A confidential Facebook research reveals potential threat to Mark Zuckerberg’s flagship app

After almost a year of study, senior data scientist of Facebook predicts nothing less than doom for the leading social media network. In his confidential research, Tom Cunningham analyzed the trends of Facebook users and claimed that the increase sharing between Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp may lead to a decline in Facebook’s usage over time.

According to TheInformation, the research was prepared for Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and clarified that it is hard to predict the future of the social media network but statistics show users of Facebook slowly weaning off from the platform and looking at other options.

The research came at the same time Facebook started working on uniting the messaging apps behind the company’s umbrellas. Mark Zuckerberg had initiated the idea to merge all its messaging apps under a unified platform. However, industry experts and authorities had shown concern that the move could also raise issues for Facebook's core service.

On the other hand and regardless of the potential threats to Mark Zuckerberg’s brainchild, the company continues to thrive and claims to experience a 26% increase in revenue and 8% jump in active monthly users for the first quarter of this year.

Today Facebook boasts a 2.7 billion global user base and is by far the largest social media company in the world. However, Cunningham and his team claim that Instagram and WhatsApp – the apps acquired by Zuckerberg for $1 billion and $19 billion respectively, significantly aided to its dominance in industry.

However, the acquisitions have also faced a lot of scrutiny from American regulators. In fact, Elizabeth Warren, the Democratic senator, and presidential candidate suggested Facebook make Instagram and WhatsApp separate entities.

As per the report, Zuckerberg was able to mitigate the risks at that time to its flagship through the acquisitions of other messaging platforms. Now, the growing popularity of the two apps introduced a competitive threat to the company.

In the past, Facebook has made a lion share of its revenue by advertising on Facebook while it recently implemented ways to make money with Instagram and WhatsApp – the results of which are not yet shared to the public.

After examining data from the various Facebook-owned app – Facebook, Messenger, WhatsApp, and Instagram, Cunningham and his team found a drastic overlap between the users of all the apps. For example, the research found that at least two-thirds of each app’s monthly active user was also active on another app belonging to Zuckerberg. Facebook and WhatsApp were discovered to have the most user overlap while WhatsApp with over 1.5 billion monthly users had the largest user base of people who were not using another Facebook-owned app. Interestingly; Instagram had the smallest percentage of users who weren’t active on another company app.

A confidential Facebook research reveals potential threat to Mark Zuckerberg’s flagship app

Overall, the data shows Facebook to reach 85.4% of the world’s population with internet access through all of its subsidiaries.

The research also claimed that Facebook’s two main messaging apps – WhatsApp and Messenger were its direct rivals in nearly every market. In fact, after it analyzed countries with the highest population of internet users, the research indicated that each geographical location has its own dominant messaging app.

For example, Messenger boasts a strong user base in North America while WhatsApp leads the bandwagon in Western Europe. Even the features of Facebook-owned apps competed. For instance, when WhatsApp status was introduced, the company noticed a significant decline in the messages sent over Messenger.


The research also shows Instagram to be rapidly gaining momentum and showing no signs of slowing down in the near future. The team with Cunningham declared that as Instagram grows, the number of Facebook-only users would gradually decline. In fact, if the trends continued in a similar manner, the number of monthly active users could exceed the main Facebook app.

On the public front, Facebook discourages investors to focus on the growth of its flagship app. It's Chief Financial Officer David Wehner also announced that the company would soon avoid disclosing the number of users on the Facebook app and would enhance its concentration on the number of people who use at least one of its apps.

In the end, the research highlighted the benefits of unifying the messaging apps – writing that the move would be a game-changer for WhatsApp and Instagram while growth concerns for Facebook itself may be lessened as well. Currently, the company has allowed some sharing across its apps such as sharing photos between Instagram and Facebook.

Read next: Facebook still on top among all other social networks, 3.5 billion people actively use social media platforms every month, globally

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