Have you ever experienced searching for a keyword on Google, only to be bombarded with sponsored results from Google's advertisers, making it difficult to distinguish useful information? Or perhaps you've noticed an overwhelming number of similar ads while scrolling through Facebook and Instagram, accompanied by the constant addition of complex features like Watch, Marketplace, and continuous videos.
It seems that the pursuit of profit has overshadowed user experience. Non-profit news organization The Markup conducted a study in 2020, revealing that an average of 41% of the first page of Google search results is occupied by Google-related products. This makes it increasingly challenging for users to find accurate and relevant information, straying far from Google's initial goal of providing convenient and accurate search services.
According to The Wall Street Journal, Amazon received a record-low satisfaction score of 78 out of 100 in a 2022 user satisfaction survey. The reason cited was the inundation of advertisements and low-quality products on search pages.
Ironically, this lackluster performance translated into Amazon's global advertising revenue reaching a staggering $37.7 billion, a more than 20% increase from the previous year and an all-time high.
Ed Zitron, a commentator for Business Insider, believes that tech giants like Google, Meta, and Amazon have been encouraged by investors to pursue revenue growth, deviating from their initial missions of providing search information, facilitating product purchases, and connecting people. The focus has shifted away from innovation and improving user experience to offering "just-passing" features and selling ads everywhere to maximize profits.
With internet users reaching saturation, the trend of capturing new investment markets has become an urgent priority. According to data research firm Sensor Tower, major social media platforms experienced a mere 1% to 3% growth in active users in 2022. Additionally, the United States has surpassed a 90% internet penetration rate, indicating that the potential for further growth is diminishing. If companies continue with their existing advertising strategies, revenue growth is unlikely.
Unable to pursue new users, companies have shifted their focus to replicating past successful experiences in hopes of creating a second explosive growth product rather than improving service experiences.
The Wall Street Journal mentioned that Silicon Valley giants continuously invest in research and development for new products. One notable example is Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg's ambition to create a global community platform through the metaverse. However, Meta's $13.7 billion investment in its virtual reality division, Reality Labs, in 2022 resulted in a mere $2.2 billion return, accounting for less than 2% of Meta's total revenue, indicating a lack of progress.
This outcome prompted Brad Gerstner, the founder and CEO of Altimeter Capital, one of Meta's shareholders, to write an open letter demanding Zuckerberg to limit annual funding for metaverse development and strengthen artificial intelligence (AI) applications.
Microsoft faced a similar setback with the metaverse. CEO Satya Nadella previously praised the metaverse for its potential to change people's work patterns and lifestyles. However, in February of this year, Microsoft announced the dissolution of its metaverse division, which had only been established for four months. On the other hand, ChatGPT's parent company, OpenAI, made a significant investment of $10 billion to seize the advantage in this AI-driven emerging technology trend.
Prioritizing Wall Street over consumers: Is growth mentality stifling tech companies?
In order to attract the favor of Wall Street and investors, Silicon Valley companies have joined the race in generative AI, quickly launching various new features. However, Zitron believes that these tech companies are investing billions of dollars in new technologies solely to boost stock prices, without considering whether users actually like these new products or addressing potential ethical and security concerns.
During the years from 2000 to the early 2010s, tech companies introduced groundbreaking products and services that significantly transformed the way people live and interact, leading to a massive increase in user base and skyrocketing market values, shaping today's Silicon Valley. However, in order to continue attracting the attention of Wall Street investors, these companies must consistently present "promising" products. The recent race among companies in the "generative AI" field serves as a prime example.
Zitron argues that these Silicon Valley companies are pouring billions of dollars into new technologies with the sole purpose of stimulating stock prices, without considering whether users actually enjoy these products. These companies, driven by a growth mentality, are attempting to recreate their glorious past but are burdened by their own success. When a company focuses on stimulating stock prices at all costs, its core services are reduced to generating more revenue through advertisements or chasing short-term trends, ultimately neglecting the fundamental aspect of user experience.
The balance between profit and user satisfaction is becoming increasingly delicate for tech giants. As the online population approaches saturation, capturing new users is no longer a viable strategy for exponential growth. The future lies in delivering exceptional experiences and fostering innovation. It is crucial for these companies to realign their priorities, refocusing on user needs and desires rather than solely catering to the demands of investors. By putting users first, tech giants can regain trust, loyalty, and sustainable growth, ensuring that their influence in the industry remains intact in the face of evolving market dynamics.
In this era of constant technological advancement, striking the right balance between profitability and user-centricity is a challenge that tech companies must address head-on. Only by embracing a holistic approach that combines innovation, ethical considerations, and an unwavering commitment to enhancing user experiences can these industry titans truly succeed in meeting the needs of their users while securing long-term growth and prosperity.