Sheryl Sandberg leaves Facebook at a tough time

Facebook’s chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg announced she will be leaving the social network in the fall to pursue philanthropic work. Her announcement has come at a tough time for the company which is facing an uncertain future and fierce competition.

Sandberg joined Facebook when it was just a start-up and its founder was only 23 years old. A Harvard-educated executive, she helped pave the path for Facebook’s multi-billion-dollar advertising empire. And she did succeed and make the social network a colossus.

Over 97% of Facebook’s revenue comes from selling ads. But that success came at a cost. The platform allowed fake news to flourish. Critics said that damaged the overall fabric of the society.

Some prominent founders also had an issue with the company’s fixation on growth at all cost. In a 2018 interview to the Forbes, WhatsApp co-founder recalled a meeting with Sandberg on his plan of charging the messaging app’s users a fraction of a penny after sending a certain number of free messages. That idea was shot down with a terse, ‘it won’t scale’ response.

The interview shares details about the company’s strong position on making money through selling ads, which is very different from what WhatsApp founders wanted to do – make users pay.

Now, as Sandberg decides to leave the company, the empire she built on selling ads is facing a test. Apple’s App Tracking Transparency feature shaved off $10 billion from the company’s revenue. The feature lets users stop apps from tracking them. That leaves advertisers without an identifier to target Apple users. And in several instances, it doubled the cost of acquiring new customers and reduced yield from ad campaigns.

While Facebook tinkers with its advertising strategy, it will also be fire-fighting its missteps which caused the Cambridge Analytical scandal, the U.S. Capitol attack, and most recently, its failure to act on harmful content that came to light after France Haugen released internal company documents. Sandberg oversaw all these incidents while she helmed the day-to-day operations of the social network.

The company’s stock has also taken a massive hit. In the last six months, Facebook’s shares fell nearly 40% to $188 on Wednesday.

It is unclear how Facebook will find its path back to a near trillion-dollar valuation, which it flirted with briefly last year. So, Sandberg’s decision to leave the company couldn’t have come at a better time for her.

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Printable version | Aug 6, 2022 12:18:15 pm |