For the first time in its 18-year history, Facebook is losing more daily users than it's gaining—and Meta and its CEO are feeling the burn. Shares in the company plunged more than 20% in after-hours trading Wednesday, wiping out $200 billion in market value, after Facebook reported losing 500,000 daily users in the last quarter of 2021, with 1.93 billion logging in, per the Washington Post. There were 1 million fewer daily users (195 million) in North America, Facebook's most lucrative market, while monthly users remained flat at 2.91 billion globally, Bloomberg reports. Just 10 million users were added across Meta's apps—including Instagram and WhatsApp—for 2.82 billion users in the fourth quarter, per the Verge.
Revenue in Q4 was $33.67 billion, slightly above the average estimate. However, Meta reported revenue in this quarter would be as much as $3 billion lower than the $30.3 billion estimate, due in part to Apple’s crackdown on targeted advertising. The result was "the biggest collapse in market value for any US company"—Facebook already held the record after a stock plunge tied to a slowdown in user growth in July 2018—though "there's no certainty the losses will hold," Bloomberg notes. CEO Mark Zuckerberg saw his personal wealth fall about $24 billion, per BNN Bloomberg. But he surely knew user growth couldn't continue forever. It's partly why Meta is focused on the metaverse through its Reality Labs division, which lost $3.3 billion in Q4.
"Last year was about putting a stake in the ground for where we are heading; this year is going to be about executing," Zuckerberg said on the company's Wednesday earnings call, per the Post. He also referenced competition from fast-growing TikTok, though he noted the company was working to grow Instagram's short-form video Reels in the hope of recruiting more young people. "It may create some near-term slower growth than we would have wanted," but "over time we think that there is potential for a tremendous amount of overall engagement growth," he said. Another problem for Meta: Last month, a federal judge ruled that the FTC's revised antitrust lawsuit against the company can proceed, per the AP. (Read more Facebook stories.)