The social network, shaken by numerous scandals and a growing loss of confidence from advertisers, maintains with an iron fist its status as a global technological benchmark.
February 4, 2004. Mark Zuckerberg launches thefacebook – renamed Facebook in September 2005 – after copying the database of Harvard University students , who had expelled him from their classrooms a year earlier for stealing data and images from the system computer. Even colleagues from the project, such as the Winklevoss brothers and Divya Narendra, sued him for stealing their idea and taking away any type of authorship. In just a few months, the social network had become the sensation of the moment due to the ease of contacting anyone on campus. Eight other universities in the area immediately joined the initiative.
Scandals have accompanied Facebook since its inception, almost always related to the violation of privacy and its most precious asset: data. Cambridge Analytica, spreader of hoaxes, Zuckerberg testifying before Congress and the Senate of the United States, boycott of large advertisers on the level of Starbucks and Coca-Cola, interference in electoral processes, instigator of hate speech … The strategy of apologizing before permission has cemented an impregnable business. A wall resistant to tsunamis, hurricanes and earthquakes. “It has consolidated a magnificent strategy for attracting users and their information. Data is the engine of business ”, argues Itziar Castelló, professor at the Business School of the University of Surrey.
Facebook has 2.449 million active users, according to figures from Statista. If we compare it with the world population, it represents 30% of the total. It would be the country with the most inhabitants on the planet. Through the likes, the publications, the pages that we follow and the users with whom we contact, it collects such a quantity of information that it allows it to have a single database. Herein lies the value of your activity, which has evolved from personal networking to advertising. 98.5% of the more than 60,000 million euros received last year comes from Facebook Ads, its advertising platform.
“The ability of segmentation to reach a very specific target audience and achieve the claims of brands is unparalleled. His knowledge of us is impressive, ”says Loreto Gómez, an expert in digital marketing. Any company, no matter what size, needs to appear in this giant. Not only the business fabric: the political campaigns of the last decade have been disputed on the Internet, giving rise to all kinds of outrages, such as Cambridge Analytica, which fraudulently obtained data from some 50 million Facebook users to create electoral ads with in order to manipulate voters.
“It reaches a lot of people and in a very efficient way. It is a tool that generates endorphins, it makes us loyal. It determines the content we see ”, explains Guillermo de Haro, professor of the IE systems area.
The publicity cake is shared with Google, but the champion is shaped like a thumbs up. Those from Mountain View need greater complicity from Internet users to get the data. Zuckerberg has built an advertising emporium almost by magic, without anyone noticing what was happening. In the words of Rodrigo Miranda, general director of ISDI, it is difficult for a third party to occupy this space because we are comfortable, as in the bar of a lifetime. “There are no alternatives. The user does not want to leave the social network and the advertiser knows that, if he withdraws the investments, he would lose more than half of the money ”, ditch.
The iron hand with which it subdues the sector leaves little room for competition. TikTok seeks to shadow its domain. During the pandemic it has become the fashionable social network, approaching 1 billion users . Even a month ago he chose to enter the advertising market, although the campaigns against him began just then. India has blocked it, the United States flirts with this idea and Anonymous has asked to uninstall the application. “If Facebook can’t grow, try to keep others from doing it. As soon as you have had a threat, you have bought the competitor; but with TikTok I couldn’t because it’s Chinese, ”says Gómez.
An uncomplexed oligopoly
A more well-known explanation for the solidity of the model appears in the oligopoly that it has built after 16 years. The purchase of Instagram for 850 million euros in 2012 and WhatsApp for 18,500 million in 2014 further underpinned its digital reign. Not to mention the infinity of startups acquired by check in hand. However, when it has not been able to with the rival, it has not taken long to copy its characteristics, as it happened with Snapchat. “It is a conglomerate of companies, each with its own asset. It takes advantage of its power over a market that is an oligopoly; and evolves on this reality, “says Zizi Papacharissi, professor of Political Science at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
The more power, the more public exposure — and a certain degree of antipathy. They know it perfectly within Facebook. Faced with controversies, adaptation and continuing on the same path. The rationale behind the controversy matters little . Its income grows year after year and its stock price is at all-time highs. The shares, which started at $ 30, are currently over 230. “We know that we have to regain the trust of the people. We are not the same organization as in the beginning. Criticisms of our attitude to data are legitimate. We are working to achieve a global agreement whereby people are sure that their information is protected at all times, ”Facebook sources point The social network, shaken by numerous scandals and a growing loss of confidence from advertisers, maintains with an iron fist its status as a global technological benchmark.
A protection that they keep special zeal in Menlo Park, headquarters of the giant, in the heart of Silicon Valley . Everything is under your control. That there are problems with fake news , I improve the algorithms and moderation internally. That data leaks come to light, I cancel agreements and adapt my servers. That there are reasonable doubts regarding the respect for privacy, I create an internal commission. “Don’t worry, I’ll solve it at home” would be his motto.
From this discourse he has benefited to go more or less at ease due to the apparent technological complexity. Data analytics requires a good dose of algorithmic and artificial intelligence, which is not available to the average user. If we add that a good part of the employees are top-level scientists and engineers, the formula is complete. Even university research has multiple restrictions when collaborating with Facebook. In Castelló’s words, confidentiality contracts are brutal. “You do everything in their facilities and they don’t even let you use anything that happens there in your academic work,” he adds. “They have always been closed and opaque. They do not usually share. They go about their business. Nor do they have to give more explanations, “Miranda clarifies.