CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s audacious bid to rewire the app economy—and make his social network more relevant than ever.
Although Zuck has outlined his three-, five-, and 10-year goals for employees, he has never crisply explained publicly how all of these recent moves fit together, and that has gotten tech watchers buzzing about whether he and the company have lost their way. But after dozens of interviews with current and former employees, rivals, advertisers, developers, and users, it becomes clear that Zuckerberg has launched Facebook on an aggressive and potentially brilliant strategy—one that has very little to do with the company you think you know based on your desktop use of its social network. [Facebook granted Fast Company access to several company executives, but not to Zuckerberg or COO Sheryl Sandberg.] To make Facebook more relevant than ever, the company has targeted the very core of the app economy to fulfill its vision for the next half-decade. As the six lessons that follow illuminate, the great social network of the early 21st century is laying the groundwork for a platform that could make Facebook a part of just about every social interaction that takes place around the world.
At Facebook’s developer conference F8, the social network revealed several smaller ideas that build toward one really big one.
Yesterday, when Mark Zuckerberg took to the stage of F8—Facebook’s big development conference—he didn’t announce a big product consumers might care about, like Facebook Paper, or a new, multi-billion-dollar acquisition, like the texting app WhatsApp.
Instead, he announced a series of small tweaks and developer tools that could change the way users play with apps, share content, and hop from screen to screen. It was a revealing look into a deeper strategy:
At 2:38 p.m. on September 9, 2013, Jeremy Fowler posted a picture of his family wearing bicycle helmets while standing in front of the split-rail fence of a horse corral in nowhere New Hampshire. The reflection of their washed out skin bespoke the 2.0 megapixels of Jeremy’s flip phone camera. It was a strange image to arrive on my Facebook newsfeed, a pixilated tribute to Jeremy’s father who died 48 hours earlier. It was Jeremy’s last photograph with all of family members present, a gesture of quixotic solemnity in a medium where the earnest so often do not belong.
He accompanied the picture with this status: “Yesterday my dad unexpectedly went to be with the Lord, we’re glad that he’s in a far better place than we are but we will miss him so much, plz pray for our family during this difficult time!” To date, the post has received 62 likes and 33 comments from some of his 459 friends. Most have said things like, “God be with y’all!!! We have and will continue to pray.”
Death, typically such a huge taboo, was now a subject fit for Facebook, with all its abbreviated spellings and exclamation marks.
“Test participants who had used Facebook for 20 minutes reported being in a worse mood than those in two other test groups (one browsed the Internet, one served as a control and did nothing); the Facebook participants also felt their time had been used in a less meaningful way.
Amid the wreckage, behavioral researchers Sagioglou and Greitemeyer spotted a clue for why we go back: we think we’ll enjoy it. … Users seem to wrongly predict the emotional impact of using Facebook, Sagioglou tells Co.Design.”