How Much of the Internet Is Fake? [Content Made Simple]
Issue #286: The empty metaverse, relatable content, and more.
TOP OF THE WEEK
Take something as seemingly simple as how we measure web traffic. Metrics should be the most real thing on the internet: They are countable, trackable, and verifiable, and their existence undergirds the advertising business that drives our biggest social and search platforms. Yet not even Facebook, the world’s greatest data–gathering organization, seems able to produce genuine figures. In October, small advertisers filed suit against the social-media giant, accusing it of covering up, for a year, its significant overstatements of the time users spent watching videos on the platform (by 60 to 80 percent, Facebook says; by 150 to 900 percent, the plaintiffs say). According to an exhaustive list at MarketingLand, over the past two years Facebook has admitted to misreporting the reach of posts on Facebook Pages (in two different ways), the rate at which viewers complete ad videos, the average time spent reading its “Instant Articles,” the amount of referral traffic from Facebook to external websites, the number of views that videos received via Facebook’s mobile site, and the number of video views in Instant Articles.
Such a great article. And horrifying at the same time. I try not to think too much about this stuff.
THE TRIVIA QUESTION
What is the least common birthday month in the United States?
Answer at the bottom.
HITTING THE LINKS
Metaverse project Decentraland, a sandbox environment that allows users to buy and sell virtual real estate, isn't exactly teeming with people. Despite billions of dollars in valuations, companies betting on a metaverse future simply haven't made much headway.
In fact, according to data aggregator DappRadar, the Ethereum-based world Decentraland only had 38 "active users" over a period of 24 hours — a confoundingly low number, especially considering the company has a market cap of a whopping $1.2 billion.
Here’s a very popular tweet: “she’s a 10 but she cries on her birthday every year.”
Solid. Concise. I can see why people would relate to the sentiment. Who doesn’t want to think of themselves as hot? And further, who doesn’t already think of themselves as emotionally complicated enough to shed a tear on a day that is supposed to be happy? Nearly 246,000 accounts liked this tweet, and I have no problem with that.
There’s a whole universe of big accounts that post content like this—little snippets of language with mass appeal. They often regurgitate the same messages. That “she’s a 10” tweet was posted by @itspureluv, an account with roughly 200,000 followers; an almost identical tweet was posted by @spicybabew, another account with nearly 200,000 followers, three months earlier, and by dozens of others at various times.
Charlie with characteristically thoughtful words here on the metaverse sitch.
The subtext of all these stories is obvious: It is generally a bad sign for a piece of technology if employees of the company that makes it won’t use it. This is actually the opposite of the problem that Facebook had throughout the mid-2010s. When I interviewed employees of the social network at that time, many would talk about the old-school Facebook product and its spinoff tools as being truly useful. Staffers sometimes expressed genuine enthusiasm about quirky new services, like Facebook “Rooms,” that would quickly wither on the vine. This is because Facebookers were using these services to get work done internally in ways that didn’t quite mimic how regular users interacted with the platform. While the rest of us were observing our relatives in our feeds get increasingly hostile with strangers about politics, Facebook employees had a skewed, rose-colored perspective informed by their own day-to-day use of the platform’s tools.
THE FUNNY PART
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