How Facebook grew too big to handle

The 'growth team' charged with getting more users onto Facebook, and spending time there, is now tasked with cleaning it up

Mr Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook's annual developer conference F8 in San Jose, California, last year. The writer says Mr Zuckerberg seems to have had an overly optimistic view of human behaviour that prevented him from foreseeing some of the negative c
Mr Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook's annual developer conference F8 in San Jose, California, last year. The writer says Mr Zuckerberg seems to have had an overly optimistic view of human behaviour that prevented him from foreseeing some of the negative consequences of "just pushing things very quickly".PHOTO: NYTIMES

If you joined Facebook at any time over the past decade, Mr Alex Schultz probably had something to do with it. The 36-year-old from London, a Cambridge physics graduate and self-taught specialist in online marketing, moved to Silicon Valley in 2004. After three years at eBay, he was appointed to Facebook's newly formed "growth team" in 2007.

Mr Schultz's mission, along with seven others, was to pioneer innovative techniques to lure in new users and keep them coming back for more. Facebook's founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg would later describe the growth team as the platform's "most important product feature". Its quasi-religious verve for using data to grow at virtually any cost was so successful that companies across the industry - and around the world - have copied its tactics.

Please or to continue reading the full article.

Get unlimited access to all stories at $0.99/month

  • Latest headlines and exclusive stories
  • In-depth analyses and award-winning multimedia content
  • Get access to all with our no-contract promotional package at only $0.99/month for the first 3 months*

*Terms and conditions apply.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 31, 2019, with the headline 'How Facebook grew too big to handle'. Subscribe