The Facebook logo is seen on an Apple iPhone.
Jaap Arriens | OnlyPhoto | Getty Images
Up until about a month ago, Dell’s website shoppers looking for a new laptop could log in with their Facebook credentials to avoid creating a new username and password. This option is gone now.
Dell is not alone. Other major brands, including Best Buy, Ford Motor, Pottery Barn, Nike, Patagonia, Match and Twitch, Amazon’s video streaming service, have removed the ability to log into Facebook. It’s a marked departure from just a few years ago, when Facebook login was plastered across the web, often alongside buttons that let you log into Google, Twitter, or LinkedIn.
Jen Felch, Dell’s chief digital and chief information officer, said people have stopped using social logins for reasons that include concerns about security, privacy and data sharing.
“We were really just looking at how many people were choosing to sign in with their social media identity, and that’s changed over time,” Felch said. “One thing we’re seeing across the industry is more and more security risks or account takeovers, whether it’s Instagram or Facebook or whatever, and I just think we’re watching people make a decision, this social Isolate Media account or have other connections to it.”
The disappearing login is the latest sign of Facebook’s declining influence on the web after more than a decade of spectacular growth. Last year, the company’s business was hit by Apple’s iOS privacy change that made it harder to serve targeted ads, a deteriorating economy, competition from short-video service TikTok, and reputational damage after a whistleblower leaked documents showing that Facebook was aware of damage caused by many of its products.
Third-quarter revenue is expected to fall for the second straight month. Late last year, Facebook changed its name to Meta, reflecting efforts to move the company away from social media and towards a futuristic metaverse where people work, play, and learn in a virtual world. And in a nod to changing consumer behavior, Meta said in July that VR users can access headsets without their Facebook credentials.
A Facebook spokesman declined to comment on the story.
Representatives from Ford, Patagonia, and Twitch declined to comment on why they removed the Facebook button, while Best Buy, Pottery Barn, Nike, and Match did not respond to requests for comment.
Rakesh Soni, CEO of digital identity management company LoginRadius, said many companies once viewed social logins as an easy-to-use method for consumers to securely access their websites without having to set up dozens of usernames and passwords.
It should be a win-win-win – for online businesses, the big internet companies and advertisers.
Websites could capitalize on the rising popularity of social media, reducing the likelihood of potential customers getting upset and bouncing off before completing a transaction. Facebook and Google would benefit from all the data they would collect about where users spend their time and the types of things they buy. Advertisers could promote their products more efficiently with better targeting.
“Violation of their Personal Space”
This love triangle seems to be crumbling. Soni said websites now see less value in the relationship, in large part because consumers have lost trust in Facebook.
In 2018, it was revealed that data analytics company Cambridge Analytica collected the personal information of 87 million Facebook profiles and used that data to target ads in the 2016 presidential campaign. During the Covid-19 pandemic, Facebook users have been inundated with misinformation about masks and vaccines. And in the documents, released last year by ex-employee Frances Haugen, consumers learned that Facebook is aware of the harm its products are causing, but in many cases is not trying to fix it.
Facebook “is a really personal place where people share their birthdays and family photos,” Soni said. “People feel like it’s an invasion of their personal space.”
Stephanie Liu, a marketing analyst at Forrester, said she’s increasingly speaking to companies, particularly retailers in the consumer goods industry, who “call me and say we want to divest Facebook.” Google’s sign-in tool is stickier because “it’s a lot harder to break up with Gmail,” she said.
Dell still supports Google’s social login because it’s the “only one that has enough volume,” Felch said.
According to a 2022 report by LoginRadius, Google was the most popular social login among North American consumers, based on an analysis of more than 1,000 websites and apps. About 38.9% of users preferred the Google login, up almost 1.5 percentage points from 2019. The percentage of users who said they prefer Facebook fell by more than 5 percentage points to 38.7% during this period.
Former Facebook employee Frances Haugen speaks during a hearing of the Communications and Technology Subcommittee of the Energy and Commerce Committee on Capitol Hill December 1, 2021 in Washington, DC.
Brendan Smialowski | AFP | Getty Images
Liu said part of the change in Facebook’s appeal was caused by his own actions. After the Cambridge Analytica scandal, the company “determined how much user data it is willing to share with its partners,” Liu said. That means brands are using the login tool less because they “get less information about their users and who they are and how to reach them outside of Facebook,” she added.
The Facebook login is by no means extinct. Numerous media and news outlet websites still use it as an option, as do mobile game developers.
But Liu said many companies are trying to reduce their reliance on social media services, especially Facebook.
“It’s no small feat to make such a decision to divorce Facebook,” she said.
Marketing technology company Buffer used to offer social logins to its clients, who rely on the company to manage their various social media accounts.
But as Buffer’s user base grew over the years, Tom Redman, the company’s product director, noticed that people sometimes forgot which Internet account they signed in with. As a result, they would accidentally create multiple Buffer accounts.
“It wasn’t uncommon for them to accidentally have two or three Buffer accounts,” Redman said. Social logins “ultimately just proved to be confusing for customers,” he said.
Then there’s the data. By allowing customers to sign up through third parties, Buffer did not collect email addresses, which posed a challenge when the company needed to contact users for support, marketing, and privacy issues.
“We just said, ‘Okay, well, let’s do an experiment and get rid of social logins and social logins,'” Redman said. The company made the switch back in 2019, well before the mass exodus through the internet. Redman said the day Buffer pulled the plug “was the happiest day for our advocacy team in the last five or six years.”
At the wellness company SnapHabit, users of the app can still log in with Facebook. The company briefly experimented with a type of passwordless login method known as a magic link, but that didn’t work, so in 2020 SnapHabit decided to use social logins as well as email as a way for users to log in.
Jake Bernstein, co-founder of SnapHabit, said that despite all the options available to them, users seem to prefer Facebook the least. According to his company’s data, out of a sample of 10,000 sign-ups, 42.7% of users signed up with Google, 26.5% used Apple, 20.1% signed up via email, and only 10.7% used Facebook.
The company even displayed the Facebook button more prominently than the Apple link or the email option, which could only be accessed via a small “More Options” button below the other social logins, Bernstein said.
LoginRadius’ Soni said companies were being held off Facebook for reasons other than just reputational risks. User growth on the social network is stagnating. At the end of last year, the company had 1.93 billion daily active users, a number that barely grew in 2022 to 1.97 billion in Q2.
Companies may be asking, “Why the heck should I devote my engineering resources to maintenance?” said Soni. “Why are we even bothering to have it if it doesn’t add much value to my business?”
He also said that several high-profile data breaches in recent years probably didn’t help.
Dell’s Felch said she’s not sure if privacy concerns are causing customers to move away from social logins. But the change has come with greater scrutiny of social media companies’ business models by regulators, investors and consumers.
“They know everything we do,” Felch said of Facebook and its competitors. “Every site we signed up to with a social media account, they now know.”
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