The New Yorker’s Tad Friend on Marc Andreessen’s plan to win the future.
Pessimism always sounds more sophisticated than optimism — it’s the Eden-collapse myth over and over again — and then you look at G.D.P. per capita worldwide, and it’s up and to the right. If this is collapse, let’s have more of it!
Facebook recently went over a billion users served. In an interview with Businessweek, Mark Zuckerberg mentioned a conversation he had with Facebook board member Marc Andreessen, where Andreessen mentioned the likely only other companies with a billion users are Coca Cola and McDonald’s. What does it feel like to have a billion users?
It feels like an honor. We get the honor of building things that a billion people use. I mean, there’s no core need. It isn’t a core human need to use Facebook. It’s a core human need to stay connected with the people you care about. The need to open up and connect is such a deep part of what makes us human. Being in a position where we are the company—or one of the companies—that can play a role in delivering that service is just this … it’s an honor.
The interviewers also asked about how Facebook gets its next billion users and, while Zuckerberg demurred somewhat, Quartz had a look at the version of FB designed for countries without wide smartphone adoption. It runs on WAP and is called Facebook Zero (just like Coke Zero, OMG). Users of the text-only FB are not charged for the data used, and the article posits FB is making the gateway drug argument to the telecoms:
This is because, for the telecoms networks, free Facebook represents a solution to an ever-present existential threat. Their first subscribers were relatively rich; the ones they are gaining now are ever poorer. So the revenue per user is shrinking. At the same time, the amount of data being pushed through their networks is increasing, and customers are demanding faster connection speeds, pushing up the cost of infrastructure. The networks are looking for ways to get more users, and make more money from each one of them.
“The fact is that Facebook has made a compelling argument to operators, which is ‘You should give Facebook away [to consumers] for free,’” says Eagle. “I don’t know how Facebook is making that case, but if I were Facebook, the argument I’d make is that Facebook is one of the most addictive things on the internet. If you have someone try out Facebook for the first time, it might lead them to want to try the rest of the web, and a lot of these other services they can charge for.”
This doesn’t necessarily jive with something Zuckerberg said in the Businessweek interview, and has said numerous times in the past. Facebook doesn’t want to be the gateway drug to the internet, it wants to be the internet.
The whole vision around News Feed was it should be like a newspaper and shouldn’t just be a list of posts your friends are making. I mean we should be able to really show you interesting trends and things that are happening. There are already trillions of connections between friend requests and all the content that’s being pushed into the system. At some point, that will start to be a better map of how you navigate the Web than the traditional link structure of the Web. I think there’s an opportunity to really build something interesting there.