Product Idea: Facebook Breaks
If Facebook really wants to make its product respect time well spent, it should add a “break” feature. The way it would work is simple: After a set amount of time spent on a Facebook session, the infinite scroll stops, and Facebook serves a message reminding the user to reevaluate if they are happy with how they are spending time in the moment.
The break idea came from our last podcast about tech addiction with Sean Higgins from Better You. On the podcast, we talked about how social networks optimize stimulation for the current self at the expense of the future self. The current self loves the excitement of what it might see next on Facebook, but the future self regrets time wasted upon reflection, particularly when a two-minute browsing session turns into twenty. Breaks respect the future self by interrupting the ceaseless stimulation for the current self, allowing the user to take back control of their attention.
Introducing breaks would have a negative impact on user time spent on Facebook, but there are two potential benefits.
First, time spent is an increasingly difficult metric for all major internet platforms to manage to. Not only are users questioning the value of time spent with certain services, but they have more content options than ever to allocate time to. Internet services must create more value for the user per unit of time spent (information compression). Value of time spent is the future of monetization, not purely time spent. Breaks could be a strong step into this future by offering a sponsored, high-value, captive ad experience.
Second, breaks could act as a tool for Facebook to build an even better understanding of the desires of their users. As part of the breaks product, Facebook could ask users to tell them what they would rather spend time on — work on their to-do list, long-term projects, errands they need to run, etc. The incremental data about user intention could allow Facebook to create higher-value sponsored touch points throughout Facebook. Breaks could also add additional value to the company’s emerging Workplace product.
Facebook has continued to talk the talk about fixing its platform, but it’s hard to see what meaningful changes have been implemented, particularly on the time well spent side. It’s easy to criticize Facebook in the current environment, and many do, but I believe the company does genuinely want to do the “right” thing. Breaks are one of those right things that not only improve respect for the user but also represent a step toward the future of monetizing value over time.
Disclaimer: We actively write about the themes in which we invest or may invest: virtual reality, augmented reality, artificial intelligence, and robotics. From time to time, we may write about companies that are in our portfolio. As managers of the portfolio, we may earn carried interest, management fees or other compensation from such portfolio. Content on this site including opinions on specific themes in technology, market estimates, and estimates and commentary regarding publicly traded or private companies is not intended for use in making any investment decisions and provided solely for informational purposes. We hold no obligation to update any of our projections and the content on this site should not be relied upon. We express no warranties about any estimates or opinions we make.