Mark Zuckerberg 'lost' when trying to imitate competitors

Zuckerberg's meta is said to have imitated many features from competitors, but most of them failed because employees did not follow the requirements.

Early last week, Meta decided to close the content publishing platform Bulletin, and planned to lay off a series of employees in this segment. Bulletin launched in April 2021 as the content publishing market thrived. With a similar operation to Substack, the company expects Bulletin to attract a wide range of publishers to join with a huge readership.

Mark Zuckerberg at a hearing of the US House of Representatives on October 23, 2019. Photo: Reuters

When it was released, Meta invested a lot in Bulletin. The company has recruited celebrities in the media such as journalist Malcolm Gladwell or sports athlete Erin Andrews to six-figure contracts. However, the product was not as successful as Substack. Upon its launch, some experts predicted Bulletin would soon fail as CEO Mark Zuckerberg focused on keeping his product "apolitical".

Bulletin isn't the only product Meta has tried to imitate and failed. Last June, they shut down their Clubhouse-like podcast service.

The strategy of beating the competition by launching a similar version is also used by many other technology companies. However, they mostly fail and are called "unfair competition methods" by organizations and regulators.

Zuckerberg isn't just targeting smaller competitors. He also tried to create similar products to compete with major competitors. Not bad, two years ago, Meta first built the Shops feature on Facebook and Instagram to take on Amazon. However, according to The Info , the product was not perfect because the company did not do it properly. The product is currently not attracting customers due to poor experience and low number of listings. In September, Meta announced the removal of the Shops tab from Instagram. In some internal documents obtained by The Infomation , Meta's commercial team is reverting to a "Reconsider" strategy. This is a feature that used to haunt users with product ads they clicked on but didn't buy.

According to Cal Newport, a professor of computer science at Georgetown University, Meta is trying to imitate the competition, but is affected by many uncontrollable factors. "They also have some success when it comes to mimicking, like copying some of the new takeaways on Twitter about curated and shared feeds," he said. "But there is a particular aspect of the Internet, that the product has to find the right person at the right time with the right interface. These are factors that do not always converge."

Before that, Meta also imitated many big competitors. In 2017, Facebook caused controversy when it introduced Stories, allowing users to post photos and videos for a 24-hour limit. This feature is similar to Snapchat Stories that launched three years earlier. In 2018, Facebook announced Facebook Gaming to compete with Twitch - a platform that allows streamers to broadcast live gameplay. In the middle of this year, Meta continues to develop functionality for Facebook Groups similar to Discord.

The most interesting currently is Reels, a short video feature similar to TikTok. According to an internal memo leaked mid-June, Tom Alison, Facebook's chief executive officer, even outlined a plan that, instead of prioritizing posts from accounts that users follow, Facebook's Feeds feed will diverse and "more like TikTok".

According to internal Meta research back in August and collected by the WSJ , Instagram and Facebook users now spend 17.6 million hours a day watching Reels. This is less than a tenth of the 197.8 million hours that users spend watching TikTok. More importantly, "most Reels users don't have any interaction".

The latest Meta creation in recent years could be the metaverse - the virtual universe ambition that Zuckerberg is actively promoting. According to an analysis by The Information , this effort could cost Meta $70 billion, but it is unlikely to succeed. In fact, Zuckerberg also admitted to having lost tens of billions of dollars over the past time to the metaverse.

"Some people may be happy and excited about the metaverse, but it has limitations. For example, you can text to communicate with friends casually, but I don't see a big concern if those interactions are. brought into the 3D virtual world," Newport added.

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