Special Offer: Subscribe today for a free ticket ($499 value) to The Future of Startups. Redeem Now
Exclusive
Facebook

Facebook Secret Research Warned of ‘Tipping Point’ Threat to Core App

Last October, after spending almost a year examining trends among Facebook users, a senior data scientist at the company named Tom Cunningham painted a bleak picture of one possible future for its flagship Facebook app.

At the time, Facebook noticed that users of the app—known internally as the “blue app” because of the color of its icon—were increasingly sharing on Instagram and WhatsApp, which are also owned by Facebook. In confidential research Mr. Cunningham prepared for Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, parts of which were obtained by The Information, he warned that if enough users started posting on Instagram or WhatsApp instead of Facebook, the blue app could enter a self-sustaining decline in usage that would be difficult to undo. Although such “tipping points” are difficult to predict, he wrote, they should be Facebook’s biggest concern. 

The research came as Facebook was beginning early work to unite the messaging systems behind the company's apps. While Mr. Zuckerberg has said publicly that the plan will give users more choice by letting them communicate across apps, the move could also alleviate growth concerns for Facebook’s core service and further cement the company’s grip on the social media landscape. 

Get access to exclusive coverage
Read deeply reported stories from the largest newsroom in tech.
Latest Articles
 
The Briefing
Internet Outages, Verizon and Value: The Information’s Tech Briefing
Verizon technicians installing fiber optic cable in New York. Photo by Bloomberg
If you’re on the East Coast, you might have experienced the internet outage this morning that played havoc with Zoom calls, Gmail and other everyday working tools. Unlike previous outages, this wasn’t caused by a cloud provider like AWS or a specific application like Slack but by Verizon, which owned up to a “fiber cut” in Brooklyn. It’s a reminder of the critical...
Latest Briefs
 
ByteDance Lays Off Staff in India After Government Extends Ban
China Central Bank Chief: Ant IPO Could Resume Once Problems Solved
Microsoft Shares Jump on Pandemic-Related Gaming, Cloud Sales
Stay in the know
Receive a summary of the day's top tech news—distilled into one email.
Access on the go
View stories on our mobile app and tune into our weekly podcast.
Join live video Q&A’s
Deep-dive into topics like startups and autonomous vehicles with our top reporters and other executives.
Enjoy a clutter-free experience
Read without any banner ads.
Clubhouse Co-Founder and CEO Paul Davison. Photo: Bloomberg
Exclusive Venture Capital Startups
Clubhouse Gets Investment Interest at $1 Billion Valuation
Update : On Sunday, Clubhouse confirmed it raised a Series B round led by Andreessen Horowitz. Read more details in our brief .
Org Charts Startups Markets
The People With Power at Robinhood
Last year, as Robinhood’s trading activity boomed and legal problems mounted, the $11.7 billion startup shook up the ranks of its senior staff.
A truck next to an Amazon delivery station in New Jersey in October. Photo by Bloomberg
Exclusive Travel E-commerce
Amazon Expands Secretive Trucking Program
Amazon’s effort to exert control over the trucking of goods to its customers is moving quickly.
Photos by Bloomberg; Shutterstock. Illustration by Mike Sullivan
The Takeaway Policy
I Helped Uncover QAnon. Failed Prophecies Won’t Kill It
I first stumbled upon the collective delusion we now refer to as QAnon in November 2017, just a few weeks after it began as a series of conspiratorial posts on one of the internet’s more untamed bulletin boards.
Rioters breached barricades to enter the U.S. Capitol  on Jan. 6. Photo: Bloomberg
Exclusive Travel Policy
Airbnb Used Facebook and Twitter to Weed Out Hate Groups
For the past few years, a specialized team of about half a dozen employees within Airbnb has been assigned an urgent task: preventing white nationalists and other potentially dangerous fringe groups from renting homes on the site.
Zach Perret, CEO and co-founder of Plaid, spoke during the Silicon Slopes Tech Summit in Salt Lake City last year. Photo: Bloomberg
Exclusive Venture Capital Startups
Plaid Shareholders Field Offers at $15 Billion After Merger Collapse
Normally CEOs that opt to sell their companies aren’t happy when the government blocks the deal over antitrust concerns.