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In the Mark Zuckerberg universe, 20 years later, Facebook is a supporting character.

It’s been two decades since Mark Zuckerberg kicked off from his college dorm, triggering a social media revolution that eventually conquered the globe.

Now nestled within Meta’s family of apps, Facebook finds itself in a tricky spot. Although a majority of American adults still frequent the platform, three in four believe that Facebook, with its role in spreading misinformation and fostering hate speech, is detrimental to society. Despite raking in billions in ad revenue for Meta, user growth has hit a plateau, leading the company to cease divulging user numbers.

Under pressure from TikTok, Meta has overhauled its feed, prioritizing recommendations over familiar posts. However, this shift has left Facebook feeling less like TikTok and more like a peculiar window into Meta’s algorithmic world.

On a personal level, Facebook feeds are now flooded with posts from unfamiliar groups discussing topics like home remodeling and cast iron pans. Many adults now admit to being more cautious about their social media posts, with a majority becoming “pickier” about their online presence.

In stark contrast, the younger generation shows little interest in the platform frequented by their parents and grandparents. Only 33 percent of US teens claim to have ever used Facebook, a significant drop from the 71 percent in 2015. This trend, where Facebook’s user base is aging faster than the platform itself, has led experts to predict a future where there are more profiles for the deceased than the living.

Despite its changing role, Facebook remains a colossal entity boasting over 3 billion users, continuing to be a cornerstone of Mark Zuckerberg’s empire. In 2021, Zuckerberg officially downplayed Facebook’s significance by rebranding the company as Meta, declaring a pivot towards a “metaverse-first” approach.

Whether Meta has successfully embraced this “metaverse-first” identity is up for debate. Zuckerberg’s recent attempts to position Meta as a metaverse and AI company, aiming for human-level superintelligence, reflect his ambitious vision for the future.

However, these aspirations are only attainable due to Facebook’s past triumphs. Despite Meta’s substantial losses in metaverse ventures, fueled by billions in investments, and ongoing plans to spend more on AI infrastructure, Facebook’s financial successes are the bedrock upon which Zuckerberg is wagering the future of social media. The evolution of Meta and the realization of Zuckerberg’s vision will ultimately hinge on these substantial investments.

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