Facebook Launches Slingshot, Its Snapchat Competitor

Poke, Facebook’s first attempt at building a Snapchat competitor, belly flopped. But that hasn’t stopped the social network from taking another jump.

For some time now, rumors have swirled about Slingshot, Facebook’s sophomore take on the ephemeral messaging app. Mark Zuckerberg was reportedly “personally involved” in its development, and last week the app briefly appeared in some countries’ app stores before disappearing.

Today, all the speculation can be put to rest: Slingshot is here, for real this time.

Unlike Poke, Slingshot is not a direct Snapchat ripoff. “With Slingshot, we wanted to build something where everybody is a creator and nobody is just a spectator,” Facebook said in a blog post announcing the launch.

That’s right – lurkers aren’t welcome on the app.

As with Snapchat, users can send photos or videos — adorned with text or coloring, if desired — that last up to 15 seconds with Slingshot. Each message can be viewed exactly once by the recipient before disappearing for good.

Unlike Snapchat, however, opening a message on Slingshot requires that you send a message of your own back to its sender. “Here’s the deal: friends won’t be able to see your shot until they sling something back to you,” Facebook explained.

While it’s good news that Slingshot isn’t another straight-up Snapchat clone and while the intent is admirable, it’s fair to wonder whether Facebook has overestimated our collective desire to share versus our collective desire to consume. After all, plenty of people use social networks to “lurk,” spending most of their time checking up on other people’s posts instead of posting themselves. For those types, being forced to respond to a message on Slingshot might be a tough sell.

Still, Facebook is determined to try. “[Venture capitalist] Fred Wilson once said that the cardinal rule of social networks is that 1 percent of people create content and 90 percent of people consume it,” Slingshot designer Joey Flynn told the Verge, “and we want to flip that on its head.”

-Courtesy: Entrepreneur.com

 

As Mark Zuckerberg Turns 30, His 10 Best Quotes as CEO

In Silicon Valley years, Facebook co-founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg is over the hill. Today is his 30th birthday.

In honor of Zuckerberg’s big day and to mark Facebook’s decade-long existence, we’ve compiled 10 of the tech entrepreneur’s most interesting quotes over the years.  

Here they are, in no particular order. Enjoy.

1. “Move fast and break things. Unless you are breaking stuff, you are not moving fast enough.”
(Oct. 2009)

2. “If I were starting now I would do things very differently. I didn’t know anything. In Silicon Valley, you get this feeling that you have to be out here. But it’s not the only place to be. If I were starting now, I would have stayed in Boston. [Silicon Valley] is a little short-term focused and that bothers me.” (Oct. 2011)

3. “I remember really vividly, you know, having pizza with my friends a day or two after — I opened up the first version of Facebook at the time I thought, ‘You know, someone needs to build a service like this for the world. But I just never thought that we’d be the ones to help do it. And I think a lot of what it comes down to is we just cared more.” (Jan. 2014)

4. “The question isn’t, ‘What do we want to know about people?’, It’s, ‘What do people want to tell about themselves?'” (Nov. 2011)

5. “The biggest risk is not taking any risk. In a world that’s changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.” (Oct. 2011) 

6. “Building a mission and building a business go hand-in-hand. It is true that the primary thing that makes me excited about what we’re doing is the mission, but I also think, from the very beginning, we’ve had this healthy understanding which is that we need to do both.” (Sept. 2012)

7. “The Hacker Way is an approach to building that involves continuous improvement and iteration. Hackers believe that something can always be better, and that nothing is ever complete.” (Feb. 2012)

8. “People can be really smart or have skills that are directly applicable, but if they don’t really believe in it, then they are not going to really work hard.” (Oct. 2005)

9. “I don’t want Facebook to be an American company. I don’t want it to be this company that just spreads American values all across the world. …My view on this is that you want to be really culturally sensitive and understand the way that people actually think.” (June 2011)

10. “My goal was never to just create a company. A lot of people misinterpret that, as if I don’t care about revenue or profit or any of those things. But what not being ‘just’ a company means to me is building something that actually makes a really big change in the world.” (Feb. 2011)

-Courtesy: Entrepreneur.com

Facebook still unstoppable as it grows to 390 million active users in Asia

The Zuck doesn’t come unstuck. Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) is continuing its march across Asia, as seen in the Q1 2014 earnings report for Mark Zuckerberg’s social network.

Facebook now has 390 million monthly active users (MAUs) in Asia, from a grand total of 1.276 billion around the world. That Asia tally is up from 368 million MAUs at the end of last year – and way up from 319 million in Q1 2013.

Note that when Facebook issues its Q2 figures, Asia will be the bigger than the ‘rest of the world’ segment. Here’s the MAUs chart for Q1:

Facebook still unstoppable as it grows to 390 million active users in Asia

Allied with Facebook-owned WhatsApp and its 500 million monthly active users, the social network has an extraordinary global army of engaged users.

Here’s are Facebook’s Q1 figures for daily active users. There are now 216 million of them in Asia:

Facebook still unstoppable as it grows to 390 million active users in Asia

Revenue from Asia

The ‘Asia’ chunk of the charts gets a lot slimmer when it comes to revenue. Facebook made $354 million in revenue from Asia out of its total of $2.5 billion in Q1, which is 14.14 percent. Facebook’s revenue dipped from Q4 last year to the most recent Q1, and Asia managed to bring in the only regional revenue rise in that time period.

Facebook still unstoppable as it grows to 390 million active users in Asia

Facebook makes $0.93 per user in Asia – that’s its ARPU – but that’s below the global average of $2 per user.

-Courtesy: Techinasia

Facebook Might Be Planning a Very Smart Pivot

A banking license? For a social network? Here’s why Facebook’s latest move is more forward-thinking than it seems.

Facebook wants to bank its financial future on more than online advertising. In fact, the company wants to become a bank.

According to the Financial Times, Facebook is awaiting authorization from Ireland’s central bank to become an “e-money” institution, which would allow users in that country to store money on the site and make payments to individuals throughout Europe.

In addition, Facebook has allegedly been in discussions with some startups in the international money transfer business, including mobile solutions.

Is this a smart move or a desperate pivot à la Google Glass? Probably a bit of both, and that offers a lesson for entrepreneurs.

A Little Bit Desperate…

On one hand, things are going well for Facebook. Revenue in 2013 was up 55 percent over 2012; earnings climbed by more than two-thirds. By the end of the year, monthly active users were up by 16 percent.

And yet, all is not bright. Pressure on advertising rates continues to squeeze companies. Google got punished in its earnings call the other day, even with 19 percent year-over-year growth. Aside from questions about the wisdom of Google’s acquiring and then selling Motorola, the true issue was the price of ads. Even as the number of paid ad clicks climbed last quarter compared to 2013, the average price per ad dropped by 9 percent.

This particular story has been ongoing for some time. Google is getting more thoroughly into mobile ads, where prices are lower because they don’t seem to do as well for advertisers. And regular ads are getting less expensive, as smarter ad buying, alternatives, and other factors keep the pressure up.

Yahoo just saw a similar pattern. Even though Wall Street was delighted that revenue for display ads was finally up 1 percent instead of down single digit percentages or more, the story was volume was up 7 percent, while price per ad was down by 5 percent.

The people who run Facebook aren’t stupid and they can see the industry trend. Sustaining the growth that its investors expect will only get tougher so long as the price for ads continues to drop. Plus, its user expansion comes in regions where the ad revenue per person is a fraction of what users in the U.S. and Europe generate.

But Also Pretty Darn Smart

That’s the desperation. Now for the smart move. Facebook has continued to become stronger in mobile. The basic premise for a smart business pivot is the rough opposite of the “innovator’s dilemma,” Clayton Christensen’s concept that when companies become big, they get too dependent on their once disruptive, now cash-cow products and services. Management goes into denial over potential new disruptions that could tear their business apart.

In the smart business pivot, management looks at disruptive forces and recognizes that it may have to cannibalize its current strategies to avoid being made irrelevant. Just as importantly, though, the company looks for new opportunities in the disruption.

Facebook sees the wave of disruption that mobile offers. It has undertaken various attempts to make its mobile software more attractive to both users and advertisers. Facebook even tried to push a software package that would effectively make it the top screen on Android phones, though it found little interest.

What Facebook does have is a massive number of mobile users. The question now becomes what else these users might want. Payment systems have become a standard answer. And payment card companies, banks, telecom carriers, electronic payment systems such as PayPal, online conglomerates including Google, and others are all trying to get into the game.

However, Facebook has an enormous advantage: relationships with well more than a billion consumers globally. It effectively overcomes the serial balkanization of hardware vendor, operating system, and wireless carrier.

And as Leonid Bershidsky writes at Bloomberg, it may be that Facebook is aiming at the developing world:

Facebook has about 100 million users in India. One can send the euro equivalent of $200 from Germany to India for $1 in a matter of days using a London startup called TransferWise, set up by Skype’s first employee Taavet Hinrikus and another Estonian, Kristo Kaarmann. Facebook might be able to improve on that by guaranteeing instantaneous transfers, and perhaps by offering lower prices, because it is so huge. Facebook is reportedly talking to TransferWise and its peers about some kind of partnership.

Bershidsky argues that Facebook would have to enter the remittance business to get cash to people. Perhaps–though in the last quarter of 2013, the company had a total of 1.2 billion monthly active users, with 368 million of them in Asia. If you have enough people already using your banking service on smartphones, do you necessarily need remittance businesses to hand cash to people? (However, it likely would make the overall business more effective.)

The point for entrepreneurs is that no business lasts forever. What can continue to thrive are relationships with customers. Focus on them and keep asking how new technology might let you provide even more value. That’s the way you keep a business going.

-Courtesy: Inc.com

Facebook Launches “Nearby Friends” With Opt-In Real-Time Location Sharing To Help You Meet Up

Today Facebook begins rolling out a new opt-in feature called Nearby Friends. It lets friends see approximately how far away you are from them, and you can share your exact, on-going location with them for a limited time. While it’s sure to stir privacy concerns, Nearby Friends could get people spending more time with friends in the real-world instead of online as it hits iOS and Android in the US in the coming weeks.

Below is a deep analysis of how Nearby Friends works, how it was built, its privacy implications, how it impacts the competitive landscape, and its long-term opportunities for Facebook. But here’s the tl;dr version:

Nearby Friends was built by the Glancee location sharing app team led by Andrea Vaccari that Facebook acquired in 2012. It adds a list of nearby friends to Facebook’s iOS and Android apps. It will also send notifications if you come within a short distance of a friend, and if someone shares their precise location with you you’ll see it on a map.

Vaccari tells me “the idea is to make it really easy to discover when someone is around you, and meet up and spend time together.” It wants to facilitate those serendipitous meetups where you run into a friend and end up having a meal or hanging out together. It’s a meatspace manifestation of Facebook’s mission to connect people, and a rebuttal to criticism that Facebook isolates us.

nearby-friends-press-1

The feature could spell trouble for other location sharing apps like Foursquare and Google Latitude that haven’t reached ubiquity, as Facebook has built it into its core iOS and Android apps that have enormous userbases. It could also challenge the friend-gathering features of Highlight, Banjo, Sonar, Connect, and more startups. [Disclosure: I advise an unlaunched location sharing startup] Leaving Nearby Friends on will cause some battery drain, but not as bad as some other location apps, according to Facebook.

As for privacy, Nearby Friends is opt-in so you can ignore it and never have to use it if you don’t want to. It’s only available to people over 18. It uses a reciprocal privacy model so you can only see your proximity to friends if you both have it turned on, and you can only see someone’s exact location if they purposefully share it with you. While you can select the specific list or group of friends you want to share your proximity with, many people may simply keep this visible to all their friends — a very wide net. This and how easy it is to forget to turn off Nearby Friends could lead to inadvertent “oversharing”. [Update: And Facebook confirms it will use your Nearby Friends Location History to target you with ads.]

If people manage their privacy with the provided tools, Nearby Friends could help them gather with more friends for Tuesday dinners, Friday night parties, or Saturdays in the park.

How Nearby Friends Works

Once you get the rollout of Nearby Friends, you’ll see it in their app list in the Facebook navigation menu under “More” on iOS or Android. From there you can opt in to turning Nearby Friends on, and select if you want to share your proximity with all your friends, or a specific friend list or group.

You’ll then be able to see a Nearby Friends list that shows the distance away in increments of a mile (<0.5 miles, 0.7 miles, 1.8 miles) from anyone you’re sharing your proximity with who has also opted in and turned on Nearby Friends. The list also shows timestamps of when someone’s location was last queried,and if you’re in a big city it will also show their neighborhood.

Next to these friends’ names is a location icon you can tap to send that person your real-time location. You’ll get a chance to choose how long to share your location (an hour, a few hours, until tomorrow, until I manually stop) and include a 40-character message about what you’re doing or want to do, and perhaps a request that they send you their exact location. Otherwise you could send someone a Facebook message asking for them to send you their location. Anyone who shares their exact coordinates with you will show up on a map view.

What makes Facebook Nearby Friends different than competitors and could give it an advantage is that it’s centered around broadcasting proximity, not location. We’re much more willing to share how close to someone we are than where we are on a map, and it’s basically just as functional. If someone’s close, you’ll know, and can ping them about their precise location and meeting up. Broadcasting location is creepy so we’re less likely to share it, and can cause awkward drop-ins where someone tries to come see you when you didn’t want them to. The product only works if lots of people are using it, and the focus on proximity makes it private enough that they might.

To get your location, Facebook will frequently pull your GPS coordinates. To minimize battery drain, it will read your accelerometer and not pull location as often if you’re staying still. Facebook’s testing says Nearby Friends 0.3% to 0.4% per hour. This is less than the 0.7% per hour Foursquare previously said it drains, and Facebook think it’s more efficient than Google Latitude, though the big G hasn’t released any specific battery stats. Vaccari tells me “Battery saving was one of the core principles as we were developing the product.”

If you don’t have Nearby Friends turned on, Facebook may try to coax you into opting in by showing teaser News Feed stories that read something like “3 of your friends are nearby right now, turn on Nearby Friends to see who and how close they are”. If you do have it turned on, you’ll see Feed stories that are basically excerpts of your Nearby Friends list.

nearby_friends[1]

If you have Nearby Friends turned on, Facebook will also occasionally send you notifications that a friend who has opted in is close. It intelligently looks at where that person goes frequently so as not to ping you everytime they get to work if you live a block away, and it reads their location and accelerometer to make sure they are just driving by but are actually stopped and potentially available to hang out.

Some frequent use cases for Nearby Friends include: “Which friends are in the park too?” “Is anyone else at this concert?” “Who’s nearby I could get coffee with?” “I’m in a new city, which of my friends are in this neighborhood?” But there’s also more niche possibilities. You could turn on persistent exact location sharing with your family for security when you travel. When you fly into an airport, you could see if friends are there too that you could split a ride with.

Facebook has recently been highlighting its new focus on standalone apps with its newCreative Labs initiative and the launch of Paper. But Nearby Friends is built into Facebook’s core apps because Vaccari says it only works “if you have a lot of people in the system. A standalone app would have given us the opportunity to make bigger decisions…but doing it in the main app, we guarantee you find most of your friends there.” However, Vaccari said it still could become its own app in the future. For now, Nearby Friends’ success may depend on just how much Facebook is willing to promote the product in the feed. It’s currently buried in the navigation menu next to Nearby Places, the Yelp-competitor Facebook launched last year that everyone forgot about.

Vacarri admitted he was a bit nervous in our interview as he’d been working on Nearby Friends for two years. Glancee had tried to make a social discovery app for making new friends, but realized “before meeting new people it was important to connect with people you already know, including people who aren’t your closest friends.” When Facebook came knocking, he saw the opportunity to use the existing social graph to build a product that let people actually connect in person. He hopes people will use Nearby Friends to spend time with their best buddies, but also people they like but aren’t close enough to text message.

Business Potential?

Facebook says that right now, Nearby Friends won’t be used for ad targeting. But there’s no denying how valuable location data could be to the social network. Imagine if the ads you saw in your News Feed were for restaurants or shops a block away. Those would surely be more relevant to users and more effective for businesses.

[Update: Facebook tells me “at this time it’s not being used for advertising or marketing, but in the future it will be.” Here's our follow-up on how Facebook will make money from your location data.]

Is It Privacy Safe?

For being a feature that constantly shares your proximity to friends or your exact location, Facebook tried to make it respect our privacy. It’s opt-in, so no one will find it themselves sharing their coordinates without purposefully turning it on. You can turn it off any time with a few taps. You can set who sees your proximity, they have to be sharing their proximity with you to see yours, you have to explicitly share exact location, and unless you set it to share indefinitely, your exact location will disappear within a day.

When I asked Vaccari bluntly if the feature has strong enough privacy, he said “Yes, we think so. The way the product is built is safe by default. Location is not precise by default. We want you you to know there’s an opportunity to meet, not where [your friends] are.”

nearby-friends-press-2

But just because Facebook built it with safety options doesn’t mean people will use them.

People should create a list of their close friends they’re comfortable sharing their proximity with and select that as the privacy setting. Most people won’t, though, and will just share with all their friends. That will includes bosses, co-workers, family memebers, and random people they met once but accepted a friend request from.

People will forget to turn it off. They’ll share their exact location indefinitely with plans to turn it off after a vacation together, but won’t remember to.

Luckily, since the app is based around proximity, the worst case scenario might be that your boss sees you’re somewhere close to a bar district at 2am or not near your apartment. Or a spouse sees you’re not getting closer to home after work — maybe because you’re getting a beer with buddies, but maybe because you’re…Which brings up the issue of partners essentially stalking each other by forcing one anothe to constantly share their exact location. Vaccari says there are plenty of niche apps that can do this. But it’s certainly a lot easier when someone already has Facebook installed.

Nearby Friends will be a test of our own ability to protect ourselves. Facebook has equipped us with all the necessary privacy options and set respectful defaults. Wielded skillfully, Nearby Friends could unlock real-world interactions in the way Foursquare and all the other check-in products were supposed to. More than money, power, or success, I truly believe spending time with people you love is the best route to happiness. We have plenty of tools for sharing and consuming memories. Finally Facebook has built a feature that will help us create them.

 

-Courtesy: Techcrunch

When Facebook Is a Bank…

Would you trust the ‘Bank of Facebook’ with your cash? Here’s how Facebook’s big money project is getting started.

Facebook is mere weeks away from having a regulatory green light in Ireland to allow its users there to store money on the site, and make payments to individuals, the Financial Times reports.

Yes, Facebook is getting into electronic money.

The company’s primary initial interest in e-money authorization throughout Europe is so that it can facilitate remittances–the transferring of money by a foreign worker to an individual in her home country–and other various person-to-person payments, the paper reports.

Mobile Transactions

“Facebook wants to become a utility in the developing world, and remittances are a gateway drug to financial inclusion,” a person familiar with the company’s strategy told the Financial Times.

At first glance, remittances might seem like an odd and narrow path into becoming a trusted online bank, or even a digital Western Union. But over the past few months, as Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been talking about getting Facebook to more users around the world and, particularly, to those in developing countries, it makes more sense. Facebook spent $19 billion to acquire WhatsApp in order to reach toward that goal of expanding its user-base to places without reliable wireless Internet.

This time, Facebook isn’t just acquiring companies that can help it–it’s doing the leg work itself, with Sean Ryan, the company’s vice president of platform partnerships, at the helm. (Though the Financial Times reports that the social network attempted to pay $10 million to acquire a senior employee from Azimo, a UK-based social money-transfer service.) Facebook would not comment to the Financial Times, calling its reporting “rumor and speculation.”

Let’s take a step back. It was back in February of 2013 that Azimo added Facebook integration. But the integration is simply to pull user information from Facebook to Azimo; it does not allow one to send money over Facebook. At least not yet.

The Financial Times reports that Facebook has been in discussions with Azimo, and also two other London-based startups in the international money-transfer space: TransferWise and Moni Technologies.

Facebook already makes about 10 percent of its revenue from transactions that take place within the site–but this isn’t really banking. Not yet.

Last year, $2.1 billion in transactions happened on the site. But these were almost exclusively payments for games (Facebook takes up to 30 percent of these payments), according to SEC filings. Facebook formerly hosted a virtual currency, Facebook Credits, which was used for apps and games, but no longer exists.

In the United States, Facebook is authorized to do some money transferring. But, according to the Financial Times, that’s fairly limited. Mostly, the company processes payments for the companies using its platform to charge users for in-app purchases.

It makes sense that Facebook appears to be first working on performing bank-like services in Europe, where regulations are slightly less complicated than in the United States. And more than half of Ryan’s team is based in Europe and Asia, with a particularly significant team in London. And it already has the rails in place to process payments through Facebook.

Google already is authorized in the UK to issue electronic money, and Vodafone has en e-money license in Europe.

These facts considered, one can reasonably expect it won’t take long for Facebook to soft-launch the payment features once it has the Irish stamp of approval. It will be interesting to see whether–and if, then how–the company goes about targeting foreign-born workers.

Also, it’s unclear how much of a cut of each transaction the social network will take. It’d be simple to charge a smaller rate than Paypal, Western Union, or the startups in the space. But perhaps that’s not the value-add Facebook–which already connects friends and family around the globe–seeks to provide.

Then again, Facebook Gifts–the company’s marketplace for virtual goods, gift certificates, and deliveries–hasn’t exactly taken off, so it’s possible the company might ditch the inside-marketplace strategy and adopt a more mobile-wallet-minded approach, as has Google with Google Wallet. If it is moving in that direction, it’s certainly mindful that other major web companies around the globe, including Tencent and Alibaba, are also adding mobile transactions to their business models. And it better move fast.

-Courtesy: Inc.com

Facebook Is Forcing All Users To Download Messenger By Ripping Chat Out Of Its Main Apps

Facebook is taking its standalone app strategy to a new extreme today. It’s starting to notify users they’ll no longer have the option to send and receive messages in Facebook for iOS and Android, and will instead have to download Facebook Messenger to chat on mobile.

Facebook’s main apps have always included a full-featured messaging tab. Then a few months ago, users who also had Facebook’s standalone Messenger app installed had the chat tab of their main apps replaced with a hotlink button that would open Messenger. But this was optional. If you wanted to message inside Facebook for iOS or Android, you just didn’t download Messenger. That’s not going to be an option anymore.

Soon, all users will have a hotlink in the tab bar at the bottom of their Facebook app that will open Messenger. No more messaging within Facebook For iOS or Android

Notifications about the change are going out to some users in Europe starting today, and they’ll have about two weeks and see multiple alerts before the requirement to download Messenger kicks in. Eventually, all Facebook users will get migrated to this new protocol. And you can bet some users are going to be angry.

The only way to escape the migration is to either have a low-end Android with an OS too old to run Messenger, use Facebook’s mobile web site, or use Facebook’s standalone content reader app Paper.

In an onstage talk I did with Mark Zuckerberg in November, the CEO revealed an explanation for today’s change that Facebook’s PR team just referred me to:

“the other thing that we’re doing with Messenger is making it so once you have the standalone Messenger app, we are actually taking messaging out of the main Facebook app. And the reason why we’re doing that is we found that having it as a second-class thing inside the Facebook app makes it so there’s more friction to replying to messages, so we would rather have people be using a more focused experience for that.” 

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Essentially, Facebook sees Messaging within its main apps as slow, buried, and sub-optimal overall. Its numbers probably indicate that people message more and have a better experience on the standalone Messenger app.

But forcing users to adopt a new messaging behavior could be very unpopular. Not everyone wants to manage multiple Facebook apps on their homescreen or stick them in a folder. A portion of Facebook users may prefer to keep things simple with one app for everything Facebook, even if it means it’s slower and it takes more taps to get to their messages.

Facebook was criticized for its bloated main apps but this announcement seems like an over-correction, swinging wildly in the direction of each function having its own app. Obviously there’s merit to only having to maintain one mobile chat interface. It promotes faster feature development and better stability. And once users go through the chore of setting up Messenger and adapting to its style, they may enjoy it better. Personally, I like Messenger’s clean look and feel, playful sounds, and quick performance.

Here’s our hands-on video for Messenger and an interview with its designers:

Still, a unilateral forced migration is the exact kind of change Facebook users hate, and this will only breed more paranoia that their social network could change without their consent. Taking a slower “We’re switching everyone eventually, so you might as well do it now” approach might have gone over better than “Your familiar chat interface will be destroyed in two weeks whether you like it or not”.

The only real explanation for moving this quickly is that desperate times call for desperate measures. Facebook is fighting a war overseas for the fate of messaging. While it bought WhatsApp for $19 billion, it still has to battle lean standalone messaging apps like WeChat, Kik, KakaoTalk, and Line. Unless forced, users might have stuck with the old Facebook app’s messaging interface instead of seeing there was something that could better compete with these other apps. That isn’t going to make this change much easier to swallow, though.

-Courtesy: Techcrunch

 

4 Things to Know About Facebook’s Plan for Total World Domination

Build a radical artificial intelligence lab and seat the world’s top AI researcher at the helm.Check. Dump $19 billion on viral chat sensation WhatsApp. Check. Gobble up Oculus VR for a cool $2 billion. Check. Reveal wild master plan to beam the internet to every single person on Earth from the sky. Aaaaah, yup, check.

Yeah, Mark Zuckerberg’s been just a little busy lately.

The social media mogul took a break from his apparently exponentially multiplying Total World Domination task list last night to post on his Facebook wall about his drone dreams, and laser and satellite wishes. Here’s the thing, though: They’re real and really happening. (Rumors, shmumors.)

And the approximately 5 billion people in far flung areas and undeveloped nations who still can’t access the internet might really appreciate them. Perhaps as much as Facebook would likely love to count them as new customers.

Here’s what you need to know about the 1.2 billion-member social giant’s landmark plan to beam Internet connectivity down on the “whole world” from high above the clouds.

1. It calls for drones, satellites and, yes, laser beams, too. Beaming the internet “from the sky” to “every person in the world,” requires some seriously heavy high-tech gear. Zuckerberg said some of it still has to be invented.

That’s why Facebook is going all in to aggressively experiment with stuff like geosynchronous low-earth orbit and satellites that will “beam internet access to the ground” in less populated areas and drones that will emit internet connectivity from upwards of 65,000 feet in the sky above suburban landscapes, much higher than even commercial jetliners can soar.

And don’t forget lasers, the invisible infrared kind that speed up long-distance internet connections. Take that, Google, and your clunky Internet delivery Loon balloons.

2. NASA’s best and brightest are on the job. Zuckerberg said Facebook’s new “Connectivity Lab” project dream team also includes top aerospace and communications tech experts from the space agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Ames Research Center.

Facebook has also charged the brains behind Zephyr, the world’s longest soaring sun-powered drone, with the tall task of creating high-altitude solar internet-beaming drones that can theoretically stay in flight for months at a time, maybe even indefinitely. These would be five very lucky (and very talented) engineers from Ascenta, a Somerset, England-based aerospace startup Facebook might have just acquired for $20 million.

Researchers from the National Optical Astronomy Observatory are also involved, Facebook said in an announcement.

3. It’s unclear how soon the entire world (!) will have Internet care of Facebook.Zuckerberg hasn’t yet spilled any specific launch dates or timelines for the massive initiative. He did, however, say that the project has “made good progress so far,” noting that Facebook’s work “over the past year” with Internet.org in Paraguay and the Philippines has already given 3 million “new people” access the internet.

4. You, too, can help Facebook take over the world. Ok, maybe only if you’re an “antenna systems engineer” or an “electro-optical network access hardware engineer.” According toReuters, Facebook posted job openings for both roles on its Careers website yesterday. How about it? Are you putting your name in the hat?

-Courtesy: Entrepreneur.com

Facebook To Buy Oculus VR, Maker Of The Rift Headset, For Around $2B In Cash And Stock

Facebook has announced plans to purchase Oculus VR, the company behind the Rift headset, for around $2 billion in cash and stock. This includes $400 million, and 23.1 million Facebook shares. An additional $300 million earnout will be paid in cash and stock if Oculus hits certain unspecified milestones.

“I’m excited to announce that we’ve agreed to acquire Oculus VR, the leader in virtual reality technology,” said Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in a statement today.

Our mission is to make the world more open and connected. For the past few years, this has mostly meant building mobile apps that help you share with the people you care about. We have a lot more to do on mobile, but at this point we feel we’re in a position where we can start focusing on what platforms will come next to enable even more useful, entertaining and personal experiences.

This is where Oculus comes in. They build virtual reality technology, like the Oculus Rift headset. When you put it on, you enter a completely immersive computer-generated environment, like a game or a movie scene or a place far away. The incredible thing about the technology is that you feel like you’re actually present in another place with other people. People who try it say it’s different from anything they’ve ever experienced in their lives.

Zuckerberg says that their efforts with Oculus will continue to focus on gaming initially, and that the company will continue to operate independently of Facebook. But after gaming, Zuckerberg says, they’re going to expand into a variety of other arenas.

“After games, we’re going to make Oculus a platform for many other experiences. Imagine enjoying a court side seat at a game, studying in a classroom of students and teachers all over the world or consulting with a doctor face-to-face — just by putting on goggles in your home,” he says. “This is really a new communication platform. By feeling truly present, you can share unbounded spaces and experiences with the people in your life. Imagine sharing not just moments with your friends online, but entire experiences and adventures.”

In a post on its blog, Oculus says that the benefits of the partnership might not be immediately visible.

At first glance, it might not seem obvious why Oculus is partnering with Facebook, a company focused on connecting people, investing in internet access for the world and pushing an open computing platform. But when you consider it more carefully, we’re culturally aligned with a focus on innovating and hiring the best and brightest; we believe communication drives new platforms; we want to contribute to a more open, connected world; and we both see virtual reality as the next step.

Most important, Facebook understands the potential for VR. Mark and his team share our vision for virtual reality’s potential to transform the way we learn, share, play, and communicate. Facebook is a company that believes that anything is possible with the right group of people, and we couldn’t agree more.

Facebook, of course, found early success with games. Social gaming is responsible for a lot of the growth and spread of Facebook as a platform, rather than just a social service. Acquiring Oculus could signal a variety of things, but being able to tap into what is potentially the next big gaming trend is likely one of them. In addition, Facebook has been aggressive about understanding and supporting mobile use cases — but only after an initial period of foot-dragging and desktop focus. If VR is “what’s next” then Facebook will want to tap the market early to avoid any transitional gaffes this time around.

The purchase is expected to close in Q2 of 2014. Oculus has taken over 75K orders for its virtual reality headset so far. Those headsets have been developer editions designed to get developers interested in playing around with VR technology. The most recent “Crystal Cove” prototype features a full 1080p display and more sensors to detect and position users in virtual environments.

Of course, if you pull the thread of virtual reality out really really far, you could see a future where we’re not talking about the percentage of time people spend on mobile vs. desktop. Instead, we’re talking about the amount of time that people spend in virtual reality versus actual reality. In that kind of landscape, Facebook starting in on VR early makes painfully obvious sense.

The company has received a total of $93.4 million in funding so far from Spark, Matrix, Founders Fund, Formation 8, BIG Ventures and Andreessen Horowitz. Oculus got a big boost in legitimacy recently when one of the founding fathers of 3D gaming, John Carmack, left id Software to become its CTO.

“Over the next 10 years, virtual reality will become ubiquitous, affordable, and transformative,” concludes the Oculus post, “and it begins with a truly next-generation gaming experience. This partnership ensures that the Oculus platform is coming, and that it’s going to change gaming forever.”

 

-Courtesy: Techcrunch