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  1. #1
    WHT-BR Top Member
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    Dec 2010
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    [EN] Facebook and Snapchat: metrics versus creation

    Facebook does not control user behaviour. It surfs user behaviour.

    Benedict Evans
    February 17, 2017

    There's a pretty common narrative that Google & Facebook have a lot of control of the internet, in that they choose where you go and what you see. While this is true in an obvious sense, it also misses something important: Google and Facebook don't have fundamental control over what's actually in your search results or your news feed.

    This is pretty clear for Google - it doesn't control what you search for. It does decide what results you get, but that decision is also in some sense out of its hands, because it has to give you the best results it can. So while Google is always making decisions around search, and those can create or uncreate companies, they are in essence technical, mechanistic judgements (or ought to be, at any rate), and not editorial ones. Google search is and has to be a mirror of the internet - both the content of the internet and human behaviour on the internet. It's useful to compare it with an index fund, that doesn't have opinions about individual stocks, but only makes technical, mechanistic adjustments to how well its holdings reflects the index: so too, Google can only adjust how well it reflects the internet. That's a very partial kind of control.

    While this is explicit for Google, it's implicit for Facebook. You tell Google explicitly what you want and you don't think you tell Facebook, but actually you've spent months and years telling it, through everything you've interacted with or ignored. Facebook makes technical, mechanistic judgements about what will be in your newsfeed that are just as bound by things beyond its control - by the internet - as Google's are. It's an index of its users. Every now and then, it decides that it's got off track, no longer aligns with users, and course-corrects. But the need, as for Google, is to mirror the internet (or that large part of it that's accounted for by Facebook itself). And so just as Google can't control what you search for, Facebook can't control what engages you.

    This means that Facebook is surfing user behaviour, and must go where the user takes it. This is why it looks like such an unreliable partner: it will invite you onto the surf board, certainly, but if you're unbalancing the board then it will push you off, and that isn't Facebook's choice. If it didn't push you off then the board would upset and Facebook would be at the bottom of the ocean as well, next to MySpace. The genius of Facebook has been to stay on the board all this time. and especially though the transition from desktop to mobile.

    Within this, there have been some times where Facebook took user behaviour in places that the users themselves didn't think they wanted to go - with the newsfeed itself, with the algorithmic newsfeed and with the continuous rolling back of privacy (you can see some of this repeated again as it has reworked Instagram, of which more later). But in all of these cases, what drives Facebook is data - metrics and algorithms. You think you want a linear newsfeed, but actually, the data shows that you're wrong. Facebook is the first company to measure false consciousness.

    How does this relate to Snapchat? Well, there are several ways you can draw contrasts between Snapchat and Facebook. One, pretty obviously, is that it's a swing of a pendulum away from order and control towards fun and chaos. Another, that it's a swing from passive consumption ('I'm bored - what's in the newsfeed?') to creation (hence opening the app into the camera). Another again is that, like Instagram, it unbundles the camera from Facebook (and from iMessage, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger) into a better stand-alone model.

    But it's also a swing away from metrics. Instead of asking where metrics, data and algorithms take us, Snap is looking for creation. Creation is the common thread repeated over and over again all though the IPO filing, and comes out very strongly in the roadshow video - 'we must create the new, different and fun all the time'.

    "Our strategy is to invest in product innovation and take risks" - Snap 'S1' IPO filing

    Much of this creation is centered on the camera - Snap says it's a camera company, and it's often useful to try taking companies at their word on things like this. But camera is a broad term. As I've written elsewhere, thinking about the image sensors on a smartphone just as taking 'photos' is very limiting. For Snap this is clear with the first product - disappearing photos comes from the idea that imaging on a phone is communication as well as or instead of memory, and hence that making you keep all your photos is like saving all of your phone calls. More broadly, one way to look at Snap's products is as trying to work out what it means that the display, the input and the camera are all the same thing - all one digital piece of glass. Most of Facebook's smartphone apps could be controlled with a mouse and keyboard, or even just the 'tab' key, and use the camera as though it's a webcam sticky-taped to the top of the CRT. In contrast, Snapchat and a whole bunch of other apps are much more mobile-native than they are mobile-first, and have the tabula rasa freedom that they can target only the billion or so people with lots of bandwidth and high-end phones, rather than Facebook and Google's commitment to reaching everyone. That creates a great many possibilities for the completely new idea.


    [Source: Snap S1 filing]


    (continua)

  2. #2
    WHT-BR Top Member
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    Dec 2010
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    It's hard to design products like this with metrics - you don't already know what those products would be and your users have no idea. You can iterate with data (that is, 'surf your users'), and you can discover that something you have isn't working, but you can't always create with data - you can't use algorithms to work out what to invent. This is the (much over-used) Steve Jobs argument - it's not the consumer's job to invent new things. Yes, you analyse your users to see if it works, and Snap's S1 talks a lot about listening to users, but that's not how you create.

    "You look to customers to define the problem, not prescribe the solution" - John Warnock


    So, you could see Snap's emphasis on 'new' as just running away from Facebook. Facebook is, after all, systematically cloning cool new Snapchat features, and with some success - there are clear signs of Snapchat's growth slowing in favour of Facebook's apps, especially in some of its non-core markets. But it's also important that Snap thinks that it's mining imaging, touch, GPUs and experience just as Facebook mined sharing, and thinks that there are many more places that this could go. And, of course, the more you create and the more risks you take, and the more you're interested in fun and anarchy, the more possible it is that you create products that burn brightly and then flame out - so you have to keep creating because your experiences have to be new, not (just) because the old ones are being copied by someone.

    This could, perhaps, take Snap to places and generate new 'graphs' that might be structurally more difficult for Facebook to follow . On the other hand, one of Facebook's tactical advantages is that it has four places where it can try to clone features - it could choose to put a Stories clone into Instagram, not Messenger, WhatsApp or the main newsfeed app. It could put other ideas into other places, depending on where it thinks they fit best - on how best it can surf these new waves, to return to the metaphor.

    Meanwhile, Instagram hasn't just been implementing Snapchat features - it's gone through a more structural shift that illustrates a more structural question for Snapchat's long-term potential. If Google and Facebook try to mirror the internet (again, in the sense both of content and behaviour), and Snapchat deliberately does not, Instagram has moved from one camp to the other. Instagram has moved not just towards Snapchat but also away from the beautiful, carefully considered image and towards a more general, mass-market use case - towards being another index.

    "It became a place where people kept raising the bar on themselves in terms of the quality of what they had to achieve to post. We didn’t want that.” - Kevin Weil, Instagram's Head of Product

    "Your connections with your friends and your family are the thing that make Instagram work. All the data supports that if you follow more friends and engage with your friends, your activity goes through the roof. If you just follow more celebrity content or more interest-based content, that doesn’t move the needle at all.” - Kevin Systrom, Instagram's co-founder


    To me, this is Instagram moving towards being another index, or mirror - moving towards the behaviour of billions of people instead of the behaviour of millions of people, and to surfing users rather than prescribing for them. There are millions of people who will post beautiful pictures of coffee or 1960s office blocks, or like a photo by a celebrity, but there are billions who'll share a snapshot of their lunch, beer, dog or child. Instagram is moving to capture that in the same way Messenger and WhatsApp captured chat. It's becoming an index.

    So, one question for Snapchat is whether you can get to a billion users without being an index, no matter how many new things you create? Is the risk not that it gets overtaken by Facebook but that it can't generalise enough? That's obviously a specific concern with the specific character of the user experience today ('too hard for anyone over 25'), but it's also a much more basic question with the character of the product vision - can you scale from having insight and product vision around 150m people to having them for everyone?

    One of the ways I've talked about social on smartphones is that smartphones themselves are a social platform in a way that the desktop web was not. Every app has an icon on the home screen, so it's quicker to switch apps than switch tabs in the same app. Every app has push notifications, and access to your address book, and your photo library. So, it's much easier to use multiple apps on a phone than on the web. This makes it much easier for apps to take off, but they can look like fireworks - burning brightly and then disappearing. Each social app is trying to capture some piece of psychology or of Maslow's hierarchy and encapsulate it in a few interaction mechanics, and each one is trying to find some angle that's unique enough to break out but not so unique that it becomes a fad. They're also trying to fund a mechanic that can't entirely co-opted by Facebook (live video is another good example here). Not many have managed all of this.

    One could argue that the leading apps have now captured the key parts of the social domain - filled in the 'white space', as some people say - and that though people will keep finding quirky angles, it'll get harder and harder to get onto the first page of apps and stay there. Following this narrative, Snap found the last piece of white space (if it can keep Facebook away, which is actually all that matters) and there may not be another big one. But you could also argue that Snap thinks there will always be entirely new ways to interact (just as there are always more human desires) and that it will be there trying to be the one creating them.

    http://ben-evans.com/benedictevans/2...ebook-and-snap

  3. #3
    WHT-BR Top Member
    Data de Ingresso
    Dec 2010
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    17,189

    Snapchat - The Next Facebook or Another Twitter?


  4. #4
    WHT-BR Top Member
    Data de Ingresso
    Dec 2010
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    17,189

    Next Google or Facebook could be from India

    Thomas K Thomas
    February 24, 2017

    Exactly 8 years after WhatsApp launched its services on February 24, 2009, it now has 200 million active users in India, making it the largest market for the Silicon Valley-based firm. The company, which is now a Facebook subsidiary, has done several things, including making its platform suitable for low speed Internet and enabling regional languages in a bid to make it relevant to users even in non-metro regions. Going forward, WhatsApp wants to be more than a communications platform and is looking at how it can play in the digital payments as well as the e-commerce segments.

    BusinessLine met Brian Acton, co-founder of WhatsApp, to know his views on the future roadmap, India’s start-up ecosystem, and concerns around H1B visa programme. Excerpts:


    When you started out in 2009, did you imagine that India could be your largest market one day?

    We saw the potential. What we didn’t foresee was the enthusiasm. We realised that we could build a product that has global potential. But it’s a surprise that it has become such an integral part of people’s daily life.

    What’s driving the usage here?

    When we first started WhatsApp, we were very clear that the product has to be globally accessible. For example, we knew we had to support languages. In India, we now support 10 regional languages. The second thing we did is to very deliberately support brands like Nokia and Blackberry, which were popular in India.

    So, in those early days, you had people in India using Nokia phones and then as more people came online these Nokia users helped champion WhatsApp on Android phones. It thus had a snowballing effect.

    Then came along companies like RJio with 4G and it helped further in the snowball effect. It’s a sort of culmination of factors like improved mobile service and more modern smartphones that are affordable.

    How do you use this user base to monetise WhatsApp?

    The leverage point is truly the population that has almost universally adopted the product.

    When you look at it from a commercial point of view, you see tremendous opportunity to have a conversation with consumers. That’s where we see an opportunity.

    We are going to provide commercial services so that businesses can talk to consumers. We are having two different thought lines. First, what do large companies need when they talk to consumers? Typically, that means that they need some sort of API to have the conversation.

    On the other side are small businesses that need pre-built solutions, probably something in the mobile space that they could use for things like customer support.
    We are in preliminary stages. We have started staffing and building. But we still don’t know the business model. That’s where we are going to experiment and try different charging models.

    What we don’t want to build is an advertisment-supported product where businesses are sending offers or unsolicited messages and creating a really negative experience for users.

    So do we see dollars coming in soon?

    It’s still some distance away. You will see the products first before the dollars.

    This is one of great advantage of being bought by Facebook. They have not put in place any guidance for us in terms of when the revenue generation should happen. We will continue to use this year to build out the product and finding that right model.

    Founders usually move out and do something else once they sell. You have continued to stay on at WhatsApp even after Facebook acquired it. Why?

    I truly believe in the mission – we want to connect the world. We have made tremendous progress but there is still work to do. It’s one thing to build a product and another to create a business. I want to see this through till it becomes a strong sustainable business.

    Do you see WhatsApp go beyond messaging to things like digital payments in India?

    I had a meeting with Indian IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad where we discussed a number of things including how WhatsApp could be used for civic engagements, for e-commerce and digital transactions and payments.

    All these are in the space of opportunity for WhatsApp. We want to blend that into our core mission of connecting users and creating great communication experience that’s simple, reliable, trusted and safe. We would continue to research, evaluate and figure out what we can build that best serves the people of India.

    You have grown five-fold, from 40 million in 2014 to 200 million now. Will you reach a billion users in India in 2 years?

    It is definitely achievable. But the limiting factors are smartphone adoption and low-cost affordable data plans. Without these, I don’t think we will hit a billion in India in 2 years. Also, whenever you look at growth you look at the economic ‘S’ curve where at a certain point you hit a saturation point. We have not hit that point; we are still at the sweet spot.

    There’s a lot of buzz around Artificial Intelligence and Virtual Reality. Are you using these technologies on WhatsApp?

    We think ourselves as a conduit. Over time you can expect that an enterprise might want to build some sort of customer service using Artificial Intelligence (AI). So if you want to talk to that AI service, WhatsApp could be the conduit.

    So you wouldn’t do what Google is doing with Allo in which it offers assistance and information to users?

    We wouldn't be in a hurry to jump into a conversation between you and someone important to you. We don’t want to examine your conversation and ‘oh you are talking about a restaurant so let me recommend one’.

    There is a debate going on about fake news. One sees a lot of fake stuff being circulated. How are you dealing with this?

    That’s a tough question. We are trying to understand it and the right tools to tackle it. We are an encrypted platform and we don’t have any means of examining content. We have to rely on teaching users to have good judgement, so that we can provide them with tools with which they can report things. Some of these tools are already built in and as we get more mature in our understanding, we may add more capabilities.

    How do you see the concern around H1B visas under the new US administration?

    We are in the position of caution. We are observing the actions the President is taking and reconciling that with our goals. Our goal is to hire the best and brightest and for us, the H1B programme is important. Lot of tech interest revolves around more H1B visas because that’s really important to build the best products with the best talent.

    You have personally invested in Indian Start-ups. Do you see the next Google or Facebook coming from here? Are you worried about the ‘bubble bust’?

    I am terribly excited about what’s happening in India. Booms and busts are part of cycles. Some of the best start-ups are formed during a bust. I absolutely believe that the next Facebook or Google could come from somewhere in India. .

    I am predominantly limited in my ability to do due diligence from the US. I don’t have the luxury of flying to India and vetting companies. So I do it on personal network basis.

    But larger firms and individuals are investing in India and they should. There are some great business being built out of India.

    If you had to build something now what would that be?

    I am still in the mode of building WhatsApp. Its too hard to think about what’s next when you already have something big in your hand.

    http://m.thehindubusinessline.com/op...cle9559242.ece

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