported, Facebook revealed that its users had been posting video more frequently over the past year, with video posts per user up by 75% globally. More than 50% of daily Facebook users in the US watch at least one video per day.

Facebook’s shareholders seemed to endorse the platform’s new focus on video, with the company’s share price ticking up slightly after news of the QuickFire acquisition was broken.
Jan 062015

Facebook acquires

Facebook’s acquisition of gave the company access to’s 6,000-strong community of developers as well as its API for building voice-activated interfaces.

Described as ‘Siri-like’,’s software used machine learning to turn speech into natural language. These words can then be used to produce actionable data. The software had applications for use in chatbots, wearable devices, and with automated thermostats.

The acquisition paved the way for Facebook to offer voice control development tools, and to make it possible to use speech to navigate the Facebook app.

But some industry onlookers suggested that the deal was an acqui-hire in disguise. Facebook could use’s developer connections to realise its ‘build-grow-monetize’ strategy. This means that developers would get help building apps and grow, before eventually paying Facebook for ads, or splitting revenue with Facebook from hosting its ads.

News of the acquisition did not appear to have much impact on Facebook’s stock price which remained static for a couple of days, after several weeks of falling values.
Oct 282014

Q3 earnings send Facebook’s stock to an all-time-high

Facebook’s stock value reached an all-time-high in the wake of the company’s third quarter earnings report for 2014.

Revenue reached $3.2 billion in the three months ending September 30 2014 – a 59% year-on year-increase. Meanwhile, daily active users increased by 19% year-on-year, with an average of 864 million active users in September 2014. Mobile users were also up by a massive 39% year-over-year.

Most CEOs would be screaming these stats from the rooftop gardens of Silicon Valley, but in his typically understated manner, Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg simply said that it was:

A good quarter with strong results.

On an earnings call later that day, Zuck and Facebook's new CFO, David Wehner, warned that 2015 would be a major investment year for the company, with expenses estimated to grow between 50% and 70%.

This appeared to spook investors, causing the company’s share price to fall by 7% within 24 hours.
Oct 242014

Facebook gifts WhatsApp founders with company shares

On 6 October, Facebook finally completed its $19 billion acquisition of messaging app WhatsApp. A few weeks later, it was announced that WhatsApp’s founders Jan Koum and Bryan Acton would receive employment inducement grants to the value of 24,853,468 and 12,621,803 restricted stock units (RSUs), respectively. By October 24, Facebook’s stock was trading at approximately $80 per share, which valued the share giveaway at approximately $3 billion. This pushed up the total cost of the WhatsApp deal to $22 billion.

The terms of the stock grants made it clear that Facebook was keen to keep both Koum and Acton on board for at least a few more years. The RSUs were subject to a four-year quarterly vesting schedule, with the money to be paid out in increasing amounts over time.

Furthermore, it was confirmed that Jan Koum would join Facebook’s board of directors, giving him a say over the direction of the company – a tantalising thought considering Koum’s famously anti-advertising stance.

However, shareholders didn’t seem too concerned with the finer details of the deal, with little movement in the company’s share price in the immediate aftermath of the announcement.
Jun 232014

Facebook stock rises on robust Q2 results

Facebook celebrated its tenth anniversary in 2014, and what a difference a decade can make. By the second quarter of the year, Facebook was a bona fide tech giant, with quarterly revenue of $2.9 billion and room for growth.

More significantly, the second quarter results showed that the company was finally getting a handle on its operating margins. According to generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP), Facebook’s operating margins rose to 48% in the second quarter of the year. One year earlier, operating margins sat at 31%.
Facebook’s mobile strategy was also starting to pay off, with more than one billion active monthly users via mobile devices, and 654 million daily mobile users on average.

This proved Facebook’s ability to monetise its platform and grow sustainably. Shareholders clearly got the message – the day before the second quarter earnings were announced, Facebook’s stock was worth $69.27, but by the following day the stock had risen to $74.98 – an all-time high.

It is worth noting that this quarter also gave Facebook its first taste of privacy outrage, as it was revealed to have been experimenting on users by choosing to show certain content in an attempt to influence users’ mood. This will become more relevant in a few years’ time, when Facebook’s profit potential is marred by privacy concerns and geo-political scandals.
Apr 232014

Profits triple at Facebook in Q1 2014

By the first quarter of 2014, Facebook had earned its place among the blue chips. Facebook was officially a member of the S&P 100, and it had left its IPO disappointments behind it.

In February, the platform completed its acquisition of WhatsApp/ in 2014 for an eye-watering $19.3 billion. This was Facebook’s largest ever acquisition, and the largest acquisition of a venture-backed company/ in finance history. The following month, Facebook spent another $2 billion on virtual reality firm Oculus.

Despite rising costs, revenue for the first quarter of 2014 hit a new record of $2.5 billion – 72% higher than total revenue from the first quarter of 2013.

The platform tripled its profits as it continued to pivot towards mobile, with 59% of its $2.27 billion advertising income arriving via mobile advertisers – an 82% increase from the same quarter last year.

The social network also managed to grow its user base by 15% year-on-year, to reach 1.28 billion monthly users in the first quarter of the year. According to research firm comScore, the average American spent one fifth of their time checking out Facebook on their mobile phones by the start of 2014.

CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg was optimistic on the company’s outlook, telling investors that:

Facebook's business is strong and growing, and this quarter was a great start to 2014.

But changes were afoot. In the biggest personnel change since the company’s IPO, Facebook used its first quarter report to announce that CFO David Ebersman would be stepping down after five years in the post. He will be succeeded by Facebook’s vice president of corporate finance and business planning, and former Zynga CFO David Wehner from June 1 2014.

By the end of the first quarter of 2014, murmurs of privacy infringements had begun to circle Facebook, stoking uncertainty among shareholders. Although the company’s first quarter results beat Wall Street predictions, it was not enough to assuage investors, and the share value would drop consistently over the next few days.
Mar 252014

Facebook acquires Oculus

In its latest headline-grabbing purchase, Facebook spent $2 billion acquiring virtual reality firm Oculus. The deal included $400 million in cash and 23.1 million shares of Facebook stock – valued at $1.6 billion based on a valuation of $69.35 per share - with another $300 million of potential earnings and stock, subject to certain milestones.

The deal was announced just weeks after Facebook acquired messaging app WhatsApp for approximately $19 million.

Mobile is the platform of today, and now we're also getting ready for the platforms of tomorrow. Oculus has the chance to create the most social platform ever, and change the way we work, play and communicate.

Said Facebook founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg.

Oculus was founded in 2012 as a pioneer of immersive virtual reality technology. At the time of Facebook’s offer, it had received more than 75,000 orders for development kits for the company's flagship headset, the Oculus Rift.
In an official statement announcing the deal, Facebook said that it plans to

Extend Oculus' existing advantage in gaming to new verticals, including communications, media and entertainment, education and other areas.

But shareholders didn’t seem too enamoured with Facebook’s latest purchase. The following day, the company’s share price slid by approximately 6%.
Feb 192014

Facebook acquires WhatsApp

It was by far the biggest deal in Facebook’s history – overshadowing the $1 billion offered for Instagram and the $3 billion rejected offer for Snapchat. In February 2014, Facebook announced that it had reached an agreement with WhatsApp to buy the messaging app for $4 billion in cash, plus approximately $12 billion in Facebook shares.

Another $3 billion worth of shares would be granted to WhatsApp’s founders and employees via restricted stock units over a four-year period. The accumulated value of the class A common stock and RSUs issued to WhatsApp shareholders and employees was expected to represent 7.9% of Facebook shares.

The terms of the deal made a couple of things very clear: Facebook was deadly serious about growing its mobile base; and they wanted to keep key members of WhatsApp’s staff on the payroll. In fact, Jan Koum – WhatsApp’s co-founder and CEO – was appointed to the company’s board as soon as the deal completed.

I've known Jan for a long time and I'm excited to partner with him and his team to make the world more open and connected. WhatsApp is on a path to connect 1 billion people.

Said Mark Zuckerberg, CEO and founder of Facebook.

Koum added that:

The services that reach that milestone are all incredibly valuable. Excited and honored to partner with Mark and Facebook as we continue to bring our product to more people around the world.

Zuckerberg insisted that WhatsApp would continue to operate as a separate entity to Facebook, with WhatsApp's core messaging product and Facebook's Messenger app continuing to operate as standalone applications.

While the deal had its critics, it was seen as a bold move from the social networking platform, which would help Facebook to realise its dreams of mobile growth.

Shareholders seemed to agree, sending Facebook’s share price a few points higher as more details on the deal emerged.
Feb 042014

Facebook celebrates 10 year anniversary

Facebook celebrated a very special birthday on February 4 2014 – the social network was ten years old!

This inspired a series of wistful media reports, looking back over the extraordinary growth of the company from a dorm room to the board room. Keen to take advantage of this free publicity, Facebook’s marketing team went into overload, making full use of the platform’s functionality to mark the occasion and promote Facebook’s new, community-first mission statement.

On his personal Facebook page, CEO Mark Zuckerberg reminisced about getting pizza with friends in college soon after launching Facebook.

I told them I was excited to help connect our school community, but one day someone needed to connect the whole world. When I reflect on the last 10 years, one question I ask myself is: why were we the ones to build this? We were just students. We had way fewer resources than big companies. If they had focused on this problem, they could have done it. The only answer I can think of is: we just cared more.

He said.

Caring aside, Facebook’s financial journey also came under some scrutiny. The firm had just reported a profit of $1.5 billion for 2013, comfortably beating analyst predictions.
Shareholders gave Facebook the gift of market confidence, as the company’s share value rose slightly in same-day trading.
Unsplash / Ray Hennessy
Jan 292014

Facebook ends 2013 on a high

Facebook’s share price soared by nearly 20% in the days following the company’s fourth quarter earnings and full year results. Once again, Facebook beat market expectations to deliver an extraordinary $7.87 billion in revenue for the year ending December 31 2013, a 55% year-on-year increase.

The company’s fourth quarter performance indicated that revenue growth was accelerating towards the end of 2013. Overall revenue for the fourth quarter of 2013 amounted to $2.59 billion – an enormous 63% increase on the $1.59 billion which was reported for the fourth quarter of 2012.

More importantly, revenue from advertising reached $2.34 billion – a huge 76% increase from the same quarter the previous year. More than half (53%) of this money came from mobile advertising, in a ringing endorsement of CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s mobile-first strategy.

Facebook also continued to grow its user base throughout 2013. By the end of December, the platform boasted almost one billion (945 million) mobile monthly active users – an increase of 39% year-on-year.

It was a great end to the year for Facebook. We're looking forward to our next decade and to helping connect the rest of the world.

Said Zuckerberg.

Shareholders responded by sending Facebook’s stock price up by 10% in immediate after-hours trading, kicking off a growth trend that would continue for several months.
Jan 262014

Facebook introduces Trending Topics

Facebook continued to make use of big data by debuting a controversial new features called Trending Topics.

The platform’s algorithm would tap user preferences to create a mini-list of relevant topics that they may be interested in following. This list would appear at the top right hand corner of the newsfeed, and users could click on any headline to connect with any related posts from friends, pages or groups. Every user would then have a personalised list based on their own browsing history.

Facebook is a space where people from all over the world gather every day to share their thoughts and participate in real-time conversations, from the highlights of the Golden Globes to the passing of Nelson Mandela.

Said Chris Struhar, Facebook’s engineering manager.

Today we’re announcing Trending, a new product that’s designed to surface interesting and relevant conversations in order to help you discover the best content from all across Facebook.

The new feature was compared to Twitter. Tech reviewers claimed that it was not personalised enough, while others worried that the use of user data could lead to privacy issues.

Facebook’s share price dipped slightly after the Trending Topics launch, only to rebound strongly a few days later when the company unveiled its robust 2013 full-year results.
Dec 192013

Facebook proposes and prices new public share issuance

On December 19, Facebook announced that it was commencing a public offering of 70,000,000 shares of its Class A common stock. More than half (41,350,000 shares) of these shares were offered by Mark Zuckerberg from his personal allocation.

In a statement to shareholders, Facebook said that it intended to use the proceeds from the sale

For working capital and other general corporate purposes.

The company added that the majority of the proceeds earned from Zuckerberg’s share sale were to be used to settle taxes that he incurred in connection with an outstanding stock option to purchase 60,000,000 shares of Class B common stock.

As of the close of trading on December 20 2014, S&P (then known as Standard & Poor's) announced that Facebook’s Class A common stock would be included in the S&P 500 Index. As a result, Facebook said that the new stock issuance will be primarily offered to index funds whose portfolios were primarily based on stocks included in the S&P 500 Index.

On December 20, the stock offering was officially priced at $55.05 per share, which was in line with the public value of the stock on the same date. By the time the offering had closed on December 26 2013, the company’s stock price had risen to an all-time high of $57.73.
Nov 132013

$3 billion offer for Snapchat is rejected

Throughout 2013, rumours swirled that Facebook was looking to buy video-sharing app Snapchat. Facebook’s user base was skewing towards an older demographic, while Snapchat was very much a teen and tween sensation.

In November 2013, Facebook offered a whopping $3 billion cash for Snapchat – three times the amount that it paid for Instagram the previous year.

Media reports at the time suggested that Snapchat CEO and founder Evan Spiegel rejected the deal in the hope that the company could secure an even higher valuation the following year.

However, in an interview with Forbes, Spiegel revealed that he rejected the deal because:

There are very few people in the world who get to build a business like this. I think trading that for some short-term gain isn’t very interesting.

The rejected bid left Facebook in a tight spot. The whole world now knew the social network’s biggest weakness – lack of growth among the younger demographic. Unsurprisingly, the Snapchat fiasco netted a fair amount of negative press for Facebook, and the company’s stock price stuttered in mid-November as shareholders worked out what the deal – or lack thereof – meant for the future of the company.
Oct 302013

Facebook earnings pass $2bn in Q3 2013

In August 2013, Facebook’s stock price recovered to IPO levels for the first time, and it just kept on rising. By the time the company’s third quarter results were announced, the company’s stock was trading at approximately $49 – a 28% increase on the listing price.

The third quarter earnings report gave investors some hope that the share price was on a permanent uptick.

For the first time, Facebook’s quarterly revenue passed the $2 billion mark – a 60% increase, year-on-year. The company also continued to grow its mobile arm, with 874 million monthly active users, vs 1.19 billion monthly users accessing the site via desktops and laptops.

In an earnings call later that day, Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg revealed that Facebook and Instagram users spend more of their time on those two social networks on their mobile devices than all the other popular social networking sites (YouTube and Tumblr) combined.

This comment set the stage for the next stage of Facebook’s growth, with CEO Mark Zuckerberg telling shareholders that:

The strong results we achieved this quarter show that we're prepared for the next phase of our company, as we work to bring the next five billion people online and into the knowledge economy.
Aug 212013

Facebook launches

Along with fellow tech companies Ericsson, MediaTek, Nokia, Opera, Qualcomm and Samsung, Facebook announced the launch of – a global initiative aimed at bringing internet access the two-thirds of the world who are not yet connected. had three stated aims: to make access to the internet more affordable; to use data more efficiently; and to help businesses drive access to the internet.

Everything Facebook has done has been about giving all people around the world the power to connect. There are huge barriers in developing countries to connecting and joining the knowledge economy. brings together a global partnership that will work to overcome these challenges, including making internet access available to those who cannot currently afford it.

Explained Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

An ambitious project with no clear price tag or, quantifiable value, signified Facebook’s intention to be more than just a social network. As the company pointed out in its press release, as of August 2013, only 2.7 billion people have access to the internet, and internet adoption rates were growing by less than 9% each year. intended to bring together a range of mature technologies to develop lower-cost smartphones and low-data versions of popular apps, to improve online access for people in areas with low connectivity.’s launch coincided with a rally in Facebook’s stock price. At the start of August 2013, Facebook’s stock price finally recovered to its IPO value of $38 per share, with the rise fuelled by a positive second quarter report. In the days following the announcement, Facebook’s stock would climb to more than $40 per share, netting Facebook’s original shareholders their first taste of profit since IPO.
Jun 242013

Mobile growth delivers record quarter for Facebook

Facebook Wall Street when it surpassed analyst expectations by reporting Q2 revenue of $1.81 billion – an all-time quarterly high for the company. Analysts had predicted revenues of up to $1.61 billion.

What was behind this revenue boost? According to the man at the top, it was all about mobile engagement.

We've made good progress growing our community, deepening engagement and delivering strong financial results, especially on mobile. The work we've done to make mobile the best Facebook experience is showing good results and provides us with a solid foundation for the future.

Said Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s founder and CEO.

Mobile advertising accounted for $656 million of the overall revenue, signifying its growing importance to the financial health of the company. In an earnings call later in the day, Facebook predicted that mobile revenue will soon outstrip desktop incomes, and outlined plans to generate even more mobile income by monetizing Instagram in the near future.

Investors appeared to be happy with these developments, sending the share price soaring.

For the first time since the company’s IPO one year earlier, Facebook’s stock price came within touching distance of its $38 IPO price.
May 012013

Savvy acquisitions pay off in Q1

After months of M&A activity, Facebook’s expansion strategy started to bear fruit.

In the first three months of 2013, the company reported a 38% year-on-year increase in revenue, largely driven by higher mobile advertising. In fact, advertising revenue brought in $1.25 billion in the first quarter, which represented 85% of the total quarterly revenue. Mobile ad revenue accounted for approximately 30% of total advertising earnings.

However, some issues remained. Expenses ticked above $1 billion for the second month in a row, as the company’s headcount increased and infrastructure costs rose. And operating margins were squeezed once more, from 36% in the first quarter of 2012, to 26% in the first quarter of 2013, fuelling concerns about the platform’s profitability.

On the same day that the first quarter earnings were released, Facebook announced that chief accounting officer David Spillane – the number-cruncher behind the company’s IPO – would be leaving the company. This may have given shareholders some pause for thought. Despite rising revenues and strong fundamentals, Facebook’s share price increased only slightly in response to the earnings report. By close of day, Facebook’s stock had fallen in value by 1.22%.
Mar 082013

Facebook acquires Storylane

Throughout Silicon Valley, Facebook has become known for its penchant for acqui-hires – acquisitions with the sole purpose of bringing gifted engineers into the fold.

This appears to have been the case with Storylane. The CMS blog-sharing site was only four months old when Facebook bought it for an undisclosed amount. Within those four months, the five-person team had racked up approximately 200,000 shared stories, and launched a read-only iPhone app.

After a lot of discussions with Facebook about how our teams might work together to have even greater impact, we are announcing today that the Storylane team will be joining Facebook.

Storylane's founder and CEO Jonathan Gheller wrote in a now-defunct blog post on the company’s site.

Facebook told the press that the Storylane team’s previous work showcasing real identity through sincere and meaningful content would make them a perfect fit at Facebook.

The word “identity” is doing a lot of work in this statement. The Storylane team would be placed in Facebook’s Timeline team, reporting to Facebook’s “Identity” product group Sam Lessin.

Facebook saw a very small uplift in its share value after news of the acquisition was made public.
Jan 302013

Facebook ends 2012 on a high note

2012 was a game-changing year for Facebook, with a billion users a billion users, an IPO IPO, the billion-dollar acquisition of Instagram, and an increasing focus on mobile integration and ad revenue.

Yet the company’s high-profile IPO was widely seen as a flop. Facebook went public at $38 per share, with its share price rising to $42 on the day of its listing. But by the end of 2012, its stock was hovering around the $26 mark, having bottomed out at $17.7 earlier that year.

Despite this, the company had plenty to celebrate in its fourth quarter and full year results.

By the end of the year, CEO Mark Zuckerberg proclaimed that Facebook had become “a mobile company”, with 680 million active mobile users, and more than a billion active users on non-mobile devices.

Revenue from advertising for the fourth quarter of the year was a whopping $1.33 billion – a 41% year-on-year increase. A focus on mobile ad revenue paid off handsomely. Mobile advertising accounted for almost a quarter (23%) of the platform’s total advertising revenue, up from a 14% share of overall advertising revenue in the previous quarter.

Total revenue for the fourth quarter totalled $1.585 billion, bringing Facebook’s full-year earnings to a massive $5.89 billion – up from $3.11 billion for 2011.
Zuckerberg told shareholders that he planned to make Facebook stronger and more valuable in 2013, and pledged to keep on investing in the company in the year ahead.

However, shareholders still seemed to be unsure of the company’s success on the public markets, and Facebook’s share value would drop by almost 10% over the next few days.
Jan 152013

Facebook Graph Search is launched

Initially rolled out as a beta version, Facebook unveiled its new search feature in January 2013. By August, it would be made available to everyone using Facebook in US English.

But what was Facebook Graph Search pitched as? According to Facebook, Graph Search would offer a way to refine your searches by making suggestions based on the people, places, photos and interests within your Facebook network. It combined the big data acquired from Facebook’s one billion users, as well as external data powered by Microsoft’s search engine Bing.

In a presentation at a media event, Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg described Graph Search as Facebook’s third pillar, after its news feed and timeline.

Zuckerberg also hinted that Graph Search could eventually become a product in its own right. One to rival mainstream search engines by offering a more personalised search experience. Significantly, the architects behind Graph Search – Tom Stocky and Lars Rasmussen – are former Google executives. Rasmussen was the co-founder of Google Maps, while Stocky helped start the developer products team at Google.

The announcement of the beta roll-out appeared to have little effect on Facebook’s stock price, with the share value hovering around the $29 mark for much of the following week.
Nov 062012

Obama wins second term

After a hard-fought election battle, incumbent Democratic President Barack Obama defeated Republican contender Mitt Romney, with 332 electoral college votes to Romney’s 206.

Obama was granted a second term despite a relatively high rate of unemployment, and unimpressive economic growth in the aftermath of the global financial crisis. However, his promises to provide affordable healthcare, end the Iraq War, and fairer immigration seemed to resonate with voters.

Commentators suggested that this may have been the first ‘Facebook’ election. Unlike his competitor, Barack Obama knew how to use social media and his campaign team was able to use social networking platforms like Facebook to promote their message to a younger audience.

The Obama campaign used Facebook’s "Sponsored Stories" feature to appear in users’ News Feeds, which significantly boosted Obama’s online visibility. On a single day, President Obama’s Facebook page received more than one million "likes", compared with about 30,000 per day in earlier weeks. This sparked a public conversation about the way Facebook could be used to influence the results of an election, and how data-led marketing approaches could infringe on people’s privacy.

Subsequent investigations would find that Facebook’s election coverage boosted voter turnout in the 2012 elections. It was also was revealed that Facebook had been conducting experiments on how the company’s actions can affect the voting behaviour of its users.

In the days following the election, Facebook’s share price slid by approximately 10%, in line with wider market movements.
Marco Schulze Leipzig-Seiten
Oct 232012

Q3 results send share price to an all-time low

By the end of September 2012, Facebook had more than a billion monthly users, but CEO Mark Zuckerberg was firmly focused on the platform’s mobile growth.

In the three months ending September 30, the platform had increased its monthly mobile user base by 61%, with 604 million active users. Zuckerberg used the quarterly results announcement to double down on this mobile-first strategy.

People who use our mobile products are more engaged, and we believe we can increase engagement even further as we continue to introduce new products and improve our platform. At the same time, we are deeply integrating monetization into our product teams in order to build a stronger, more valuable company.

He said.

Of course, introducing new products comes with a price tag, and the earnings report showed costs and expenses of $885 million for the quarter – a 64% increase year-on-year.

For the second quarter in a row, revenue soared past the $1 billion mark. But shareholders couldn’t ignore the rising costs and narrowing profit margins. Over the next two weeks, Facebook’s share value fell by approximately 10%.
Oct 042012

Facebook hits one billion active users

Just eight years after the company was founded in a university dorm room, Facebook reported that it had more than one billion active daily users. According to CEO Mark Zuckerberg, that figure did not include bots or fake users.

To mark the occasion, Facebook revealed some never-before seen statistics about site use. By October 2012, the site had seen 1.13 trillion “likes”, 140.3 billion friend connections, 219 billion photos uploaded, and 17 billion location check-ins.

The average user was 22 – down from the median age of 23 which was reported in June 2010. Facebook also revealed that had more than 600 million mobile users – up by 48 million from 552 million in June – proving its ability to evolve and attract new audiences.

This morning, there are more than one billion people using Facebook actively each month. Helping a billion people connect is amazing, humbling and by far the thing I am most proud of in my life. I am committed to working every day to make Facebook better for you, and hopefully together one day we will be able to connect the rest of the world too.

Said Zuckerberg.

However, this milestone didn’t have an immediate benefit for Facebook’s stock price. Still trading below its IPO value, Facebook’s stock price fell by approximately 1% the following day.
Sep 062012

Acquisition of Instagram completes

After reaching an agreement to buy photo-sharing platform Instagram in April 2012, the deal was finally completed on September 6 2012.

Under the terms of the acquisition, Instagram was set to receive $300 million in cash and 23 million shares of common stock in Facebook. In April 2012 – a month before Facebook’s public listing – this would have been equivalent to $1 billion.

However, between April and September, Facebook’s stock price fell from approximately $31 per share, to approximately $19 per share, which effectively reduced the value of the deal to ‘just’ $730 million. In the days following the completion of the deal, the stock price crept up again to just over $23 per share.

Instagram’s CEO, Kevin Systrom told users that the acquisition would not alter the services’ functionality. Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg also tried to reassure Instagram users that the merger would not lead to major changes in the Instagram experience, writing on his Facebook wall that:

We plan on keeping features like the ability to post to other social networks, the ability to not share your Instagrams on Facebook if you want, and the ability to have followers and follow people separately from your friends on Facebook. We are committed to building and growing Instagram independently.

Zuckerberg added.
Sep 042012

Facebook files for accelerated vesting plan with SEC

Just a few months after its public listing, Facebook drew up a new equity incentive plan for its employees, which would allow all staff to hold stock in the company as long as they were under Facebook’s employment. This was done via an 8K filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on September 4 2012.

In the SEC filing, Facebook said that:

The purpose of this Plan is to provide incentives to attract, retain and motivate eligible persons whose present and potential contributions are important to the success of the Company…by offering them an opportunity to participate in the Company’s future performance through the grant of Awards.

The equity incentive plan allowed staff to hold restricted stock units – or RSUs – which are special shareholding vehicles which do not count towards the SEC’s shareholder limit. But, as the name suggests, there were a few restrictions in place. For a start, Facebook’s RSUs cannot be sold on secondary markets, and some were made subject to performance targets. Furthermore, the RSUs did not include voting rights, and Facebook set a cap of 2.5 million shares per person, per year under the plan.

This filing unfortunately coincided with Facebook’s worst ever day on the stock market, with its share price falling to an all-time low of $17.72. A good day to offload stock to your employees, but not a great day to be a newly-minted Facebook shareholder.
Jul 262012

Second quarter earnings 2012

Amid a flurry of publicity, headlines and hot takes, Facebook went public on Friday May 18, 2012. It was – in the words of 28-year-old founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg – “a big deal”.

From Facebook’s headquarters in California, Zuckerberg told the world that while going public was an important milestone, it wasn’t Facebook’s mission.

Our mission is to make the world more open and connected. So let's do this!

He said.

His speech was quintessentially Silicon Valley in its idealism. But the markets didn’t buy it. Within days of the IPO, Facebook’s public listing would be described as a disaster, as the stock price dipped, and dipped, and dipped again, ending the day close to flat. Part of the problem was a Nasdaq technical error, while investors also ended up sueing Facebook and its underwriters for withholding material financial information, which didn’t help its reputation or its share price. And the company’s first post-IPO earnings report did little to reassure investors.

Three months after holding one of the largest tech-based IPOs of all time, Facebook’s stock had fallen from a $42 high on the day of its listing to just $26.80 per share by the day that its 2012 second quarter earnings report was released.

The company had just spent an eye-watering $1 billion on its acquisition of photo-sharing platform Instagram – a pretty massive sum for a company with just 30 million users and zero revenue. It went on to snap up a rake of image-based companies in the three months to July 2012, including face-recognition tool, and photo-blogging platform Lightbox.

But these purchases took a toll on the company’s balance sheet. Although quarterly revenue reached $1.18 billion – a 32% year-on-year increase – costs and expenses were $1.93 billion, up 295% on the previous year. As a result, the company made a nine-figure loss for the quarter.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg reassured investors that this was all part of his masterplan to

Help every person stay connected and every product they use be a great social experience.

But shareholders weren’t so sure, and Facebook’s share price fell to $23.70 the following day, representing a reduction of approximately 37% on its IPO price of $38.
Jun 252012

Sheryl Sandberg leans in to Board of Director post

Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg was appointed to the company’s board of directors four years after moving to Facebook from Google.

Sandberg became the first woman to sit on Facebook’s board, joining the company’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Marc L. Andreessen, Erskine B. Bowles, James W. Breyer, Donald E. Graham, Reed Hastings, and Peter A. Thiel.

Announcing her board position, Zuckerberg described Sandberg as having been his “partner in running Facebook” over the years.

Her understanding of our mission and long-term opportunity, and her experience both at Facebook and on public company boards makes her a natural fit for our board.

Zuckerberg added.

Sandberg’s appointment was welcomed by the media as a sign that Facebook was finally starting to diversify its board. With a background in marketing, public policy and communications, her position on the board also signified a diversity of voices and perspectives at the top table.

Facebook is working every day to make the world more open and connected. It's a mission that I'm deeply passionate about, and I feel fortunate to be part of a company that is having such a profound impact in the world.

Sandberg said.

Shareholders seemed to be pleased with her new appointment, and Facebook’s share price rose by approximately 3% the following day.
Financial Times / Wikimedia Commons
May 242012

Facebook acquires Karma

Days after its IPO, it was reported that Facebook had acquired gift-giving start-up Karma for $80 million – it’s second-largest acquisition ever, after Instagram.

At the time of the acquisition, Karma was just a year old, and had just 16 employees. Facebook said that it intended to continue running Karma as a service, in an early indication that the social network was eyeing the lucrative e-commerce market.

Karma’s algorithm imports data from Facebook on users’ likes, interests, and birthdays, and uses this information to make recommendations on gifts, which users can then buy and send to their loved ones.

We’ve been really impressed with the Karma team and all they accomplished in such a short time. This acquisition combines Karma’s passion and innovative mobile app with Facebook’s platform to help people connect and share in new and meaningful ways.

Said a Facebook spokesperson.

It is hard to gauge the shareholder reaction to the deal, as Facebook opted to keep it low-key, with Karma making the news official in a now-defunct blog post. Facebook made its stock market debut on May 18, 2012, and its stock price almost immediately started to drop. However, by May 24, when news of the Karma acquisition was starting to reach mainstream media outlets, Facebook’s stock rallied slightly to approximately $33 per share – down from the IPO price of $38.
May 192012

Mark Zuckerberg ties the knot

The day after Facebook went public, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his long-time partner Priscilla Chan got married in a surprise ceremony.

According to reports, guests were told that they would be attending a party at Zuckerberg’s house to celebrate Chan’s graduation from medical school. When they arrived, they realised they were guests at one of the most illustrious weddings in Silicon Valley history.

The secretive nature of the wedding was typically Zuckerberg. Fresh off Facebook's IPO he was one of the youngest billionaires on the planet and the world was watching to see what his next move would be. As it turned out, the next item on his to-do list was to make it official with his girlfriend of nine years. Chan and Zuckerberg met in Harvard University before Facebook’s creation. Chan specialized in paediatric care as a medical student, and was believed to have been the driving force between Facebook’s organ doner scheme.

True to form, Zuckerberg announced the wedding by posting a portrait of the bride and groom on his Facebook profile page. Facebook fans may have been more surprised to see the 28-year-old ditch his trademark hoodie for a tailored suit.