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Ask HN: If Meta dies will React follow?
34 points by friendlydog 4 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 95 comments
What happens to React if Meta disappears? Will it limp along or is it disconnected enough to continue improving without Facebook Meta?

I belligerently hate Meta, but it's pretty wild to speculate that a company with 1.9 billion users will just up and die. A slow death on the order of 10-20 years may happen but I doubt React will still be popular by that time no matter what happens with Meta.

> A slow death on the order of 10-20 years may happen

A sibling comment even said,

> Meta's death (if it happened), will be a slow and a long one. Like Oracle or IBM (although IBM is not completely dead).

I think death could happen a lot sooner. Rapidly, even.

Meta is not B2B, but B2C. They won't have ten year contracts, legacy workloads that they can raise costs on, or new businesses to schmooze over a game of golfing with the execs.

Social is fickle. MySpace and Digg died in an afternoon. All of the centuries of dead and forgotten stored content isn't keeping people there. It's connections. And those can come and go easily. Just look at Snapchat and TikTok.

Meta employee compensation is going to begin decreasing both in terms of salary and stock equity. They won't be able to retain good talent, so initiatives will die. Meta is also in a narrative death spiral, and this will eat away at employee morale.

New startups will see blood in the water. They'll come after the Baby Boomers. They'll come after the photographers. Facebook won't have capital to fight battles from every angle.

They have a massive amount of infrastructure to maintain. This will become a giant thorn if they lose employees. How will they weigh keeping the lights on, finishing ongoing migrations, etc. vs fighting new battles to stay alive?

We now realize how little moat they actually have. Facebook really needed a device. They tried to build a handset and failed. Oculus is too little too late.

edit: Facebook ads will cost a lot less as advertisers demand more favorable rates and see diminishing value, perhaps even abandoning the platform for their ad spend.

Meta technically is mostly B2B, the users are the product. There are probably businesses that have signed ad spend deals with Meta that they can float on. And I'm sure there's ways Meta can/is juicing their ad auction numbers since they control the both ends of it without a lot of transparency.

Aren’t the contracts based on click through rates or impressions? If the users go, I doubt companies signed contracts to pay the same for less visibility.

If the economy has a down cycle ad spend will drop. This might be what really stings.

Neither MySpace nor Digg were anywhere near the scale of Meta. At it’s peak MySpace was one or two orders of magnitude smaller than Meta is today. Facebook may wither and die but they also have Instagram, WhatsApp, and Oculus.

And for what it’s worth there is almost nothing more I’d like to see than Meta vanishing. I hope you’re right.

In 2006, MySpace was the most visited website in the United States. Wikipedia cites a couple of sources, and I do recall this being widely reported at the time. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myspace

Granted, the web was a much smaller place then, in terms of both users and revenue. But still, relative to its time, it was huge.

> At it’s peak MySpace was one or two orders of magnitude smaller than Meta is today.

While this may be true, what % of global internet DAUs did each of them house? I'm not sure if this relevant or not, but it seems the internet was just a much smaller place back then.

I don't know. Is it really that relevant? It's just fundamentally pretty hard to quickly shed 1.92 billion users. Quick and dirty math there are around 3 billion internet users in the world, excluding China. Meta platforms have 1.92B of those people. The scale and penetration is hard to fathom.

>it seems the internet was just a much smaller place back then.

It sure felt a lot bigger than it does now.

Yeah, Meta will probably die like AOL, which is fitting since (at least in a rhetorical sense) it's also mostly lived like AOL.

It will look like the death of Yahoo... It lost relevance very quickly, but was able to survive as an irrelevant zombie company for a long, long time.

Reminds me of a white dwarf in a sense, long past its peak but it was once something so enormous it continues to radiate a little for many years due to the residual heat of its prime.

This is the lifecycle of all companies.

Esp. one with $30B+ a quarter in revenue. What a wildly silly notion.

I don’t know where Statista gets their numbers but Meta reported their active users this week at 1.92B. It was a drop from 1.93B which is partially why their stock tanked.

Those were daily active users. (Not that Statista's MAU numbers are correct, but important distinction).

I would usually argue that there is no way the Facebook/Meta would die (it almost certainly wont) and so the question is redundant.

However because of the way Meta share ownership is structured Zuckerberg has complete control and the board/shareholders cannot eject him. Most (every?) other public company would go through multiple leadership changes over their lifetime as shareholders exert control. Zuckerberg seems to believe he is going to remain in total control forever, so who knows? Maybe one day the fact shareholders have no control will come back to bite him and the the share price will drop through the floor as confidence in him plumes to zero. Frankly maybe the last 48hours could be indicative of that.

In most companies the board would have required the resignation of the CEO after the historically bad results yesterday.

I suppose in some ways shares in Meta aren't really shares in Meta but shares in Zuckerberg himself.

Fascinating. Looking forward to when Zuck hits his mid 40s and ends up self-immolating Meta in the most glorious mid-life crisis the world has ever seen.

[Source: I'm in my 40s and could easily imagine cratering a trillion dollar company I created in a quixotic quest to make the world a better place.]

You could be on to something there, "he" has just "rebranded" and asked us to refer to himself under a "cool" new name and new look. Plus he is trying to start the cult of the Metaverse where we will all transcend to a new plane of existence... this does sound a lot like a mid life crisis to me.

He might just voluntarily step away for his mid-life crisis, the way Page, Brin, Bezos, Ellison, and Gates have.

I figured a similar dynamic existed when Google did their Class-A/Class-C split. Brin, Page, and Schmidt together hold voting control of the company, so I could envision a future where investors tried to buy up all the Class-A shares and enlist the cooperation of one of the founders to oust the remaining founder. For a long time I held onto my Class-A shares and sold the Class-C ones in case the voting rights premium spiked. But that didn't happen: they've all stepped away from operational roles at the company and in Schmidt's case even resigned from the board. Now the Class-A and Class-C shares largely trade in parallel, and in some cases Class-A even trades below C (which is slightly insane since they are strictly better, but market fluctuations).

Frankly, I think the whole Meta rebranding seems like a bit of a manic impulsive decision. Of course I know there is more to it than that but there's a not insignificant chance that it was the turning point in the company's decline, if the whole Oculus/metaverse thing doesn't in fact play out in the next couple years.

Holy cow, now I'm waiting for that too!

>In most companies the board would have required the resignation of the CEO after the historically bad results yesterday

That's a strong claim. The stock only dropped 25%, other tech company stocks have dropped as much as 50% in the last few quarters (Snap, DocuSign, etc.) and haven't changed leadership.

Meta literally made the history books yesterday with the larges one day drop in market capitalisation of any company in history. That's $200B of shareholder value wiped out. If I was an intuitional investor I would be asking for his resignation.


Yeah Netflix had a big post-earnings drop, too, and Reed Hastings ain't going anywhere.

1 basic move and they'll likely have 3 more Oculus sales off of me (we already have 1). No Facebook account required, just a typical account that requires no proof of identity or ties to my personal identity in any way. Just like I can sign up for Steam, XBox, Epic, Nintendo, Blizzard, and every other damn service without it. My sister just told me the other day she'd probably get 2 if it weren't for that, she doesn't even game on other platforms. There has to be tons of people holding out because of it. The move was infinitely stupid.

because of the way Meta share ownership is structured Zuckerberg has complete control and the board/shareholders cannot eject him

Tech companies are notoriously bad at succession planning.

Car crash. Plane crash. Heart attack. Stroke. Slippery floor on your super-yacht.

There are a million ways for a CEO's tenure to suddenly and unexpectedly end. Yet the heads of these companies still act like nothing will ever change, even when they're old enough to know better.

Many of them are actually pretty good at succession planning: Gates, Page, and Jobs all hand-picked their successor, and had a long apprenticeship period where the successor served in a COO role and basically ran the business while the previous CEO oversaw.

The problem is that the tech business is fundamentally innovation-based, and this means that anyone capable of running the business as #2 is probably unsuitable to be #1. There's a classic a16z essay about this:


Basically, the personality traits to be a successful functional executive and those needed to be a successful tech CEO are often diametrically opposed. So if you pull from the existing exec team, your best case is that you get a caretaker (like Ballmer, Pichai, or Cook) who runs the business, optimizes earnings, keeps people happy, but misses the next tech cycle and eventually mortgages the company's future. Your worst case is that everyone quits and the company implodes because it can't service its existing commitments.

This is why you want to be a financier. Sell the companies at the top of their growth curve and fund the up-and-comers that will eat their lunch.

> However because of the way Meta share ownership is structured Zuckerberg has complete control

How is it structured at a quick brief high level? Just the common "he owns 50.1% of the company in terms of # shares?"

He owns a different type of share from the common stock which gives him extra voting power. Each share he owns gives him 10 votes, and each share that you can buy gives you 1 vote.

He set it up that way to give him control of the company forever.

Source: https://www.morningstar.com/articles/1061237/how-facebook-si...

> The Facebook shares that you and I, along with big investors like mutual funds, can buy are Class A shares, of which there are roughly 2.4 billion in the market. We get one vote for each share. But Zuckerberg and a select group of others own Class B shares, which afford them 10 votes per share. There are roughly 440 million Class B shares.

>Zuckerberg personally owns nearly 360 million Class B shares, and through agreements with other Class B shareholders, controls the vote of another 32 million. That gives him control of some 392 million Class B Shares, some 90% of the total.

Multiple classes of share with different voting rights, so while he doesn't own 50.1% of the company he does have overall voting control of the company.


Zuckerberg holds around 60% of control*, see https://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/1326801/000132680118... at page 38

Zuck has priority shares that have like 10x voting rights. Even if he only has a small percent of the shares he will be in control.

Meta's death (if it happened), will be a slow and a long one. Like Oracle or IBM (although IBM is not completely dead). Given the JS ecosystem cycle, React will be replaced by something better much sooner.

> Given the JS ecosystem cycle, React will be replaced by something better much sooner.

The JS ecosystem cycle has slowed way down. React is 9 years old now. Vue is 8 years old. Svelte, the new kid on the block, is 5 years old.

If React is halfway dead, and I doubt that given how much $$ is being invested in new React apps today, then that is still another 9 years of React.

I do agree that Meta will be around for longer than 9 years though! :)

The other thing people don't realize is that React Native is huge. It has been ported all over the place, the basic idea of "universal UI primitives that you write native backings for" is a pretty good one, and JSX is a really nice templating language.

I'm not a fan of quite a few things about React, but its design is solid enough that it isn't going anywhere.

> Meta's death (if it happened), will be a slow and a long one.

Exactly, there's no way Meta will suddenly disappear and go poof, barring some kind of extreme government action or bizarre corpora-cidal action by its controlling shareholder Mark Zuckerberg.

Or, the worse possible: becoming unfashionable.

Facebook hasn't been fashionable for over 10 years. Yet here we are.

Well, I'd say you're correct, but my point is they are not "unfashionable", as in "ewww! you use Facebook!?" in a shrill tone. All it will take is the GOP to politicize being on FB, and it's over. Divide and destroy.

But react still kind of is.

> Or, the worse possible: becoming unfashionable.

Nothing popular becomes unfashionable that quickly.

Facebook is already unfashionable.

it already is, TikTok took over

I'm sure that's what MySpace investors thought.

Not quite comparable. During MySpace's peak, it was a wholly-owned subsidiary of NewsCorp. Reportedly its stumbles were due (at least in part) to internal disagreement over strategic direction between MySpace and their parent company. Sort of like if Instagram imploded due to disagreement with Meta, rather than the entirety of Meta dying.

Doesn't that prove their point? MySpace has been in a slow death that has taken decades, but even now it still isn't completely dead. Considering Meta is so much bigger than MySpace was at its peak, I don't see why we would expect the death of Meta to be sudden.

Myspace was not such a development powerhouse, was it? For instance in the context of that question, did they issues framework widely adopted outside of MySpace?

There's nothing about Facebook that anyone needs, that no one else provides. It could go as quickly as AOL.

Interesting reference point because I've heard AOL has continued to be a cash cow for decades: https://www.statista.com/statistics/266568/annual-revenue-of...

Advertising revenue is obviously more fragile, but I don't think Facebook cresting the high water mark says all that much about the tail trajectory.

Can confirm; AOL is (sadly) still used. They're our fourth-largest mailbox provider by subscriber numbers.

It's really just that network effect is a feature, especially on a communication platform.

Personally, somewhere on my project backlog is a plan to set up a personal Matrix server for this exact reason, as most of the public ones I've found stop just short of actually supporting bridging for any Meta platforms yet.

(And even if they did, E2E bridging is still WIP at the spec level anyway if memory serves, which would mean still having to roll my own for the time being... Because naturally, if I'm concerned enough about my dependence on other people's cloud services, or their harvesting of my data, to consider going to lengths like these, then I'm obviously not just going to just wantonly funnel a collection of DMs spanning about half my lifetime through a third party's servers.)

Facebook has survived long enough that people are likely to stay just because they're so accustomed to using it. The marketplace is great and some people have tons of family photos on the site.

AOL tried to be all things to internet users and wanted to be a walled garden at a time when cheaper alternatives were coming out that gave users more freedom. Facebook is resigned to the fact that it isn't a walled garden, but it does things to try to retain and gain new customers anyway.

Connectivity to your social circles is something Facebook provides that nobody else provides. There are other ways of connecting social circles, but due to network effects, they're all worse.

There's no site on the planet other than Facebook that lets me interact with my entire family all at once in a way that I know will reach them.

I'm not a facebook user but I did set up a google+ account while it was around and i did like that circles paradigm they had. For whatever else was wrong with that thing to make it crash and burn so hard and so quickly (other than google's corporate adhd and constantly being in 3rd or 4th place).. I did like that concept of circles as ways to target your content.

There are others.

My kid’s class parent’s group is a Facebook group. In other places it’s a WhatsApp group. The only reason is everybody has a Facebook account.

I have one too, I just don’t log in anymore, so I have no idea what the other parents are talking about behind the scenes. This is the tyranny of a walled garden social network.

I’d welcome Meta crash and burn tomorrow.

Fuck the JS ecosystem. I'm waiting for a library supported by wasm.

In the event that Meta were to dissolve, liquidate their assets, and return the money to the shareholders, I suspect we would quickly see the establishment of the React Foundation or something akin to that under the mantle of some other open source software foundation.

Either that or it will be forgotten like KnockoutJS was (and for the same reasons).

React is the jQuery of the modern web. It's open-source; it's very popular; it won't die immediately if Meta were to fall; but maybe we will one day grow out of it.

Vercel/nextjs.org is a nontrivial company whose business fundamentally depends on supporting the React ecosystem.

And they aren’t the only one. And countless other companies depend on React “non-fundamentally” at this point.

React is Java now. At most it could start a gradual multi-decade decline (I don’t think this will happen, but it’s imaginable), but I’d bet consultants will still be getting paid to maintain/fix legacy React apps 40 years from now.

They seem to be slowly pivoting to Svelte though.

Rich Harris is now working at Vercel. On the last Svelte Summit, Steph Dietz (a Vercel dev rel) literally said "Svelte is the future of web dev".

Hey, Lee from Vercel. We believe in both React and Svelte equally, and personally I'm also extremely excited about SvelteKit. Both React and Svelte can be successful, it's not a zero-sum game :)

They could (and probably should consider) going the Ionic route and building some generic layer that allows them to integrate with Angular, Vue, and future frontend frameworks.

Microsoft's Office division has enough bets on React and React Native I'd be surprised if React didn't survive regardless of Meta.

If Meta dies the economy will follow. Meta isnt going anywhere. If Oracle is employees massive amount of people Meta will for a long time to come. Look past one quarters earning reports.

The US economy would barely notice if Facebook vanished over the course of the next few years.

It's a modest blip in the $23 trillion US economy and its economic presence would be absorbed by others relatively quickly. Other platforms would gobble up their ad dollars, other platforms would be born or step in to pick up the eyeball attention. Other marketplaces would absorb their local listings.

Ten years out people would barely remember Facebook ever mattered at all. It'd be like a 45 year old remembering the dominance of Atari in their youth, or IBM ruling over the PC industry for 15 minutes, or AOL's good ten year run in the early days of the consumer Internet.

Nobody really gives a shit about eg Instagram or TikTok. They don't really matter. Oh a trinket vanished, here comes the next trinket. The world didn't stop with AOL, MySpace, Flickr, Friendster, ICQ, AIM, Geocities and 327 other services that nobody cares about today; and it won't stop whenever Facebook gets around to dying (regardless of the difference in scale, that doesn't matter much per capita - you don't have 3,000 friends on Facebook in reality, you have 13). People care more about sitcoms than they do these toy services, and their beloved sitcoms go away all the time, replaced by the next distraction device. Most or all of these social networks will rot and die eventually, who cares. On with the next.

And I say that as someone entirely without any of the comical rage that most of HN has regarding Facebook. It's simply obvious Facebook isn't that important.

It's pretty incredible to think that a near trillion dollar company could go away and nothing would happen.

> If Meta dies the economy will follow

Can you expand on this? I see a company that produces net-negative societal value going through a process of price discovery. Facebook/Meta offer nothing beyond a shrinking user base to advertisers.

A firm can be net-negative in societal value, while profitable in the value it captures. E.g. oil companies

Look through your javascript dependencies. Is react really at the top of your list for worries of death? hah.

I don't think "Meta" will die, but "Facebook" might... Meta being the parent company, Facebook being a sub company... As long as Meta keeps something running (I am going to guess that Facebook Infrastructure might be spun out and used as a separate entity) they may have other stuff as a post Facebook project... This whole "Metaverse" thing is one of those that might end up replacing Facebook... then again, both could die and something else takes over... [Edit] Doesn't directly answer your question... but if internal dev still need React, they will keep it around...

Facebook still has billions of users. It's a very very long way from losing users for the first time or losing stock value to dying altogether.

It will certainly be a regional phenomenon. Facebook will become blocked and/or uncool in some country and it will spread. Also generational, the younger you are the more tolerance for constantly trying new things will be. I don't see my mid sixties mother ever abandoning her facebook quilting groups or her chats with her cousins, but her kids and her grandkids will eventually move on to something else. Just like AOL it will shamble on shedding engagement (user numbers can be juked and what constitutes an 'active user' in their shareholder reports will constantly be relaxed to prop up their egos) until one day it's a footnote.

What does a JavaScript library have to do with a second life clone effort by Facebook?

The second life clone is going to fail. Facebook will go right on making profit.

React is open source, and seems to have zero dependence on Facebook from my perspective.

Think of all the technologies that we use today that were invented at companies that no longer exist, or are no longer relevant. E.g. Java was invented at Sun, C at Bell Labs. Why would it be different?

You can already (and perhaps should) use preact today, a much better React clone. With 2 lines of webpack config, it can even be a complete drop-in replacement with no code changes.

Ideally a foundation of sorts would spin up to take over managing the project. There's more than enough companies with big pockets deeply invested in the React ecosystem.

The JavaScript community will have moved onto something else when that time comes. It will still exist in the same way that YUI does (to some degree).

Interestingly we’re at the peak it seems. However none have shown any crazy adoption yet. Svelte seemed like it would be really popular but when pandemic hit I stopped hearing about it as much. Hopefully WASM will take over.

Vue is as old as React and seems like it’s relegated to being in Reacts shadow

React has far too much investment from major companies to die. If something happened to Meta (metaverse doesn't work out and they are chopped up and sold off for parts), React would most likely be spun off into a Apache style foundation (ie. "The React Foundation")

Even if Meta died today, React is too big to fail at this point.

I'm sure the React team would quickly find funding.

My bet: Microsoft would hire them wholesale. They’ve positioned themselves at the center of web development, they’ve embraced JS and React already, and yet they don’t have a front-end framework of their own because they missed the boat.

> they don’t have a front-end framework of their own because they missed the boat

True, but they do have TypeScript though.

React is used at so many of the F500 that it has no real danger of being abandoned by developers.

Exactly, even if Meta vanished out of nowhere, react is open source. It's also not even that large of a codebase.

React is a core part of WordPress, which runs >40% of all sites on the internet, so that alone should be enough to keep it supported for the foreseeable future with or without Meta's engineers.

don't take the adjustment in share price lead you to believe that something is fundamentally out of order with fb's businesses. they're still well positioned and are an essential service for many people worldwide. they seem to have been able to monetize fairly well, too. where do you get the idea that they are going to 'die?'

In the event something insane like that happens in this decade, then any thing could happen. No way to say any thing.

It will limp along until it fades into dust, as it happens with all technology. Meta's fate is irrelevant.

React health has already taken a hit with the introduction of hooks.

We can only hope.

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