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20 years of Facebook
Feb 5, 2024
Episode 1091

20 years of Facebook

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And the parallels between Facebook and the rise of artificial intelligence.

Facebook turned 20 over the weekend, so we’re taking a trip down memory lane. Guest host Matt Levin joins the pod to discuss the parallels between the (begrudging) acceptance of Facebook and the rise of artificial intelligence. And the SAT requirement is back at a top college and others may follow suit. We’ll talk about what this means for students. Plus, a Kai rant on how traders are responding to Powell’s “60 Minutes” interview, and the Make Me Smile of all Make Me Smiles … it’s the 2024 Puppy Bowl!

Here’s everything we talked about today:

We love to hear from you. Send your questions and comments to makemesmart@marketplace.org or leave us a voicemail at 508-U-B-SMART.

Make Me Smart February 5, 2024 Transcript

Note: Marketplace podcasts are meant to be heard, with emphasis, tone and audio elements a transcript can’t capture. Transcripts are generated using a combination of automated software and human transcribers, and may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting it.

Kai Ryssdal

Are you ready?

Matt Levin 

I am. Yeah.

Kai Ryssdal 

All right. Well, let’s go. Charlton Thorp just nodded at me. That means it’s time to go. Hey everybody, I’m Kai Ryssdal. Welcome back to Make Me Smart, where we make today make sense.

Matt Levin 

And I’m Matt Levin in for Kimberly Adams. Thanks everybody for joining us. It is Monday, February 5.

Kai Ryssdal 

Monday, Monday, Monday. We are gonna do some news as we always do, and then a quick smile or two, and then we will send you on your merry way. Matt Levin, what do you like for the news?

Matt Levin 

Yesterday was a prominent birthday in the history of 21st century technology. Did you celebrate the birthday I’m referencing here, Kai?

Kai Ryssdal 

Honestly, I did not know until I read the rundown for this podcast this morning. So no.

Matt Levin 

Yesterday was the 20th birthday of Facebook. I guess 20 years ago on Sunday, Mark Zuckerberg and his friends in that Harvard dorm launched Facebook. Kai, do you remember your first interaction with Facebook?

Kai Ryssdal 

Oh wow, first of all, I didn’t know there was going to be a test. So that’s not fair. I don’t think I do. I was never hardcore into Facebook. And I have left that part of the Meta empire many years behind. I still do Instagram. But yeah, no, not really. It was never a huge thing for me.

Matt Levin 

I think part of this is generational. So, Facebook came out when I was in undergrad, and it kind of transformed the college experience, at least for me. And I think for certain millennials of a certain age, I think it’s pretty common to feel that way. And I just want to harp on two things that I think have changed since Facebook hit, that I think are still with us today, in terms of how it impacts our social interactions. I remember when it first came out in undergrad, nobody liked it. Like the immediate reaction from all my friends and people on campus. There wasn’t like, oh, awesome, Facebook is here. But it was more of a begrudging acceptance of yeah, we all kind of need to be on this because of essentially information asymmetries, right? You don’t know where the good party is, at least back then, without a Facebook event invite, right? You don’t know if that person you like from your anthropology class is single, unless you ask them, which nobody did. Unless you looked it up on Facebook. So what was really interesting back then is no one seems super enthusiastic about it. And you can kind of see that, to this day, when you see new technologies being introduced. There’s like a begrudging, like what is, I know I’m gonna have to use this, but I’m not sure I’m happy about it. You see that with AI obviously.

Kai Ryssdal 

Yeah, I mean, look even with the, I mean, literally everything, right? I remember getting on Twitter in 2009 going God, this is stupid, but I have to be here.

Matt Levin 

That’s right. That’s right. And I think that Facebook was a shift in that because I remember like, remember when the iPad came out, like the iPad, the iPod? Which shows how old I am, but like, people were genuinely excited for it. There was like, a positive sentiment towards it. Facebook not so much.

Kai Ryssdal 

Yeah, totally. Sorry, go ahead. I was just going to say the generational thing is interesting because my kids now and my oldest son is 25. He left Facebook what? You know, yeah, he does that, like that era. And my daughter now is 16, right? She’s like, yeah, no, no.

Matt Levin 

Yeah, which brings me to my second point, which was, and we’ll put this in the show notes. But the Wall Street Journal did a nice little rundown of all the various Facebook milestones since it launched 20 years ago. And the decision to acquire Instagram for a billion dollars in 2012, which a lot of people thought Zuckerberg overpaid back then, probably the smartest decision that company ever made. Because to your point, Facebook is kind of the boomer older generation, social media platform now. And Instagram still skews younger, obviously TikTok is eating into that, but there’s a younger demographic there.

Kai Ryssdal 

I think your other observation here that you put in the rundown is a really astute one. Today’s FTC, I don’t know about a Republican Federal Trade Commission, but today’s FTC would not have allowed that purchase to happen. You know, not a chance in the world.

Matt Levin 

No, never. That’s right. Lina Khan, I mean, they are learning the lessons from that era, that they look back and they say, well was Facebook acquiring Instagram good for competition in the social media landscape? Was a good for consumers? And Lina Khan would probably tell you no, so it’s a totally different environment.

Kai Ryssdal 

Yeah, I think you take that qualifier out of that. There’s no probably about what Lina Khan would have said about Facebook buying Instagram.

Matt Levin 

Yeah, I think that’s right. All right. That’s it for my millennial nostalgia tour. What do you got, Kai?

Kai Ryssdal 

So, mine and I think this resonated with me just because there’s a child in my house, the aforementioned 16-year-old daughter, who’s taking the ACT on Sunday. So, it’s very present. Story by David Leonhardt in the New York Times today, ahead of the Dartmouth the announcement this morning, that they’re going to reinstate a requirement for standardized testing in the Dartmouth admissions process. And David Leonhardt is a super thoughtful guy, you can disagree with him or agree with them, take your pick, but he’s like one of the three human beings I know who can speak in a fully formed paragraph, topic sentence and all. It’s uncanny that way. I’m super jealous. But it was really interesting to read this article and why Dartmouth is doing this the short version, the TLDR of it is that Dartmouth found after doing a bunch of research with data, and Dartmouth faculty members who are skilled in the subject areas, that disadvantage kids were not reporting scores that while lower than Dartmouth’s average SAT score would still have gotten them admission because Dartmouth understands that they come from disadvantaged communities. And I think that’s really interesting, because the criticism has always been that SAT scores advantage the advantaged kids much more, and there is still some data that shows that. But the idea that disadvantaged kids are not reporting because they think their scores don’t measure up without understanding the entirety of the process speaks to the opacity of that process. But also, you know, these scores do these kids some good and that’s what Dartmouth is all about. It was super interesting, super, super interesting article, David’s very thoughtful, I totally recommend it. We’ll put it on the show page. And you know, my 16-year-old now is in hell for another like five or six days, and then she gets to be done.

Matt Levin 

I know I thought that story was super, super interesting, too. I’m curious. Where do you think this ends up like five years from now? Are we back to where we were with requirements? Yeah. Do you think that’s where this goes?

Kai Ryssdal 

I totally do. I totally do. It’s a data point. The schools want data points. There will be hue and cry, much of it deserved about the socioeconomic disparities. And maybe we can work toward fixing that somehow and providing access to tutoring programs and all of that jazz, right? SAT prep and all that. I think it was a COVID inspired change that will not last through the post-pandemic era.

Matt Levin 

Yeah, it’s yet another pandemic social development. It seems to be dissipating.

Kai Ryssdal 

Exactly. Yeah. All right. Smiles, Charlton. What do you got, Matt?

Matt Levin 

You go first. I think mine is the smile of all smiles.

Kai Ryssdal 

Well, that’s true. So look, this is a little dorky, but I’m just going to do it anyway. So, I wake up this morning, and I read all yesterday’s coverage. And I saw a little bit of this last night, coverage of Jay Powell, the chairman of the Fed on 60 Minutes, which aired last night, saying “we’re not gonna cut interest rates until we have lots more data.” And the internet, you know, my Twitter feed was was abuzz with it. And then this morning, the markets opened down 250 points on the Dow, which is like seven, eight tenths percent, not a whole bunch. But you know, a lot of red ink as as it goes, as you’re watching the CNBC screen go by. And it’s because Powell said he wasn’t going to cut interest rates without more data, which is what he said on Wednesday. And we all said it then and oh my God, are the markets idiots. Jesus, he literally, so look on Wednesday, Powell was wearing and I noted this because Nancy Farghalli, the producer of Marketplace, and I have a little running joke about what Powell wears on press conference days and purple ties and all that. Powell was wearing a blue suit and a purple tie. The next day, 60 Minutes releases stills from the interview, and it’s the same purple tie and it’s the same blue suit. He went from the press conference, where he said, “I’m not going to cut interest rates without more data,” to an interview in which he said, “I’m not going to cut interest rates without more data.” And everybody goes oh my God, it’s news that Powell said this. I cannot even with frickin all of this stuff. Just very frustrating. And I realized that’s not a smile. That’s more of a rant, but it’s my podcast. I can do what I want.

Matt Levin 

It’s the same thing. Is there any chance Jay Powell’s just a one suit guy?

Kai Ryssdal 

No, I don’t. I don’t think so. Powell’s been around for a long time in those circles. He, unlike me, a public radio guy who has exactly zero suits now. He has one sports coat and a pair of pants. Powell has many suits and many ties.

Matt Levin 

Yeah. You don’t have a suit?

Kai Ryssdal 

So, look, all my ties are too wide. They are out of fashion. And the suits that I have no longer, they don’t work anymore. They’re not skinny. They’re not slim, any of that jazz. They just don’t. I’ve got suits, but they’re all freaking you know, 15 year old suits.

Matt Levin 

I have like a double breasted like Dave Letterman type suit that I bought in like my early 20s. I look like a NBA draft prospect from like the mid 90s. It’s awesome. Okay, I will jump in on my make me stop. Sorry, Make Me Smile. Thank you, Marissa for passing this one along. It’s the Puppy Bowl, Kai. It’s the Puppy Bowl. Yes, Sunday is the Puppy Bowl. Obviously, this is the direct competitor to the Super Bowl, except with puppies. Yes. And we’ll put in the show notes a link to the adoptable dogs you can see in the Puppy Bowl. They’re very, very, very cute. And you know, Janet had a really nice write-up about the Puppy Bowl last year and kind of the marketing opportunities of the Puppy Bowl too, so we’ll put that in the show notes as well. The Puppy Bowl’s just good.

Kai Ryssdal 

No Taylor Swift. No Travis Kelce. Just puppies. Just puppies. Alright, we’re out of here. Tomorrow, we’re doing the Tuesday show. One topic. One thing we’re talking about what’s going on at the border right now. Oh my goodness. And why immigration reform is so hard, and sadly it’s only gonna be a half hour show. So we’re not going to do all of it because that’s like 14 PhD thesis. Yeah.

Matt Levin 

Until then keep the comments and questions coming. You can leave us a message at 508-U-B-Smart or email makemesmart@marketplace.org.

Kai Ryssdal 

And on a Monday. This podcast, which is called Make Me Smart, is produced by Courtney Bergsieker. Today’s program was engineered by, checking yes, Charlton Thorp, still across from me behind the bulletproof soundproof glass. Is it bulletproof? I don’t know. We’re never going to find out. Ellen Rolfes writes our newsletter. Our intern is Thalia Menchaca.

Matt Levin 

Marissa Cabrera is our senior producer. Bridget Bodnar is the director of podcasts, and Francesca Levy is the Executive Director of Digital.

Kai Ryssdal 

I wonder if it’s even soundproof? Is it soundproof? I mean, there’s like an air gap in there, but.

Matt Levin

I would think so.

Kai Ryssdal

Charlton’s in my ear going, “I don’t know, man. I don’t know.”

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The team

Marissa Cabrera Senior Producer
Courtney Bergsieker Associate Producer