Facebook is looking to monetise its millions of users, and it’s strategy for doing it is following a pattern
With every hour that passes, what’s the one thing that gets harder and harder to achieve? The answer is originality. Companies such as Apple and Samsung have spent billions of dollars in court arguing over it, and it’s becoming a fundamental component for technological success. Or is it?
Let’s look at the story of Facebook, the company that created everything, yet invented nothing. I’d consider it a fair argument that Facebook simply took the basic idea of Myspace (founded a year prior to Facebook’s launch in 2004) and made it better. Now that seems like fair game if you ask me, but Facebook’s subsequent domination certainly doesn’t stop there. Throughout the website’s 10 year life span, Facebook has gone from strength to strength, constantly adding to the long list of services it provides. However, it doesn’t take long to realise that at the heart of some of Facebook’s boldest releases, lies blatantly copying. Let’s assess the evidence.
Exhibit A – Facebook Stores (eBay)
A feature that allows users to create their own online shop to sell their products? Where have we seen that before? eBay of course. One of the world’s leading online shopping sites has basically been copied to provide an extremely similar service to both private Facebook users and Facebook businesses. Fortunately for eBay, Facebook’s attempt has never really got off the ground, and very few businesses are reporting any success from the service. Mark Zuckerberg and his teenage team didn’t stop there though, they soon latched onto the ‘next big thing’.
Exhibit B – Facebook Messenger (Whatsapp)
The $16bn deal made the headlines earlier this year, and it’s quite clear why. Prior to the takeover, Facebook had been trying to make its messaging service become the ‘go-to’ place for communicating online, but never managed to tear users away from Whatsapp. The introduction of ‘Facebook Messenger’ as a standalone app did help their cause, but still failed to truly dominate the instant messaging market. They soon got bored of copying Whatsapp and just decided to buy it, with some of the billions of dollars they acquired from their stock market flotation.
Exhibit C – Facebook ‘Ask’ (Tinder)
The surge in app downloads for the modern, tech answer to flirting revolutionised the online dating market overnight. Of course this level of success didn’t exactly go unnoticed, and soon enough Facebook set about copying the latest social trend. So what have they come up with? Well it’s a rather cringe-worthy feature that encourages stalking, and it comes in the form of the ask button. Basically, next to people’s relationship status there is a little button that says ‘Ask’, encouraging the class geek from high school to ask you out whilst avoiding real social interaction. If you thought ‘pokes’ were bad, this feature is bound to make you seriously cut down your friend list.
Exhibit D – Facebook Slingshot (Snapchat)
As we all know, Snapchat rejected Facebook’s $3bn bid to takeover the company and now Facebook are fighting back. As if playing the part of crazy ex, Mark Zuckerberg is determined to make Snapchat realise it made a mistake rejecting him. His plan this time? As expected it involves taking an existing service and throwing a lot more money at it in an attempt to win over the general public. Set to be released in the coming months, the app is literally identical, allowing users to send photos and videos that are then deleted automatically after opening.
The recent takeover of Oculus Rift makes the story even more intriguing. What are they trying to copy there? An official statement claimed they wanted to use the technology to create a “platform for many other experiences”, ranging from education to watching the big game from court side seats. Now I can’t help but wonder if there is already a new product being developed that is placed in front of your eyes to project information and provide a new method of communication and virtual reality. I wouldn’t be surprised if we are months away from the release of Facebook Goggles, their very own answer to Google Glass.
Facebook’s becoming like a giant blue Pacman, inexorably eating up smaller company dots and creative sparks, a ‘jack of all trades, master of you’ company if you will. They genuinely must have people employed that simply search for smaller, weaker businesses to copy or takeover for its personal gain, presumably with the goal of becoming one of a few internet behemoths, alongside Google. The one thing that can stop it, perhaps, is the goggle-eyed ghost of public opinion who may prefer the plucky smaller companies to the Zuckerberg empire.