#Facebook

Ellis Hamburger:

But after just a few years, sharing on Facebook feels like walking up to a group of parents, teachers, friends, cousins, camp counselors, classmates, and colleagues, and boasting about my latest accomplishment, or about the merits of the brunch I just ate. “People treat posting on Facebook like it’s public,” says danah boyd, a sociology researcher who interviewed over 150 teens for her recent book on social media. If Facebook wants its News Feed to remain the source of news about friends, family, and other people we care about it, it needs to change its definition of friendship.

Lots of good points. While Facebook is doing a lot to ensure the company doesn’t get disrupted from the outside (read: Instagram, WhatsApp, and to some extent, even Oculus), inside, the network is definitely starting to have the feel of social rot.

Relationships change over time. And Facebook has now been around long enough to be exposed to this. This is problematic if they do want to maintain the lead as the “social network”. But maybe they don’t. Maybe that network was just the start.

Jordan Kushins:

I was asked to sit down, and was given a pair of Oculus HD goggles that were hanging from a cord suspended from the ceiling. I was handed a pair of headphones. At this point, everything was black and completely silent. I was only slightly anxious. And then they pressed play.

Immediately I was standing directly in the middle of a skate park. The sun was shining. There was a guy going back and forth over the shallow peaks and valleys directly to my right. There was no break in the scene as I looked left, and up, and all the way around behind me, and the sound remained true to the direction of his wheels along the concrete. This was a very real—like, shockingly real—3D transportation. It was a mouth agape, I-can’t-stop-giggling-out-of-pure-incredulity kind of leap.

Seems like a pretty great way to describe the first-time experience using Oculus. It’s the kind of description that makes $2 billion sound cheap.

As is this:

Can you imagine seeing a version of Gravity where the action wasn’t just taking place on a screen in front of you, but in every single direction? Where you could view the same footage an infinite number of times and still catch details you’d never seen before, simply because you turned your head ever-so-slightly—or all the way around, or up, or down—and shifted your perspective? No one will ever view the exact same cut of the exact same footage; it is completely personalized based on where you look at any given moment. That and it’s totally immersive. It’s a revolutionary idea, but not without its challenges.

Such technology, if nailed, would fundamentally alter the experience of watching a movie. 3D is a shitty coat of paint, this is the real deal. 

I Think Facebook Got A Mike Trout-Like Deal On Oculus

I’ve been asked a number of times to expand on my quick thoughts the other day about the Facebook/Oculus deal. And because we clearly haven’t gotten enough opinions on the matter, why not?

To me, it’s pretty simple. Facebook is taking out an option on the future. And, in my view, it’s a pretty cheap option to boot. In some ways, it’s not unlike the deal the Los Angeles Angels (of Anaheim or whatever) just signed with Mike Trout.1

Yes, $2 billion is a lot of money. But it’s also roughly 1/8th of what Facebook just spent on WhatsApp. And it’s roughly 2x what the company spent on Instagram — and that has turned out pretty well so far. One of the better deals this decade, perhaps.2

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A New Glue For A New Kingdom

To me, the most exciting part of the Facebook/WhatsApp deal has nothing to do with the deal itself. Instead, I’m excited about the ramifications of such a deal. And I’m not talking about Facebook or WhatsApp here either. History will ultimately prove that deal genius or folly. But more importantly, I know that a deal like this has other people talking, thinking, and building.

The last group is key, but let me start with the first group. Once the fervor around the deal itself died down, we got a couple of compelling posts from the likes of Benedict Evans and riffing on it, John Lilly. Incidentally, both are now VCs. But neither started out that way, and both have long histories of solid thinking and writing.

Both understand that the Facebook/WhatsApp deal is simply the strongest signal yet that we’ve fully entered a new age in the world of computing where mobile is now the kingdom. And the $19 billion price tag simply shows that there isn’t yet a king.

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The Focus On And Of WhatsApp

This morning I had a meeting with a couple entrepreneurs whose company was recently acquired. It was just a general catch up session, no real agenda. Still, it seemed quite random when a good third of our conversation was spent talking about WhatsApp and its incredible penetration in India.

Why was this growth happening? The consensus was: focus. On what they’re good at. On what their users want. On what ultimately matters.

A couple hours later, what at the time seemed a random conversation turned almost a little spooky when it was announced that Facebook would be acquiring WhatsApp for $19 billion and change.

I’m not going to spend time breaking down this extraordinary deal as I know no more about it than what I’ve read. But what I do find fascinating is what’s becoming clear from those closest to the company: in an age of pomp and circumstance around all things startups, the team behind WhatsApp was all about keeping their heads down, focusing on product, and avoiding bullshit at all costs.

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Sequoia partner Jim Goetz:

From the moment they opened the doors of WhatsApp, Jan and Brian wanted a different kind of company. While others sought attention, Jan and Brian shunned the spotlight, refusing even to hang a sign outside the WhatsApp offices in Mountain View. As competitors promoted games and rushed to build platforms, Jan and Brian remained devoted to a clean, lightning fast communications service that works flawlessly.

It’s hard to do anything but admire this heads-down, focused approach. And it paid off. Very much literally.

Going Against The Grain

When talking to entrepreneurs at the very early stages of their companies, I’ve noticed that there’s a tendency to give a fairly long product roadmap. “And then we’ll add this. And then this. And then this.” That type of thing.

And I think that’s fine; it’s good to be thinking ahead, and it’s even better to have a vision for where you want the product to go. But it’s just as important to be realistic. And the likelihood of things going exactly to plan from day one is basically zero.

But that’s all obvious. What may not be so obvious is what happens when a product actually hits, takes off, and establishes itself. Because it feels like there’s a trend emerging here, at least in the world of apps, that is worth noting.

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Some Thoughts On Facebook Paper

I’ve been trying out Facebook’s latest app, Paper1, all day and thought I’d post some initial thoughts.

1) It’s very well done. Some of the design seems a bit heavy-handed at times, but it’s responsive and sleek.

2) I’ve already replaced the standard Facebook app on my phone with Paper. It has basically everything you need from Facebook except Events, which you have to assume is another one of the stand-alone apps they’re working on.

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Peter Kafka:

The promotion is part of a new Facebook effort to get stars posting “public content” on the service — in the way that lots of people already do on services like Twitter and Instagram. As I’ve noted in the past, Facebook has been explicit about its pitch: Publish with us, and we’ll pay you back with eyeballs.

And now we can see exactly what Facebook is offering.

Facebook, your Twitter-envy is showing. So lame.

The Age Of The Social Network Is Ending

For his story about Secret, a Google Ventures porfolio company that launched today, Mike Isaac asked me the following question:

Just basically curious as to why you’re interested in Secret — why this after we have so many “social” apps — how different, etc.

This seems to be a common question both amongst journalists and investors. And it’s certainly a fair one. If there is indeed an “App Wall”, many of us hit it long ago. But it seems to me that things are shifting once again.

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Om Malik on the recent movement away from Facebook’s centralized way of doing things:

You can see this cycle through the entire history of the commercial Internet. The original web was so sparse (but also so slow to navigate) that Yahoo was started as a guide of worthwhile sites because it wasn’t easy to flit among web pages. Yahoo’s directory proved popular, and sensing opportunity, the company added all sorts of new features: search, chat, email, stock tickers, sports, news, personals, e-commerce, and photos. By the late 1990s, Yahoo had become the grand aggregator, its pages as cluttered as a Canal Street stall. This created an opening for Google, with its bare-bones home page that held only a search box and company logo. With the rise of broadband, which made it easy to jump around, the web became disaggregated and brought with it focused, functional tools such as Skype and YouTube.

Fast-forward to today and replace ­Yahoo with Facebook. Facebook showed us the value of aggregating all of those small chunks of information, including photos and status updates, that we wanted to consume on the now dynamic and interactive web. That single string of updates, known as News Feed, was a brilliant product that powered the company’s rise from 2006 to 2011. Then along came Instagram and its peers, born for a generation that doesn’t know how to live without an always-on connection. They facilitate new online behaviors that have been invented for a world of touch and mobile. These apps were designed to be great at just one or two things. The tech world had swung back to being simple, lightweight, and fast—at precisely the same time that Facebook feeds were becoming so bloated and complicated.

Yep, it’s cyclical. And this is also why Facebook is now working to unbundle its own services, to distance itself from the cluttered mess it has become — before it’s too late.

Dan Primack:

Twitter itself obviously wanted a bit of price pop for PR and employee morale purposes, but here’s something else employees could be thinking about today: Had Twitter priced at $45.10 per share and used the extra proceeds to give out holiday bonuses, it would have worked out to more than $580,000 per employee. How’s your morale feel now?

It is interesting that Facebook maximized the amount of money it made by going public, and it was viewed as a “failure”. While Twitter clearly left a ton of money on the table, and that’s viewed as a “success”.

This is a case where perception is reality. But let’s be clear, the real winners today are the same ones who were the real losers of the Facebook IPO: the bankers.