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Why Facebook Reported the Most Impressive Earnings of 2021 So Far



The entire FAANG cohort was the star of earnings season, but one shone the brightest.

Billy Duberstein

There was an embarrassment of riches for FAANG stock investors this earnings season. While it may be too simple to say investors should only own these stocks, it appears the advantages of the big techs’ platforms were only enhanced and strengthened by the pandemic. Having welcomed a more highly-engaged audience, and now that the economy is recovering rapidly, revenue is going through the roof at these tech giants.

You couldn’t really have gone wrong with any of the large-cap household names in the first quarter, but the company that impressed me the most was Facebook (NASDAQ:FB).

A large thumbs up icon with the word like repeated all around it.

Image source: Getty Images.

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Revenue was through the roof, despite perceived headwinds

In the first quarter of 2021, Facebook grew revenue by a stunning 48%, with ad revenue up 46% and “other” revenue up 146%. Total costs and expenses only grew 29%, with most of that going to servers, data centers, and research and development — all of which could be considered investment in growth. In fact, marketing and general and administrative expenses were only up a paltry 2%! The end result was operating-income growth of a whopping 93%.

Yes, Facebook was helped by foreign currency this time around, which boosted the growth rate by 4 percentage points. And yes, it was lapping the first quarter of 2020, which had one month affected by the pandemic. Still, the company was able to grow 44% in constant currency, on top of still-respectable 18% growth in the first quarter of last year.

That’s really, really impressive. Facebook did increase daily active users (DAUs) by 8%, due to increased engagement from the pandemic, and delivered 12% more ads, but the real surprise was a 30% increase in the price per ad. This was fueled by bigger-than-expected demand as the economy strengthened, and as businesses were eager to reach customers in a targeted way.

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Some investors think this may be as good as it gets, however, as the new iOS 14.5 update just hit iPhones. The new operating system will enable customers to turn off the ability for Facebook to track their behavior across other apps and websites. Some fear that may limit its targeting capabilities, which are why Facebook is such a big hit with small businesses specifically and advertisers in general.

Still, if iOS limits digital-ad targeting (including Facebook but also its competitors), Facebook should still retain a relative advantage over other platforms. After all, it knows a lot about you, even within the app. CFO David Wehner said:

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That said, the impact [of iOS 14.5] on our own business, we think, will be manageable. We continue to expect it will be a headwind for the remainder of the year, but we’re making encouraging progress, as Sheryl [Sandberg, chief operating officer] mentioned, on our own solutions to help advertisers navigate these changes. And that includes helping advertisers work with the Apple [application programming interface] as well as our own approach to using aggregated data for targeting and measurement that we call Aggregated Events Management. So the goal there is really to maintain it in the long run, even improve performance with less data.

While the iOS 14.5 rollout could be a headwind, I’d expect it to be mild, and for the smart people at Facebook to continue to innovate in selling relevant ads to the right people.

New tech takes center stage

With the core business firing on all cylinders, CEO Mark Zuckerberg actually focused a lot of his opening remarks on new technologies. New initiatives, described in the “other revenue” category, only made up 2.8% of revenue in the quarter, but were up 146% to $732 million, and are starting to become a little bit more meaningful.

New sources of revenue include commerce, creator services, and the augmented reality and virtual reality (AR/VR) computing platform.

On AR/VR, Zuckerberg was very enthusiastic about the Oculus Quest 2, which was just updated to enable wireless streaming. This could be a big deal and a breakthrough for AR/VR. Previous headsets need to have all sorts of wires running from them, which Zuckerberg believes diminished the experience, saying on the conference call with analysts, “The technology to deliver a great experience wirelessly is very advanced, and most companies aren’t going to be able to deliver this, but we believe that it is the minimum bar for a high-quality experience.”

Another potential moneymaker, which really kicked into gear during the pandemic, is Facebook’s participation in commerce beyond mere advertising. Last year, the company started Facebook Shops, allowing small businesses to set up shops in Facebook and Instagram. This initiative has already reached 1 million Shops, attracting 250 million visitors per month. And Facebook Marketplace is more like a modern Craigslist, attracting 1 billion visitors each month. In addition, WhatsApp business messaging and WhatsApp payments in India are also growing.

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But management said the company could do much more, further “down the funnel,” with investments in payments, customer service and support, and other products. Taking more charge of commerce could lead to further monetization opportunities. Sandberg said: 

Can we move people down the funnel? We think we can. But that’s going to take work, and it’s also going to take some time for people to get used to that. But in terms of the long-run competitive advantage, we have a lot of people looking for a lot of things, sharing a lot of things, and continuing to find things they really like. And so I’m very optimistic about our opportunity here, but it’s going to take real work.

An internet personality speaks into a small camera in front of a ring light,.

Facebook is looking to increase its content creation monetization capabilities. Image source: Getty Images.

Finally, more monetization could be coming via new creator tools. Right now, many creators and influencers are paid through product recommendations, but Zuckerberg sees Facebook giving creators a wider range of audio and video tools, with other potential monetization options, including tipping or perhaps subscriptions.

That perhaps puts the company on track to compete with upstart site OnlyFans, a subscription/tipping site that is known for R-rated (and X-rated) content creators, but which is also drawing more mainstream creators looking to give fans a more intimate look into their lives. According to a recent profile by Bloomberg, OnlyFans brought in $2 billion in gross revenue in 2020, of which it takes a 20% commission at very high margins.

Higher growth yet a cheaper valuation than peers

Remarkably, while Facebook reported the highest revenue growth of any FAANG stock this earnings season, it’s also the cheapest on a P/E basis, at around 28 times trailing earnings. That skepticism may have been warranted, given its greater concentration and reliance on advertising than the others. 

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However, that ad reliance was tested during the pandemic, and Facebook did just fine — in fact, more than fine. If the company can bring more compelling technology to market such as AR/VR, and continue to monetize its 2.85 billion monthly users in new and different ways, its stock could still be very cheap, even after the recent post-earnings bump.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis — even one of our own — helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.

Billy Duberstein owns shares of Facebook. His clients may own shares of the companies mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Facebook. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


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Meet the Developers – Linux Kernel Team (David Vernet)





Credit: Larry Ewing ( and The GIMP for the original design of Tux the penguin.


For today’s interview, we have David Vernet, a core systems engineer on the Kernel team at Meta. He works on the BPF (Berkeley Packet Filter) and the Linux kernel scheduler. This series highlights Meta Software Engineers who contribute to the Linux kernel. The Meta Linux Kernel team works with the broader Linux community to add new features to the kernel and makes sure that the kernel works well in Meta production data centers. Engineers on the team work with peers in the industry to make the kernel better for Meta’s workloads and to make Linux better for everyone.

Tell us about yourself.

I’m a systems engineer who’s spent a good chunk of his career in the kernel space, and some time in the user-space as well working on a microkernel. Right now, I’m focusing most of my time on BPF and the Linux kernel scheduler.

I started my career as a web developer after getting a degree in math. After going to grad school, I realized that I was happiest when hacking on low-level systems and figuring out how computers work.

As a kernel developer at Meta, what does your typical day look like?

I’m not a maintainer of any subsystems in the kernel, so my typical day is filled with almost exclusively coding and engineering. That being said, participating in the upstream Linux kernel community is one of the coolest parts of being on the kernel team, so I still spend some time reading over upstream discussions. A typical day goes something like this:

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  1. Read over some of the discussions taking place on various upstream lists, such as BPF and mm. I usually spend about 30-60 minutes or so per day on this, though it depends on the day.

  2. Hack on the project that I’m working on. Lately, that’s adding a user-space ringbuffer map type to BPF.

  3. Work on drafting an article for

What have you been excited about or incredibly proud of lately?

I recently submitted a patch-set to enable a new map type in BPF. This allows user-space to publish messages to BPF programs in the kernel over the ringbuffer. This map type is exciting because it sets the stage to enable frameworks for user-space to drive logic in BPF programs in a performant way.

Is there something especially exciting about being a kernel developer at a company like Meta?

The Meta kernel team has a strong upstream-first culture. Bug fixes that we find in our Meta kernel, and features that we’d like to add, are almost always first submitted to the upstream kernel, and then they are backported to our internal kernel.

Do you have a favorite part of the kernel dev life cycle?

I enjoy architecting and designing APIs. Kernel code can never crash and needs to be able to run forever. I find it gratifying to architect systems in the kernel that make it easy to reason about correctness and robustness and provide intuitive APIs that make it easy for other parts of the kernel to use your code.

I also enjoy iterating with the upstream community. It’s great that your patches have a whole community of people looking at them to help you find bugs in your code and suggest improvements that you may never have considered on your own. A lot of people find this process to be cumbersome, but I find that it’s a small price to pay for what you get out of it.

Tell us a bit about the topic you presented at the Linux Plumbers Conference this year.

We presented the live patch feature in the Linux kernel, describing how we have utilized it at Meta and how our hyper-scale has shown some unique challenges with the feature.

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What are some of the misconceptions about kernel or open source software development that you have encountered in your career?

The biggest misconception is that it’s an exclusive, invite-only club to contribute to the Linux kernel. You certainly must understand operating systems to be an effective contributor and be ready to receive constructive criticism when there is scope for improvement in your code. Still, the community always welcomes people who come in with an open mind and want to contribute.

What resources are helpful in getting started in kernel development?

There is a lot of information out there that people have written on how to get integrated into the Linux kernel community. I wrote a blog post on how to get plugged into Linux kernel upstream mailing list discussions, and another on how to submit your first patch. There is also a video on writing and submitting your first Linux kernel patch from Greg Kroah-Hartman.

In terms of resources to learn about the kernel itself, there are many resources and books, such as:

Where can people find you and follow your work?

I have a blog where I talk about my experiences as a systems engineer: I publish articles that range from topics that are totally newcomer friendly to more advanced topics that discuss kernel code in more detail. Feel free to check it out and let me know if there’s anything you’d like me to discuss.

To learn more about Meta Open Source, visit our open source site, subscribe to our YouTube channel, or follow us on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

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Get started with WhatsApp Business Platform in Minutes with Postman





Our collaboration brings tools you already use to WhatsApp Business Platforms APIs

Postman is a best-in-class API platform used by 20M developers worldwide. Using Postman simplifies each step of the API lifecycle and streamlines collaboration.

Postman’s strong platform and broad adoption in the developer community made deciding to work with Postman to deliver a robust developer experience an easy decision for our WhatsApp Business Platform product team.

What Postman means for your WhatsApp projects

The benefits of this collaboration for developers are clear – you can easily leverage Postman’s platform with your Meta projects to onboard, collaborate, and contribute towards documentation and best practices as you build out your integrations.

Fast Onboarding

The WhatsApp team is able to offer, via Postman, an API collection that pre-fills environment variables and walks you through your initial test requests – helping developers dive right in to using the Cloud API. Our product managers show you how easy it is to get started with Postman in this session from Conversations:

Foster Collaboration

The public Postman workspace fosters collaboration – allowing environments, collections, and documentation augmentation to happen in one place.

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Enhance Documentation

Postman’s API documentation tools augment our own documentation and allows developers to contribute directly to the community’s shared knowledge, building a strong reference library for all developers and encouraging new, innovative use cases.

The Results

Working with Postman from the beginning helps create a developer-friendly experience for the WhatsApp Business Platform – allowing you to get started quickly, build community, and share knowledge.

Want to know more about our partnership with Postman? Check out their case study, follow along with the video above, or dive right into the Postman Workspace for the WhatsApp Business Platform.

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Summer of open source: building more efficient AI with PyTorch





Note: Special thanks to Less Wright, Partner Engineer, Meta AI, for review of and additional insights into the post.

This post on creating efficient artificial intelligence (AI) is the second in the “Summer of open source” series. This series aims to provide a handful of useful resources and learning content in areas where open source projects are creating impact across Meta and beyond. Follow along as we explore other areas where Meta Open Source is moving the industry forward by sharing innovative, scalable tools.

PyTorch: from foundational technology to foundation

Since its initial release in 2016, PyTorch has been widely used in the deep learning community, and its roots in research are now consistently expanding for use in production scenarios. In an exciting time for machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI), where novel methods and use cases for AI models continue to expand, PyTorch has reached the next chapter in its history as it moves to the newly established, independent PyTorch Foundation under the Linux Foundation umbrella. The foundation is made up of a diverse governing board including representatives from AMD, Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud, Microsoft Azure and Nvidia, and the board is intended to expand over time. The mission includes driving adoption of AI tooling through vendor-neutral projects and making open source tools, libraries and other components accessible to everyone. The move to the foundation will also enable PyTorch and its open source community to continue to accelerate the path from prototyping to production for AI and ML.

Streamlining AI processes with Meta open source

PyTorch is a great example of the power of open source. As one of the early open source deep learning frameworks, PyTorch has allowed people from across disciplines to experiment with deep learning and apply their work in wide-ranging fields. PyTorch supports everything from experiments in search applications to autonomous vehicle development to ground-penetrating radar, and these are only a few of its more recent applications. Pairing a versatile library of AI tools with the open source community unlocks the ability to quickly iterate on and adapt technology at scale for many different uses.

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As AI is being implemented more broadly, models are trending up in size to tackle more complex problems, but this also means that the resources needed to train these models have increased substantially. Fortunately, many folks in the developer community have recognized the need for models to use fewer resources—both from a practical and environmental standpoint. This post will explore why quantization and other types of model compression can be a catalyst for efficient AI.

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Establishing a baseline for using PyTorch

Most of this post explores some intermediate and advanced features of PyTorch. If you are a beginner that is looking to get started, or an expert that is currently using another library, it’s easiest to get started with some basics. Check out the beginner’s guide to PyTorch, which includes an introduction to a complete ML workflow using the Fashion MNIST dataset.

Here are some other resources that you might check out if you’re new to PyTorch:

  • PyTorch Community Stories: Learn how PyTorch is making an impact across different industries like agriculture, education, travel and others
  • PyTorch Beginner Series: Explore a video playlist of fundamental techniques including getting started with tensors, building models, training and inference in PyTorch.

Quantization: Applying time-tested techniques to AI

There are many pathways to making AI more efficient. Codesigning hardware and software to optimize for AI can be highly effective, but bespoke hardware-software solutions take considerable time and resources to develop. Creating faster and smaller architectures is another path to efficiency, but many of these architectures suffer from accuracy loss when compared to larger models, at least for the time being. A simpler approach is to find ways of reducing the resources that are needed to train and serve existing models. In PyTorch, one way to do that is through model compression using quantization.

Quantization is a mathematical technique that has been used to create lossy digital music files and convert analog signals to digital ones. By executing mathematical calculations with reduced precision, quantization allows for significantly higher performance on many hardware platforms. So why use quantization to make AI more efficient? Results show that in certain cases, using this relatively simple technique can result in dramatic speedups (2-4 times) for model inference.

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The parameters that make up a deep learning model are typically decimal numbers in floating point (FP) precision; each parameter requires either 16 bits or 32 bits of memory. When using quantization, numbers are often converted to INT4 or INT8, which occupy only 4 or 8 bits. This reduces how much memory models require. Additionally, chip manufacturers include special arithmetic that makes operations using integers faster than using decimals.

There are 3 methods of quantization that can be used for training models: dynamic, static and quantize-aware training (QAT). A brief overview of the benefits and weaknesses is described in the table below. To learn how to implement each of these in your AI workflows, read the Practical Quantization in PyTorch blog post.

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Quantization Method




  • Easy to use with only one API call
  • More robust to distribution drift resulting in slightly higher accuracy
  • Works well for long short-term memory (LSTM) and Transformer models

Additional overhead in every forward pass

Static (also known as PTQ)

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  • Faster inference than dynamic quantization by eliminating overhead

May need regular recalibration for distribution drift

Quantize-Aware Training (QAT)

  • Higher accuracy than static quantization
  • Faster inference than dynamic

High computational cost

Additional features for speeding up your AI workflow

Quantization isn’t the only way to make PyTorch-powered AI more efficient. Features are updated regularly, and below are a few other ways that PyTorch can improve AI workflows:

  • Inference mode: This mode can be used for writing PyTorch code if you’re only using the code for running inference. Inference mode changes some of the assumptions when working with tensors to speed up inference. By telling PyTorch that you won’t use tensors for certain applications later (in this case, autograd), it adjusts to make code run faster in these specific scenarios.

  • Low precision: Quantization works only at inference time, that is, after you have trained your model. For the training process itself, PyTorch uses AMP, or automatic mixed precision training, to find the best format based on which tensors are used (FP16, FP32 or BF16). Low-precision deep learning in PyTorch has several advantages. It can help lower the size of a model, reduce the memory that is required to train models and decrease the power that is needed to run models. To learn more, check out this tutorial for using AMP with CUDA-capable GPUs.

  • Channels last: When it comes to vision models, NHWC, otherwise known as channels-last, is a faster tensor memory format in PyTorch. Having data stored in the channels-last format accelerates operations in PyTorch. Formatting input tensors as channels-last reduces the overhead that is needed for conversion between different format types, resulting in faster inference.

  • Optimize for inference: This TorchScript prototype implements some generic optimizations that should speed up models in all environments, and it can also prepare models for inference with build-specific settings. Primary use cases include vision models on CPUs (and GPUs) at this point. Since this is a prototype, it’s possible that you may run into issues. Raise an issue that occurs on the PyTorch GitHub repository.

Unlocking new potential in PyTorch

Novel methods for accelerating AI workflows are regularly explored on the PyTorch blog. It’s a great place to keep up with techniques like the recent BetterTransformer, which increases speedup and throughput in Transformer models by up to 2 times for common execution scenarios. If you’re interested in learning how to implement specific features in PyTorch, the recipes page allows you to search by categories like model optimization, distributed training and interpretability. This post is only a sampling of how tools like PyTorch are moving open source and AI forward.

To stay up to date with the latest in Meta Open Source for artificial intelligence and machine learning, visit our open source site, subscribe to our YouTube channel, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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