Facebook Inc. (FB) had a rough year in general in 2018 but there were some bright spots. Let’s take a look at the social media giant’s hits and misses for the year.
Facebook held its F8 Facebook Developers conference in May during which the company rolled out several new plans. These included a new dating app, which is said to give users complete privacy and will be an added feature on its platform. The new dating service is reportedly being tested in a few countries like Colombia and Canada.
Facebook also announced a new Clear History feature which would allow users to delete their browsing history from the site. The company announced this week that it would start testing this feature next spring.
Facebook promised to do more to tackle hate speech on its site this year and for this it is taking the help of artificial intelligence. The company started testing a machine learning tool called Rosetta to detect offensive content in memes and photos.
Facebook rolled out new features for its Instagram and WhatsApp services. Instagram got a new anti-bullying feature which hides inappropriate and hate-filled comments about a person’s appearance or character. The company also introduced a new group video chat feature for WhatsApp in July.
Instagram and WhatsApp have become Facebook’s most popular services and are significantly driving growth for the social media company. Instagram had 1 billion monthly active users as of June 2018.
Facebook faced its biggest nightmare with the Cambridge Analytica scandal, in which the data of 87 million users were reportedly harvested for political research and possible election-meddling.
Months later, Facebook’s platform saw another cyberattack in which around 50 million user accounts were said to be exposed. Hackers reportedly gained access to personal information of users by exploiting a glitch in the View As option to steal access tokens.
In yet another security breach which affected around 14 million users, a bug in the privacy settings were said to have made numerous private messages public. Last week, Facebook again revealed a security incident that happened in September, in which a bug exposed the photos of around 7 million users including those they uploaded to their profiles but did not share with friends. The company is said to have detected and fixed the issue within a few days.
Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg faced the Congress on two separate occasions after the company faced several controversies on data privacy and security, toxic content on its platform and election-meddling issues.
Recently, certain emails published by the UK Parliament seemed to indicate that Facebook focused more on growth than user privacy. It also claimed that Facebook blocked its rivals’ access to information on its platform and acquired companies that posed tough competition.
Facebook also came under the spotlight after it was reported that there were rifts within the management team. Facebook saw the departure of several executives this year including the co-founders of its Instagram division, Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger.
The Instagram duo, along with their WhatsApp counterparts Brian Acton and Jan Koum, were said to have left Facebook due to disagreements with Zuckerberg over the growth strategies for both divisions. Zuckerberg reportedly also blamed Sheryl Sandberg over her handling of the Cambridge Analytica issue and felt she should have done more to monitor the content on the site.
These controversies seem to have led to low employee morale as an internal survey revealed that the number of employees who are doubtful about the company’s future has increased from last year while the number of staff who felt proud to work at Facebook has declined. There have also been calls from investors to remove Mark Zuckerberg as the Chairman of the Board. This is not likely to happen as Zuckerberg holds the majority of the voting power.
Facebook saw its worst one-day stock decline after it reported a weak growth outlook during its second quarter 2018 results. Shares fell 25% and the company lost $120 billion in market value. Facebook’s stock has dropped 17% so far this year and over the past three months, shares have dropped over 9%.
Facebook has a lot to do in 2019 and the company might face additional headwinds in the form of tough regulations and pending lawsuits which could lead to fines or extra expenditure. However, despite all the challenges faced by the company during 2018, taking into account its sheer size and scale, Facebook can be expected to prevail and the stock might recover in the coming year.