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Meta's Market value plummets by $200 billion as Facebook user base declines

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Through all the challenges Facebook has faced over the years, one thing has been constant - more and more people keep signing up, until now. Facebook lost daily users in the last three months of 2021, and its parent company, Meta, has just had its worst day ever on Wall Street.

NPR's Shannon Bond has more. And we should note, Meta pays NPR to license NPR content.

SHANNON BOND, BYLINE: What's going on with Facebook? There's a couple problems. On a call with investors, CEO Mark Zuckerberg acknowledged there's now a new juggernaut in town - TikTok.

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MARK ZUCKERBERG: People have a lot of choices for how they want to spend their time. And apps like TikTok are growing very quickly.

BOND: The wildly popular short video app is swiping users and advertising dollars from Facebook and Instagram, threatening the heart of the company's profits. So it's scrambling to catch up with new features like Reels on Instagram, which is basically a TikTok clone, while acknowledging that TikTok may have an insurmountable head start.

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ZUCKERBERG: The thing that is somewhat unique here is that TikTok is so big as a competitor already and also continues to grow at quite a fast rate.

BOND: That's not what investors want to hear, says Rich Greenfield, an analyst at LightShed Partners.

RICH GREENFIELD: And I think that is why the stock is down so much today is the fear that TikTok has reached escape velocity.

BOND: Another problem - Apple changed its privacy settings on iPhones, which makes it harder for Facebook to sell targeted ads. And then there's the Metaverse. Zuckerberg has renamed his company Meta to signal its new focus on this future virtual world, and that costs money. The company lost $10 billion last year on a division it calls Reality Labs. Zuckerberg acknowledged the future is uncertain.

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ZUCKERBERG: And this fully realized vision is still a ways off. And although the direction is clear, our path ahead is not yet perfectly defined.

BOND: But many shareholders are not sticking around to find out, says Greenfield.

GREENFIELD: Investors can handle bad news. Investors can handle good news. What investors hate is lack of visibility.

BOND: And visibility is exactly what Zuckerberg is unable to give right now.

Shannon Bond, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Shannon Bond is a business correspondent at NPR, covering technology and how Silicon Valley's biggest companies are transforming how we live, work and communicate.