Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge
Facebook is seeing an extreme spike in usage across the globe due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the company outlined in a blog post on Tuesday. But most usage is concentrated among private messaging and video calling, products the company does not monetize. As a result, the social media giant says it’s business is suffering while it struggles to keep its communication tools online and stable.
The blog post, penned by analytics chief Alex Schultz and engineering chief Jay Parikh, says total messaging across Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp in harder hit areas of the globe, like Italy, has increased by more than 50 percent. Video calling on Messenger and WhatsApp in those same areas has more than doubled, the post says.
“We’re just trying to keep the lights on over here.”
“The usage growth from COVID-19 is unprecedented across the industry, and we are experiencing new records in usage almost every day,” the duo writes. “Maintaining stability throughout these spikes in usage is more challenging than usual now that most of our employees are working from home.”
Schultz and Parikh note that the spike in usage is not translating to a boon to its bottom line. Messaging services are not monetized like the Facebook News Feed or the standard Instagram feed, at the same time that digital ad spending is decreasing across the board in countries currently in lockdown to stem the spread of COVID-19. So Facebook is being “adversely affected” like many other businesses.
“Much of the increased traffic is happening on our messaging services, but we’ve also seen more people using our feed and stories products to get updates from their family and friends,” the post explains. “At the same time, our business is being adversely affected like so many others around the world. We don’t monetize many of the services where we’re seeing increased engagement, and we’ve seen a weakening in our ads business in countries taking aggressive actions to reduce the spread of COVID-19.”
“We’re just trying to keep the lights on over here,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told The New York Times in an interview published today, noting that part of the company’s struggles right now are because it’s keeping a vast majority of its 45,000-person workforce at home. “I’ve never seen anything like this before.”