Facebook nears moment when world is not enough

The $763bln tech giant is already looking to new ways to squeeze the lemon

  
A 3D printed Facebook logo is placed between small toy people figures in front of a keyboard in this illustration taken April 12, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo Image used for illustrative purpose.

A 3D printed Facebook logo is placed between small toy people figures in front of a keyboard in this illustration taken April 12, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo Image used for illustrative purpose.

(The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.)

SAN FRANCISCO - It turns out Facebook really might be too big to push around. This summer’s ad boycott made no dent on the social network’s third-quarter revenue, which grew 22% year-on-year. And monthly active users for its family of apps hit 3.2 billion. With world domination within reach, what’s next Perhaps getting more money from Facebook’s existing fans.

Mark Zuckerberg’s firm emerged financially unscathed from a pause in advertising by 1,000 big companies from Coca-Cola to Ford Motor, protesting its policies on hate speech and inflammatory content. And users were mostly unperturbed. About 55% of the nearly 6 billion people in the world who are at least 15 years old use one or more of Facebook’s services.

At some point, Facebook will hit a ceiling as the world runs out of humans who aren’t already using its products. The next order of business will then be increasing revenue from the people it has. It helps that the ad market has recovered after the initial shock of Covid-19. At the same time as Facebook published its earnings, Google parent Alphabet also reported 14% revenue growth during the quarter.

Greater potential comes from Facebook’s “family” connections – the word it uses for its other non-Facebook branded apps. It doesn’t break out top line figures for photo-sharing app Instagram and messaging service WhatsApp, but the average revenue the company gets from its eponymous core product is $7.89, higher than the $6.76 for its combined brands.

The $763 billion tech giant is already looking to new ways to squeeze the lemon. Instagram recently enhanced its shopping service so users can purchase a product they’ve seen on video. Similar features will be added to its new TikTok competitor, Reels. Then there’s messaging service WhatsApp, which Facebook has barely monetized, beyond forays in India and Brazil.

Try too brazenly to make money and users may be turned off, of course. As Facebook’s services move more into e-commerce and payments, cybersecurity concerns also rise. The company already has several black eyes when it comes to misuse of data and privacy violations. If it manages to maintain quality as it increases revenue, though, Facebook needn’t be worried that there are only a finite number of eyeballs to be hooked.

CONTEXT NEWS

- Facebook reported $21.5 billion of revenue for the third quarter on Oct. 29, an increase of 22% from a year earlier. Analysts expected revenue of $19.8 billion, according to Refinitiv.

- The social network said its monthly active users had increased 12% year-on-year as of Sept. 30, to 2.7 billion. Monthly users of its “family” of apps, which includes Instagram and WhatsApp, increased 14% to 3.2 billion.

(The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.)

(Editing by John Foley and Amanda Gomez) ((gina.chon@thomsonreuters.com; Reuters Messaging: gina.chon.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))

More From Equities