When Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told Wall Street in February that the company was looking for ways to “grow the ecosystem of video content” on its platform, he probably didn’t have Steve Stephens in mind.
Stephens is a Cleveland, Ohio, resident accused of shooting an elderly man in the head, then uploading the video onto his Facebook page — where it stayed for several hours — before streaming his post-shooting activity on Facebook Live.
And Stephens, the subject of a police manhunt, is not alone in using Facebook Live to promote a gruesome act.
Other footage has recorded a suicide in India, an accidental shooting in Chicago and a standoff with police in Baltimore. The latter ended with the death of a woman whose account was suspended by Facebook at the request of the police department that shot her soon after.
While Facebook says it is quick to take such content down, these incidents are reminders of how much has changed for the company from a year ago, when only celebrities had access to the Live feature.
Now, as Zuckerberg prepares to deliver his keynote address at the company’s annual developer conference Tuesday morning, he’ll look out onto a world — and a competitive landscape — transformed from last year’s confab.
While some of these changes are outside Zuckerberg’s control, many have been driven by Facebook’s inexorable efforts to deliver ever more sophisticated services, to stay ahead of its arch-rival, Alphabet, and its newest competitor, Snap.
Apart from the violence on Facebook live, here are other ways Zuckerberg’s world has changed in 12 short months.
Zuckerberg has for years resisted calling Facebook a media company, even as the site became a main source of news for its users.
He’s also said little about the impact its technology has had on anyone outside of its own users.
After an outcry from critics who claimed the proliferation of fake news on the site has helped fuel partisan divisions in the U.S. — and may have helped elect President Trump — Zuckerberg said of Facebook, “we must be extremely cautious about becoming arbiters of truth ourselves.”
Yet in a 6,000-word manifesto released in February, he was less ambivalent about the role Facebook can play in shaping the world’s future.
Indeed, the company has the potential to build a global community that is, in his words, “supportive, safe, informed, civically-engaged and inclusive.”
Although he disputed in November that the company had changed the election’s outcome, Facebook has since has begun working with third-party fact-checking sites to verify posts.
It’s also given users new tools for flagging fake news.
In short, he has now committed the company to using its innovative chops to keep phony posts from poisoning public discourse or allowing hateful speech to bully online users.
Given the company’s size and reach — it now has 1.8 billion users — those who create and consume news will want to hear how he handles his newly acknowledged role as a global leader.
As another example of his newfound sense of responsibility, he and his wife Priscilla Chan pledged $3 billion to their global health initiative in September.
A year ago (April 13, 2016) Zuckerberg unveiled a new group within the company, devoted to developing hardware projects.
But apart from sharing its name, Building 8, and that its leader, Regina Dugan, had been hired away from Google, little was known about it.
Since then, reports have surfaced that the group is working on everything from drones to augmented-reality cameras to medical devices that can read a patient’s thoughts.
Given that Zuckerberg has said the company intents to invest “hundreds of millions of dollars” on the effort, everyone from developers to Wall Street analysts will be keen to hear more on Tuesday.
While Wall Street has taken a bearish view on the newly-public shares of Snap, because it operates deep in the red, the $3.4 billion the company raised in its IPO is just as green as it was during its offering in early March.
That makes its Snapchat unit a stronger competitor to Facebook than it was a year ago, which could raise the cost of everything from acquisitions to engineers.
It also will give online marketers another place to take their business should Facebook ever turn them a deaf ear.
“They’ll give advertisers more leverage to push back on Facebook,” says Ryan Holmes, CEO of Hootsuite, which helps companies manage their social media marketing.
While Facebook’s Instagram unit has been busy aping Snapchat features, the upstart represents a larger threat than it did a year ago.
Last year, Zuckerberg could be forgiven for looking haggard at the office, given that he and his wife were parents of a newborn.
Last month, the pair announced that they were expecting a second daughter.
In addition to a doubling of his parenting load, Zuckerberg also runs a company significantly larger than a year ago.
The company saw revenue rise more than 50% in 2016, while its profit in the fourth quarter more than doubled.
Analysts expect sales to rise 37% this year, to $38 billion, and Facebook ended last year with more than 17,000 employees.
Once viewed as an upstart, Facebook now connects about a quarter of the world’s population.
Zuckerberg has said the company intends to keep investing aggressively, which means his workload will only grow.