Death of a Dream: Facebook’s first-ever decline in active users is a landmark event in social media history

Use of the Facebook app itself had been leveling off gradually for years. And 2 billion daily log-ins is still an enormous, almost incomprehensible figure, greater than the population of any country.

For 18 years, ever since Mark Zuckerberg started it in a Harvard dorm room, Facebook has been growing. Through scandals, backlashes, regulatory pressure and competitive threats, it has kept growing — until now, reports the Washington Post.

Meta, the new name for the company formerly called Facebook, reported Wednesday that Facebook lost daily users last quarter for the first time ever. While the company as a whole, which includes Instagram and WhatsApp, continued to grow, its flagship social network — the big blue app, as it’s known internally — stalled just shy of 2 billion log-ins a day.

The news that Facebook may have peaked in 2021 was only the most symbolic data point in a gloomy corporate earnings report that sent Meta’s stock into an epic, historic spiral — shearing $220 billion from its value and hinting that the company’s reign over online socializing might not last.

For investors, the more worrisome signs have to do with the company’s struggle to monetize Instagram’s short-form video product Reels, its answer to red-hot Chinese-owned rival TikTok; a privacy crackdown by Apple that has limited Facebook’s ability to target ads on iPhones; and mounting expenses in the company’s dramatic bid to build a virtual reality future that it calls “the metaverse.”

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