Throughout its 18-year history, Facebook has only known growth. What started as Mark Zuckerberg’s online Harvard social directory has ballooned into a $900 billion company, now called Meta, whose services are used by nearly half of the world.
But its flagship Facebook app did something unusual during the fourth quarter of 2021: It lost daily users. In the last three months of the year, the number of users active on Facebook each day dipped ever so slightly (pdf), from 1.93 billion to 1.929 billion. This marks the first quarter since Facebook went public in 2012, and since it started reporting daily users in 2009, and likely the first time ever, that Facebook had fewer daily users in one quarter than it did the previous quarter.
Of course, Facebook is doing just fine. The app’s monthly active users—a more generous metric—ticked up from 2.91 billion to 2.912 billion in the quarter. Meanwhile, the number of daily users active during the quarter on any of Meta’s social media apps—i.e. Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Messenger—increased from 2.81 billion people to 2.82 billion people.
This all comes as Facebook is transforming into Meta, a “metaverse company” focused on building an immersive, virtual reality-based internet. Meta is focusing on new research and development, as well as building out its existing VR platform Oculus, in order to expand into new terrain. So far the transition from social media giant to “metaverse company” is gaining some traction with customers: Oculus headsets were a top-selling Christmas gift this past year.
But this marks the end of an era in some ways. Facebook, the website and app, appears to be plateauing. The company behind Facebook seems to know that in order to find torrid growth once again, it needs to redefine its mission.