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Now would be a good time for Mark Zuckerberg to resign

Now would be a good time for Mark Zuckerberg to resign
From TechCrunch - March 21, 2018

Facebookis at the center of a dozen controversies, and outrage is peaking. The social network has failed again and again at expanding beyond a handful of core features. Doubts of its usefulness, and assertions of its uselessness, are multiplying. A crisis of confidence at multiple levels threatens the companys structure and mission. Now is the time for Mark Zuckerberg to spare himself the infamy and resignfor Facebooks sake and his own.

Im not calling for his resignation, and I dont say this out of any animus toward Zuckerberg; I personally believe him to be genuine and driven in his stated desire to connect the worldbut likely increasingly frustrated by the unexpected consequences of this naive ambition and the haste with which he has pursued it. I just think that it has come to the point where the best way for him to advance that ambition is to leave.

There are three major reasons why.

Facebook has failed

Of course, its also true that Facebook has succeeded beyond every expectation. But its success arrived early and remains essentially a simple thing: being a broadly accessible, functioning social network. A single network of friends, a basic news feed from them and a few adjunct capabilities were industry-defining ideas and to a certain point were executed quite well. Beyond that admittedly towering success, Facebook has accomplished remarkably little.

Attempts to make Facebook a ubiquitous social graph layer connecting all apps and services failed because consumers found it creepy, companies found it threatening to rely completely on the company for demographic data and tech was moving too quickly for the data Facebook had to be universally applicable. (Except, of course, in advertising, where it is evergreen.)

Attempts to make Facebook a gaming platform failed partly because the social aspect of gaming is radioactive, and partly because the attention economy produces really bad games. Repurposing an established community into a gaming one was a non-starter, and whats left of the brief Facebook gaming flash in the pan is just an oily residue clinging to the side of the news feed.

Attempts to make Facebook a VR/AR powerhouse are ongoing, but that entire segment of tech has proven incredibly disappointing and eye-wateringly expensive for everyone involved. So far theyre a market leader in a market that seems to only exist for the purpose of swindling money out of investors. Its too early to call it a complete boondoggle with certainty since Facebook is supposedly playing a longer game here, but it sure isnt promising.

Attempts to improve messaging beyond the basics have failed; chatbots are of poor quality and largely pointless, in-chat games are novelties at best, business applications are politely declined and while aesthetic changes like stickers could make a little money in the short term, thats not really the kind of thing that supports a global infrastructure.

Attempts to make Facebook a reliable news source ran into the many-headed hydra that is objectivity and everything that comes with it. Boy, they didnt think that through. Im not even going to get started on the ways its failed here.

Attempts to make Facebook an infrastructure provider have arguably so far failed as either abortive or fanciful. Free basics failed despite good intentions because the company has not earned the trust to be in that position. The laser-based Aquila internet glider is a wonderful science project but strikes me as something of a Spruce Goose situation: Underserved communities would be served better by, off the top of my head, grants offsetting large broadband providers advantages in infrastructure contracts, or just paying for laying fiber or building towers. (Later efforts at Internet.org have been more limited and practical and I applaud them.)

Attempts to make Facebook a media company failed (or are stumbling) for a multiplicity of reasons: strong and agile competitors, a lack of focus, too many ads, incompatibility with the like economy.

Attempts to branch out on mobile have failed, though none very spectacularlywhich is almost a failure in itself. The main app is of course fabulously popular, as is Instagram. Only by paying a billion dollars and literally subtracting a fundamental feature from the original app were they able to increase the number of icons on most phones.

Attempts to make Facebook cool have failed almost from the beginning. I hesitate to go so far as to define coolness, but I will say that its generally thought to be incompatible with ubiquity. They bought some cool with Instagram, but the shine is starting to wear off that one.

This litany of failures (by no means comprehensive, and of course there have been minor successes, too) is also conspicuously a list of things Zuckerberg has personally set his sights on. Over and over he has said, this is what were going to do. And then they dont do itnot really. A cash infusion and a bit of borrowed momentum from the ongoing original success of the basic social network, and each effort begins with a semblance of self-propulsion. But all of them have lost steam as Facebook failed to follow through, mindlessly followed through on the wrong thing or just moved on to the next target.

As founder and CEO, Zuckerberg should by all means take substantial credit for the initial success of the platform. But he also has to take responsibility for the laundry list of botched attempts to do much more than provide the basic service people valued since the earliest days.

By no means is he alone in this type of failure, by the way: All the tech giants have products and phases theyd rather not speak of or, though they might refuse to acknowledge it, have been crushing defeats. But Zuckerberg is on his own in the level of personal ownership he has tried to exert over these numerous misadventures.

Facebook is not about connecting the world

Its become clear over the years that Facebook left its original mission statement behind a long, long time ago.

Fifteen years back, perhaps even 10 or 5, Facebook was just what we needed. But the world has changed, the way we interact with technology and each other has changed and Facebook hasnt. The platforms greatest failure isnt any of those side projects listed above; its the failure to evolve its core product to succeed by its own metrics of quality time and meaningful connection.

The time is right for him and for the company

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