Facebook is making another attempt to win back teens
Facebook confirmed to TechCrunch it is privately testing a hub for memes on its platform, called LOL. Facebook said a small number of U.S. users are testing the app, which replaces its Watch section for videos in the app. Facebook told TechCrunch it does not have plans to roll out LOL in Watch and is still determining whether it will become a feature in Facebook’s app or a separate app entirely.
The company did not immediately return CNBC’s request for comment.
Although Facebook was born out of a dorm room, the company has failed to keep a new generation of teenagers interested in its platform. A Piper Jaffray survey released in October said just over a third of teens report using Facebook’s core platform at least once a month, down from 52 percent of teens two years before and nearly two-thirds of teens in Spring 2016.
Luckily for Facebook, these users seem to be flocking to one of its own apps — Instagram. For the first time since the firm started the survey in 2001, Instagram surpassed Snap-owned Snapchat as the most-used social platform by teens.
So far, Instagram has been the exception, not the rule, to Facebook’s courtship of teens. Here are some of the ways Facebook’s tried, and failed, to win over the demographic.
Based on Facebook’s popular “poke” feature on its site, this app launched in 2012 and was a competitor to Snapchat. Similar to Snapchat, the app let users send photos, messages and videos that disappeared in ten seconds or less, and also included CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s voice for the alert sound. But Facebook pulled the app in 2014 with little fanfare, The Verge reported, apparently unable to pull enough users over from Snapchat.
In yet another attempt to take on Snapchat, Facebook launched Slingshot in 2014 after shuttering Poke. The app also let you send photos and videos that disappear after viewing. But a user couldn’t view an incoming photo until they sent back a photo to the sender, according to The Verge.
The company ended up pulling the app along with Rooms and Riff in 2015. It also closed its Creative Labs initiative that bore all three projects, CNET reported.
Another short-lived Creative Labs brainchild was Rooms, a 2014 app that was made up of AOL-style chatrooms. At the time, Facebook product manager Josh Miller said the team wanted to combine the “ethos of these early web communities and the capabilities of modern smartphones,” according to Engadget. As noted, Rooms was pulled in 2015 along with two other projects from Creative Labs.
Riff was another Creative Labs creation from 2015, which was built upon the idea of letting users “riff” on friends’ videos. Users would shoot a video of 20 seconds or less and then upload it with instructions for what to do next, like, “make a funny face,” according to TechCrunch.
Facebook acquired the anonymous polling app tbh, short for “to be honest,” for an undisclosed amount in October 2017. At the time, a tbh blog post that no longer exists said over 5 million people downloaded the app and sent over 1 billion messages. The four co-creators of the app joined Facebook, according to the companies.
The app, which was aimed at teens 13 years old and up, had only launched a few months prior to its acquisition, CNN reported. But it turns out it wouldn’t last much longer. In July 2018, Facebook said in a blog post it would shutter the app (along with two others) due to “low usage.” A Facebook spokesperson told CNN at the time that the co-founders would continue at the company, working on other products.