Facebook usage falls in the US as it begins to tinker with the News Feed

Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

After a few months of tweaking the News Feed in order to make it more personal and harder for fake stories to spread, Facebook says that overall usage has dropped by “roughly 50 million hours every day.”

That’s a huge and potentially scary number for Facebook — its goal, after all, is to get people to use more Facebook and see more Facebook ads — but company CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been warning this moment would come, and he’s argued that in the long run, it’ll be beneficial. The company released the stat today while reporting earnings for its fourth quarter of 2017.

Declined usage is showing elsewhere, too. Though Facebook saw a 14 percent quarter-over-quarter increase in daily and monthly active users, it actually dropped from 185 million to 184 million daily users in the US and Canada and stayed at a flat 239 million for monthly users. And while usage grew in all other measured regions, growth was slower than it’s been since 2015, as Recode points out:

Zuckerberg warned about the decreased usage earlier this month, saying it was an expected effect of the changes being made. “But I also expect the time you do spend on Facebook will be more valuable,” he wrote. “And if we do the right thing, I believe that will be good for our community and our business over the long term too.” Zuckerberg said changes started to be made in 2017, but that it will “take months” for it to be seen across all of the company’s products.

“In 2018, we’re focused on making sure Facebook isn’t just fun to use, but also good for people’s well-being and for society,” he said in a statement this afternoon. “We’re doing this by encouraging meaningful connections between people rather than passive consumption of content ... By focusing on meaningful connections, our community and business will be stronger over the long term.”

In November, Facebook said its commitment to “preventing abuse on our platforms” would “impact our profitability,” and it may already be feeling that to an extent. For its final quarter of 2017, Facebook brought in $13 billion in revenue and $4.3 billion in profit, up from $8.8 billion and $3.6 billion this time last year. But even though it grew, profits still missed investors’ expectation, rising only 19 percent on a per share basis instead of closer to the 60 percent that investors were looking for, according forecasts reported by The Wall Street Journal. Facebook’s full-year numbers for 2017 saw substantial increases, jumping up to $40.6 billion and $15.9 billion, from $27.6 billion and $10.2 billion in 2016.

Correction January 31st, 5:43PM ET: This article initially referred to user growth statistics as year-over-year, instead of quarter-over-quarter.


The news feed is still a huge mess.
Facebook can’t seem to determine what I am and am not interested in and/or interacting with.

One of the biggest problems is that I feel like Facebook doesn’t assign "friendship levels" to our friends list. It should know that if I added a friend 4 years agos, only interacted with that friend (through FB, messenger and instagram) for a few months and havent interacted with them since, well that friend probably isn’t in my close circle anymore. It doesn’t mean I want to remove them from my friends list, but maybe don’t show me every single one of their tiniest activities.
The people I talk to on Messenger every day, and regularly comment/like their posts? Sure show me a bunch of their stuff, I clearly care more.
Why are you showing me a random page that a single friend liked when I haven’t interacted with that friend in years? It’s obviously irrelevant to me what that friend is doing.

And I definitely shouldn’t have to "classify" my friendships manually, Facebook can handle the data analysis, it lives for that crap.
Show me posts that are relevant to the people I’m interacting with in this period of my life, not some person I added on Facebook in summer 2014 and only talked to for 4 weeks.

I honestly assumed the news feed algorithm was so terrible because I wasn’t using facebook enough. Like I go on and write happy birthday on people’s walls once or twice a week. But if you’re actually interacting with people and it still can’t figure out who’s important that’s concerning…

One of the biggest problems is that I feel like Facebook doesn’t assign "friendship levels" to our friends list.

Not sure why you’re seeing friends you don’t interact with – I have ~1000 total connections on my account and I definitely don’t see too many posts from people I added way back, and have little interaction with. Every now and then, sure, but I get the feeling only posts from those users that receive high engagement tend to bubble up (a major life event, say).

Maybe it has something to do with your iwn newsfeed preferences / activities / interactions? Or size of friends list?

Not sure why you dislike the idea of classifying friendships manually though? I did that a while back and made a huge difference.

I mostly ever interact with people on Messenger. Not sure they take that activity into account for the News Feed priorities.

They actually deprioritised the Close Friends connection because they assumed that I didn’t want to pay special attention to my close friends and wanted them lumped in with the hoi polloi.

I can’t help but wonder if Facebook is hoping for its YouTube machine learning moment. Imagine if Facebook can rekindle relationships the same way YouTube bridged topics to figure out a web of your interests.

I figure that might be why you see something from an old friend every now and then. I’m anticipating Facebook will start giving you cheats. Like some dating apps where it gives you a hint on what to ask the person. You see an old friend pop up, and it mentions they recently started a new job and you send them a message. An hour later the two of you make plans for coffee.

Those kinds of interactions are what Facebook needs to keep loyalty. They’re a social company. Everything else like video should simply be about feeding into that knowledge graph. Facebook needs to get better at leveraging it for users, not just advertisers.

Paraphrasing showerthoughts – Quitting facebook is like quitting smoking. A year without it, you realize how bad it really is.

My opinion on so many people I knew personally changed because their ignorance got highlighted to me on a daily. Stepping away from Facebook in general helped my mental health. Being bombarded with how f-cked up this world is (or how miseducated people I know are) on a regular basis takes its toll. Facebook definitely wasn’t always like this however. It was their algorithm’s & priority they gave to articles & engagement that really brought the site down for me. Unfollowing literally all of my friends but 10 & only liking pages related to my passions & interests helped a shit ton as well.

Yep. My back of the envelope math says that about 63% of the over 13 population in the US and Canada use Facebook every day. 81% use it every month.

I quit a couple years ago due to people’s relentless negativity, terrible politics, online fighting and other inappropriate behavior ("Hey, look at this picture of me on the toilet!"). Not to mention negative offline behavior, like a family of people not talking to each other at dinner or, sorry for being judgy, but people giving their kids the equivalent of Soma in restaurants. Then there’s Facebook tracking everywhere I go, everything I write and matching that up with everything I buy. The longer I’m away from it, the more I don’t like it.

The 81% sometimes look at me with a state of perplexed grotesqueness. I’m not going to tell you all what you should and shouldn’t be doing. Please don’t judge me because I don’t think Facebook is a good use of my time and attention.

Like most of my friends I don’t use Facebook much any more, but only because I’ve basically converted to Instagram full time. I’d be curious to know if IG or FB users are "worth" more to them.

Also when I do log on the news feed has been terrible (and apparently they got rid of the ticker which was the only useful thing?). But I assumed it was because I wasn’t generating enough interactions for it to know whose posts I actually care about.

I’m definitely using Facebook less, but I’m not sure it’s specifically because of these algorithm changes.

Really what I want is just a fully chronological list again. I don’t know if it’s just me, but when I switch to that option now, it’s just all screwed up. I get stuff posted 4 days ago at the top of my feed, and then it just seems totally random after that. I think it might be chronological by the time of the last interaction (comment or like), but that’s not what I want. One of the biggest problems I have with FB now is that it just keeps showing me crap I’m not interested in only because a bunch of people comment on it. I don’t care who else comments on something; I just want to see the most recent posts from my friends. I look at my feed enough that I can get through all the new posts and do all the liking and commenting I want without missing anything. But as it is, I feel like I’m missing a lot because I never even see a lot of posts, and I know it’s the same with my posts not being seen by my friends.

I feel like my friends must also be using FB less because I just keep seeing the same posts every single day for literally weeks on end. Basically whatever their algorithm is doing right now is just resulting in a largely static newsfeed that only seems to change by one or two posts per day for me, and I know that even if some of my friends are dropping off, there’s definitely more than that happening. I have people ask me "did you see my FB post?" occasionally and my answer is almost always no, even though I check it a couple times per day.

Facebook as fallen to featuritis. I was not on board with their original simplified blogging platform to start with. Then they added games and apps, news, messaging, VR…

First, I’m still not interested in their core blogging stuff. Second, I want to actively avoid their other stuff which is both inferior and locked-in. My RSS feed serves me much better for news. Android games are much better than FB’s, Skype is better for messaging….

Does this mean we can go out again? Like visit people in person and have REAL meaningful interactions again instead of virtual ones? In that case…..please die Facebook.

I wish someone would make a new social network that’s exactly like Facebook except not shit.

I stopped using facebook because it started to feel more like some sort of echochamber that was a mix between post-2011 4Chan and Breitbart. Of course if they fix it so it stops sharing fake news and conspiracy websites as often it will lose a huge chunk of it’s fanbase. It was a group that wanted to validate their viewpoints, and a site that claimed to be a good social media platform was perfect for their validation.

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