It’s unusual for the CEO of a social network or an ad-based business to brag users are spending less time on the product the company sells. Even more so for Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO and founder of the biggest social network in the world. Facebook, after all, makes more money the more time you spend on its apps.
But Zuckerberg just told the world that Facebook users spend every day some 50 million hours less than before. And Zuckerberg presented it as a significant accomplishment.
Zuckerberg’s announcement is part of Facebook’s quarterly results for the fourth quarter of the year.
Already last quarter, we made changes to show fewer viral videos to make sure people’s time is well spent. In total, we made changes that reduced time spent on Facebook by roughly 50 million hours every day. By focusing on meaningful connections, our community and business will be stronger over the long term.
If you’ve been following Facebook updates in recent months, you already know that the social network has declared war on the current state of the news feed. Rather than having users consume as much passive viral content as possible, videos and news included, Facebook wants users to engage in meaningful interactions over content they actually want to share with others.
The move could help Facebook curb the spread of fake news, which is a real problem for the company.
A drop of 50 million hours of user every day translates to roughly 2.14 minutes less time spent on Facebook per user per day, TechCrunch explains, taking into account Facebook’s 1.4 billion users. Zuckerberg also said that it represents 5% of total time spent on Facebook.
Less time spent on Facebook also affects a different stat Facebook might be interested in. Daily active users dropped from 185 million to 185 million for the US and Canada region. That’s actually a 700,000 daily active users drop, a phenomenon that won’t turn into a trend according to Facebook CFO David Wehner.
The company reported the slowest quarter-over-quarter percentage daily user growth ever, at 2.18% — it would have been 2.24% if it hadn’t lost those 700,000 daily active users.
Facebook, however, isn’t worried. And it looks like investors aren’t either, as stock settled at +1.4% after the announcement.
It sure looks like Zuckerberg’s plan is working. In the long run, the more active Facebook users and resulting increased engagement he desires may prove to be just as profitable as the previous model:
By focusing on meaningful interactions, I expect the time we all spend on Facebook will be more valuable. And I always believe that if we do the right thing and deliver deeper value, our community and our business will be stronger over the long term.
Well, it’s either that, or it’s a long-term trick meant to prepare Facebook investors for a future that might not bring record numbers of users. If meaningful interactions are all that Facebook cares for, and the company manages to monetize that properly, then nobody will care if the total number of Facebook users actually drops or stays flat in the coming quarters.