Join the debate: Is Facebook's business model doomed?

Yes, that is true. But the rest is not irrelevant. They could be collecting much more in the app, and where the content is not yet encrypted. Any data point has value.

Good exchange of thoughts. But I did not mean here to investigate the many issues with FB or WA. Rather, hear from past or present FB users on where they see the platform going.

People here may realize this is all a big scam, or they are not happy with publicizing their whole lives online, I don’t know. Just curious how everyone feels.

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Great point. I’ll bring this back on-topic by this HN discussion: Ask HN: Is 2018 the end of Facebook?

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Thanks for sharing. Seems like the jury is still out on HN, divided between those who think FB will be done with, others who think FB will have many chances to give it a new spin so it keeps thriving.

I actually use Facebook ads for my small business as the targeting is just phenomenal for the money.
The thing that gets me is after all the controversy and the hearing, they haven’t changed a thing. They actually try and up sell me political targeted ads, which is completely irrelevant to my business so they must be doing it to most people.
It’s almost like they believe their untouchable.

Good to hear it’s at least working for you. The targeting is indeed theoretically very precise. It may an odd experience that in my case, it really did not deliver. Must be the country where I operate.

That’s one account showing the model works for advertisers. How about users?

This is what I wrote to @scottcapener in August, when we were talking about his app Parallel.

All of what I mentioned above applies to my presence on Facebook. Let me add these comments:

  1. I tried advertising for my small business and discovered it was a waste of money, time, and effort. It attracted people who didn’t want to be customers but who just wanted to comment on my effort–or, worse, discourage me.
  2. FB serves an important social purpose, giving people a sense of belonging, whether to a circle of friends or to a community. That is a super glue that gives FB staying power and reach.

When I created an account on, FB’s rival, I invited friends to follow me, but few did. They know about FB’s practices and yet they can’t leave it. I think this is sort of like belonging to a club with a few members you don’t like; because the club meets your primary needs and your friends are in it, you stay.

For most people, FB is an end, a destination, not a means or a tool.

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Right on target as always, @patm. If you don’t mind me asking, what happened with the friends you invited to join you on MeWe? How did you invite them, and why didn’t it click for them?

This is what makes Facebook the behemoth in the room. The term for this is network effects, and it means that unless someone comes up with an alternative that everyone you know can get excited about, there will be no mass migration. Said differently, people aren’t replacing Facebook en masse (re: @aschrijver’s comment above) because there is nothing suitable, as of now, to replace it with.

However, remember that Facebook’s lifeblood is not data – it is attention. And from that perspective, it has already been largely replaced by other services, such as their other properties (Instagram, WhatsApp) and the raging success of Chinese apps (WeChat, Douyin/TikTok, etc).

Victory here does not mean providing some people with a reasonable alternative to Facebook. Whatever comes next must have universal appeal, a service compelling enough to draw network effects on its own. Banding together over dissatisfaction with our current generation of social platforms is a great start, but in the long run I fear it is not enough. Victory here means finding a better way to connect people, driven by things that make us happy, support our interests, and actually make our lives better.

Here’s to everyone working to making that world become a reality. :clinking_glasses:

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Thanks for responding, @scottcapener. Always good to see you on the forum and read your thoughtful words.

My relationship with FB is an on-again/off-again thing. In fact, I went through the cycle more than once. Most recently, I decided to get off because I felt I was being hypocritical: being on the forum while staying on FB. Before I got off, I posted two or three times that I was leaving, and I invited friends to join me on MeWe. I think three of maybe ten close friends joined me on MeWe, but only one stayed and became active.

I told the head of my office that I was off FB and therefore could no longer administer the office’s FB group. He told me that we had to keep the group and that I had to run it. I therefore decided to get back on but under a different name (a deceased relative’s), and being lonely, I reclaimed one former friend. So there I am with one friend and administering my office’s page. It is like being a lighthouse keeper.

I just read a major article in Wired about the Chinese apps and was shaken by the implications. The article made it sound as if China’s technology will identify everyone in the country through facial recognition and data gathering–and will control society that way. The idea that this technology of which humans are justly proud will be used by an institution to control us in rigid ways is very scary. The article took Thomas Paine’s give-me-liberty statement and turned it into this: “Give me liberty or give me wealth.” In other words, you can take my freedom away as long as you make me materially comfortable.

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That’s a very relevant point. When I decided to ditch Whatsapp and told my friends they could from now on contact me on Signal, many did not install the app. I am very determined to not use WA again, but I can feel the pressure whenever I need to contact any of my many friends who are not on Signal. So how much more difficult it would be for someone, who has a more neutral attitude towards privacy issues, to switch platforms and not go back?

I am not against Facebook as a concept, just never used it for lack of interest. Therefore I would not try to convince my friends to ditch it. It’s just a strange thing however that recent scandals haven’t had a more profound impact. I guess accepting all sorts of abuse is the price many are ready to pay for convenience and free services.

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Yep, exactly. This is called “switching costs,” and it is another dramatic hurdle for any would-be alternative. The ability to easily transfer your data from one platform to another would certainly help lower the “cost” of switching, but at the end of the day, people will go where their friends are.

@patm Thanks for the info, I appreciate you sharing your story! Best wishes for your lighthouse keeping. :wink:

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I never joined Facebook. It never made sense to me. Why should I give my data so others can make money? Shouldn’t users get a percentage of such profits? Also – I’m easily spooked and am wary of Lord of the Flies group-think. Given the undeniable impact FB had on recent elections… time to say bye bye.
It is interesting that with the internet we, as a species, have manifested Carl Jung’s “collective unconcious.” The problems is, if one is unaware, the unconscious is a danger zone.

I’m still on Facebook, because my wife insists on it, so she can tag me in photos and check-in posts. I’ve been inactive since February. There are also only 2 groups that I’m a tiny bit active in. One in particular I have to be there, because they have decided it’s the only way to communicate to the members of a Taiko drumming group I belong to and they post training videos there.

I came off Instagram and WhatsApp shortly afterwards, i.e. deleted my account. I log-in to Facebook every two weeks to remove any changed advertising data. Especially where Facebook’s advertisers have added my email to their custom audiences feature. This really annoys me!

It has been super interesting to see my connections on LinkedIn using my email address and adding it to custom audiences inside FB. I’ve even called them out about it on LinkedIn, but they’ve been very silent in responding.

Yeah people have been really surprised me coming off WhatsApp and communication from them has seized. I’m quite pleased that I don’t see any of their posts though, it was getting bit crazy. I crewed at an event earlier in the year and they asked us to download ‘Telegram’. I know it has a poor reputation in terms of allegedly ‘terrorists’ using it, because of it’s built-in security. I’m using that to message some folks, but nowhere near as bad as WhatsApp.

So my opinion about FB is that they won’t be going anywhere soon. Years ago, when I first joined FB, I was an advocate. It was so new and so great that we could chat with each other without having to send group email etc. I predicted at the time that FB would have it’s own internet eco-system. I was indeed correct. Facebook is in the same group as Amazon, Apple, Google. The big 4 that ruling the tech eco-system.

Advertisers won’t be leaving FB any time soon either. As long as Instagram and WhatsApp continue their meteoric growth, advertisers will be told that the amount of active users across all of FB’s real estate is so big that it’s really the only place to be. Where else would they go? Google? Google is only useful for search, except for YouTube of course and there Google are definitely upping the advertising activity. Adverts now happen throughout videos, without the ability to skip. Unless of course you pay to not have any adverts.

Didn’t mean to write such a long response, FB will remain the ‘Pied Piper’ of the Social Networks.


I think I’m lucky it works as well as it does for me, it’s mostly due to the nature of the product we’re selling I think.
It’s a lot more expensive than a lot of advertisers realise to actually get a sale. Maybe you get a 1000 impressions for $10, but to get 1 customer all the way to the end of the funnel and convert is more like $20,30,40 or more.

I agree, I don’t think it’s good for users and I don’t use a personal account.


Some more articles on how Facebook is having trouble with their business model…

This article (mentioned on HN in Delay, Deny and Deflect: How Facebook’s Leaders Fought Through Crisis is from September, but hints at significant loss of users in The West:

And all the negative news and scandals had their effects on the moral of FB employees:

Wall-Street Journal - Facebook Morale Takes a Tumble Along With Stock Price

And the Hacker News discussion:


unless someone comes up with an alternative that everyone you know can get excited about, there will be no mass migration.

I’m not entirely sure that’s true. We may see a sagging, deflating of FB over time, lessening of social media throttleholds in general, and a fragmentation of available attention. People are getting sick of social media. They may not want to replace Facebook at all; they may want to reclaim their attention and their minds altogether.

This is beginning, with educated, well-off, and/or tech-savvy people leaving FB. It’ll likely trickle on down through the socioeconomic ranks. Right now, the biggest increase in smartphone market penetration here in the US is among lower-income users.


Here is an article from CNN that seems to imply Facebook has not much to worry about the fraction of users who give up on the app.

Finally it is starting to dawn on many people in the US that Facebook is up to no good, and worth to overcome the FOMO of quiting the platform.

Also read the large and insightful discussion on Hacker News (more than 500 comments already):

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I’ve been off FB since late 2016 and could not be more satisfied with that decision. I can hardly believe people are still willing to go on the site, given everything we know. If any group I’m a part of insists on using FB I simply say I won’t be participating that way and I find another way to stay apprised of what’s happening. The idea that it’s not possible to leave these sites is propaganda and is frankly utter nonsense. I won’t trade my privacy and that of people I care about, and democracy, for the dubious benefits FB offers. BTW I don’t use any of the other social media sites either - I use Signal for messaging and protonmail for email.

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