It has been a rough few weeks across the board for the stock market. A lot of equities have been pummeled by market forces lately.
Even so, last week saw something truly unique. On February 3, Facebook’s stock (technically Facebook is now owned by “Meta Platforms” so I suppose I should be calling it “Meta stock,” even though that’s not going to catch on anytime soon) cratered by 26.4 percent.
The value of the company slumped by more than $230 billion. That is the largest daily loss in market capitalization in history for any U.S. firm.
Meta chief executive Mark Zuckerberg probably took it hard. According to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, his personal net worth plummeted by $31 billion as a result of the stock slide. He’s still worth about $90 billion though, so even after losing a quarter of his wealth, ol’ Zuck is going to be just fine.
This latest stock rout for Facebook’s parent company is not completely unprecedented. The previous record-holder for the largest one-day drop in Facebook’s stock price was in July of 2018, when Facebook stock was down by 19 percent. Still, this one seems a bit different, and not just in its scale.
When it reported fourth quarter results for the first time under its new name, Meta missed earnings estimates. The company cited changes to Apple’s iPhone privacy settings as impacting its ad-targeting, and it also blamed macroeconomic challenges, including supply chain problems and inflation, for dragging down advertising budgets. There was a much bigger issue though.
In another first, Facebook reported its only quarter-to-quarter drop in daily active users to date.
For October, November, and December, Facebook’s daily active users were down to 1.929 billion. The previous quarter Facebook reported 1.930 billion daily active users.
Facebook remains the most popular social networking platform worldwide, and nearly 4 billion eyeballs on screens every day is nothing to scoff at. Facebook (or, ugh, Meta, if we must) is going to remain a massively huge, massively profitable company for a long, long time.
Growth is another matter though.
Almost a year ago, I wrote about how, for longtime users at least, Facebook is becoming increasingly boring and irrelevant. For teens, Snapchat surpassed Facebook as the most popular social media platform way back in 2016 — we can discuss ageism later, but being the platform of old people is not really a good look for any tech company from a returns perspective.
Meta’s supposedly signature “metaverse” is a bad idea that has already lost the company $10 billion. There is a pending Federal Trade Commission antitrust action against Facebook. Plus there’s Facebook’s role in spreading destructive mental health disorders, political disinformation, and genocide.
While Facebook’s era of social media dominance certainly isn’t over, we very well might have just reached the beginning of the end.
The societal implications of a social media network as pervasive as Facebook extend far beyond investor returns. If I could snap my fingers and make every Meta Platforms platform disappear in an instant, we would live in a very different country, and a very different world.
But this is capitalism. As long as a company is making money and delivering returns for investors, it’s not likely to go anywhere in the near-term.
Still, although Rome wasn’t built in a day, it didn’t crumble in one either. Only time will tell what the future holds for Facebook, but the worst day for any company’s stock price ever is an important milestone for Facebook and for all of us. Meta is not invulnerable. Even this tech giant that billions have come to communicate through, to rely on, and to, occasionally, fear, is subject to the same broad forces of history as the rest of us. Someday, even Facebook will fall.
Jonathan Wolf is a civil litigator and author of Your Debt-Free JD (affiliate link). He has taught legal writing, written for a wide variety of publications, and made it both his business and his pleasure to be financially and scientifically literate. Any views he expresses are probably pure gold, but are nonetheless solely his own and should not be attributed to any organization with which he is affiliated. He wouldn’t want to share the credit anyway. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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