Will Facebook’s Grand Audio Experiment Fare Better Than Its Grand Experiment With Video?

"People are creating and sharing more video, and we think it’s pretty clear that video is only going to become more important,"

Back in 2016, Mark Zuckerberg was quite loudly labelling the written word as dead. The future rested on video, he and other key Facebook executive would say on numerous occasions. And in fact, Facebook would be almost entirely video within five years, Zuckberg predicted.

“People are creating and sharing more video, and we think it’s pretty clear that video is only going to become more important,” he said on a conference call with Wall Street analysts in November that year. “So that’s why we’re prioritizing putting video first across our family of apps and taking steps to make it even easier for people to express themselves in richer ways.”

It’s now 2021, five years later. Facebook’s great push to video failed several years ago. The company’s 2.8 billion users still communicate in large part through text. But now Zuckerberg is heralding a new revolution: And this time, he says, the future rests with audio, not video, replacing the written word.

“We think that audio is going to be a first-class medium, and that there are all these different products to be built across this whole spectrum,” he told journalist Casey Newton earlier this week. Zuckerberg underscored his point about the importance of audio by talking to Newton in a paywalled part of Discord, an audio-chat app.

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As Zuckerberg held court on Discord, Facebook publicly unveiled a slew of new audio initiatives. Soon users will be to create and post audio clips called Soundbites. There’ll be audio rooms for group chats, too, similar functions to the ones in Discord and Clubhouse.

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