Open Letter to Meta: Facebook’s Missed Opportunities
Back in February this year, I tweeted this;
It was not the most grammatically correct tweet of mine (disclosure: I’m not a native speaker, and yes, I do make mistakes), but I’m very much behind this point still, and I’d like to expand on that at this historically low share price points of the company. Here’s what you’ll find in this article:
- Facebook is playing small
- VR is a long shot; crypto is impossible to own
- Why Facebook should act NOW
- Unsolicited Strategy Offering
Facebook is playing small
Facebook is a tech behemoth. Until recently, it was a trillion-dollar company along with Apple, Microsoft, Google, and Amazon. But compared to these other guys, Facebook’s revenue streams are not nearly as diversified. To illustrate;
Apple: revenue is solid and diversified across multiple product families (laptops, phones, watches) plus subscriptions (on games, music, video content, and more)
Microsoft: revenue is diversified across enterprise software (licensing & support), consumer software, a little bit of hardware, some online ads, cloud
Google: revenue is primarily ads and increasingly subscription revenue via Google Cloud and enterprise software. Plus, home hardware (gadgets)
Amazon: the king of diversification, thanks to e-commerce (both direct sales and commissions from third parties), huge cloud revenue, constant monthly revenue stream via Amazon Prime
Facebook: just ads… and many failed attempts at payments.
Why is Facebook not diversifying? Why are they still fueled by some risky social networking revenues only?
To me, there’s no explanation, really. They seem to have an excellent cash flow and balance sheet that make you think “sky is the limit,” but the company lacks imagination. Amazon gave birth to AWS by giving voice to its internal product commanders. Google acquired Youtube (perhaps the most successful acquisition of the consumer internet era) and gave birth to Maps. Steve Jobs’ hand-picked squad from NeXT morphed into what would become the cornerstone of Apple’s diversification. As for Microsoft, it has acted as tech-focused private equity since Bill Gates left.
Facebook’s acquisition of Parse once gave me hope because it was a much-beloved (by developers, at least) cloud play. But to my surprise, it didn’t take too long for Facebook to flip the kill switch, and voila, they’re now lagging behind their competitors as a single revenue-stream company. I’ve never been able to grasp why Facebook took this step, but my guess is Parse was deteriorating their already tense relationship with Apple and Google (because of Parse’s notification spam problem), but again, it’s just an uninformed guess.
VR is a long shot; crypto is impossible to own
Facebook had two significant bets so far as a tech behemoth:
- VR (via Oculus acquisition)
- crypto (led by David Marcus, under multiple names Libra, Diem, etc.)
We all know how the crypto one ended. The company should have never expected to own the crypto space. Maybe their gobbling of the online identity by superseding OpenID with Facebook Connect gave them the wrong impression. They thought they could replicate the same success in crypto, but unlike OpenID, Bitcoin (and Ethereum) were already too mature to supplant.
As for VR, yes it is a reality as the next big platform opportunity, but it has at least five years to go mainstream, and the race is very much on. While Oculus was a smart acquisition IMO, and Facebook is justifiably pouring boatloads of money into it, both Apple and Microsoft (via Halolens) have already made progress by leaps and bounds. Plus, Google is one of the largest investors of Magic Leap, which is another serious contender. The way Google plays his hand in this race by investing rather than an internal “throwing mud against the wall to see what sticks” strategy is five-star. Last but not least, Asian electronics tigers HTC, Samsung, and Sony are also eyeing a piece of that pie.
All in all, VR (or as Facebook calls it, Metaverse) and crypto won’t give Facebook the upper hand it’s seeking for the near future. Maybe if Mark Zuckerberg was not prevented from purchasing Unity Software in 2015, I would say the company would now be in a better position, because indeed Unity is “the platform” developers choose to build both casual and VR contents; so unlike Oculus, it would be a more balanced investment vis-a-vis today’s revenue vs. tomorrow’s technology.
Why Facebook should act NOW
Facebook should act soon. Not only because:
- Facebook and Instagram are threatened by younger competitors like Snap and Tiktok, which Facebook can’t snap up as easily as it used to due to monopolistic concerns. This reminds us of the headaches Microsoft experienced in the early 2000s,
- Whatsapp still can’t manage to turn into a money-making machine, and it is threatened in the most valuable markets of the world directly by Apple’s own iMessage
- Social networking is a mess to manage,
- Apple’s latest privacy policies target Facebook directly and threaten ad revenues across the board to decline further,
But most importantly, Facebook is besieged at its core asset; online identity and social graph.
- Apple’s FaceID and TouchID make authentication more frictionless and secure than ever, to a point where Facebook Connect has become obsolete. With the obsolete Facebook Connect, the social graph has also become a thing of the past, and the most valuable social graph in the world is now the one sitting in our phones’ iCloud-synced contact lists.
- While they’re still in their infancy, decentralized IDs (aka DIDs) and crypto wallets indicate the potential to dislocate Facebook’s core assets.
In summary, Facebook is about to be kicked in the ass seriously, and if it does not change its course, it will end up like Yahoo in the history books in a not-so-distant future.
Unsolicited Strategy Offering
I will finish this article with an unsolicited strategy offering. This is not the first time I’m doing this. Every time I sat down with Facebook corp dev (did that at least four times so far) as the CEO of Grou.ps, I spiced up my presentation with an unsolicited strategy offering, which ended up being stolen; no, not ignored, so I’m flattered. This is the first time I’m trying in an open letter format, hoping my voice will be heard.
Social networking is going decentralized. Do it, go as decentralized as you can. Or else, Elon Musk will do it! With Bluesky, Twitter has already started exploring it, but they’re sloooooow!
It’s not hard. Check out the whitepaper attached, to see how our small startup could do it.
You may ask what the benefit here is for Facebook. Well, IMO, this is a must for its survival. Otherwise, the company will continue to be censored and manipulated and taxed, to a point where it can no longer stay in business.
Buy Coinbase, Robinhood, and/or Unity, if you want a piece of crypto or VR. All three companies are not only promising future bets in some of the hottest areas of the future, but they’re already generating revenue. So this would be a short-run solution for the company’s survival.
Reinvent cloud mobile
What would you say if I asked you to sum up Meta in a sentence? My answer would be, “Meta is a leader in social”. The keyword here is social. Facebook could reinvent the most profitable corners of tech with this social tweak of its own. It has the engineering power and the cash piles needed; why not give it a shot?
Yes, the world doesn’t need another mobile OS, while Android and iOS have dominated it (heck, even Microsoft failed to make a dent there), or another cloud while AWS, Microsoft, IBM, Alibaba and Google are all fighting to the bottom, That said, original ideas that enrich the user experience always have a chance to win. Facebook’s original tweak would be social.
So what would be the social tweak in mobile? That’s a lot to summarize in a blog post, but I’ll give you a hint, check out this patent US10969932B2 by T-Mobile.
Last but not least, the two (cloud and mobile) could be integrated in a single FacePhone strategy as explained on https://hackernoon.com/facephone-how-the-facebook-phone-could-be-built-to-win-market-share-7s4s35wn
Make no mistake; Facebook has some of the brightest engineers in its ranks, especially in AI. Their deep learning work is impressive, and as a matter of fact, AI is indeed the most promising revolutionary power of this century. So maybe Meta is already working on something that I’m naively unaware of as an outsider. But until then, I short Meta in these troubling times of the markets, particularly for social networking.