This week, in addition to the Federal probe, “States to Launch Google, Facebook Antitrust Probes,” The Wall Street Journal et al reported. As one commenter said, “The real problem with both is their pernicious theft of our personal data and sales of that data to all sorts of entities looking to prod us, outrage us, excite us, sell us, etc. This is what their businesses have become: resale of stolen data.”
AKA, Who Wants to be a Trillionaire? Ok, maybe not a trillionaire, but running a company with a shot at getting to the trillion dollar status, has been there, or is damn close or potentially able to get there? Notice that Apple, Google, Amazon and Facebook – four of the FAANG stocks – all have something in common: they all have 100M+ plus users, and are “trusted” platforms – “trusted” being an odd choice of words here, in our case, but work with us.
While Netflix is also part of the FAANG stocks and ergo potentially a trillion dollar player, the company is now experiencing something less than that Silicon Valley-venerated hockey stick growth, as Netflix reports slowing subscriber growth for the first time, which is also part of our point here.
Facebook announced the soon-to-debut of Libra, its new cryptocurrency, last week, saying that it hoped to bring billions of the unbanked into the digital economy, providing them with basic financial services through their cellphones, eerily echoing Facebook’s original mission to bring the world closer together with its social platform, in case you missed the irony.
We all know how that worked out.
Now that the LUPA/PAUL stocks have (mostly) gone public – Lyft, Uber, Pinterest and Airbnb), these supposed category killers aren’t exactly killing it in the stock market. It’ll be interesting to see how the massively funded We Company (nee WeWork) does and despite all of this, we’re still witnessing massive funding rounds. Vice, for one, despite its stalled growth, recently raised $250M, a pittance compared to the $575M raised by Deliveroo. At some point, growth does stall; hockey stick growth is unsustainable or as Douglas Rushkoff, author of Team Human et al, said at the Techonomy conference in New York last week, “exponential growth is a problem. The only thing that can grow exponentially forever is cancer, and then it kills its host.”
We’ve known Rushkoff personally since the early days of Web 1.0, which, he reminded us, was when we all innocently believed that the web would distract us from the insular world of television and bring us together, which Mark Zuckerberg told Congress was the intention of Facebook. Well, that and world domination, although he did not share the latter with Congress.
Back in those early days, Wired Magazine told us that the internet was going to be the salvation of the NASDAQ stock exchange. This was the attention economy, and, said Wired, thanks to digital, the economy would grow exponentially, unstopped, forever. And Alan Greenspan agreed: New paradigm! Unlimited growth! Forever! What they didn’t realize was that this economic system was a very old, obsolete operating system invented by the monarchs in the 12th and 13th century to prevent the rise of the middle class, Rushkoff noted.
If you’ve ever applied to an accelerator or approached (many) investors for funding, one of the most important points they check, especially in the case of investors, is team.
Above all, they want to know about the co-founders, and truth be told, most investors shy away from a startup with a solitary founder, the stated reason most often being that you should be able to find at least one person who shares your vision or passion and is willing to throw in with you. It’s also difficult to operate in a vacuum: much easier if you have that other person off whom to bounce ideas, and to keep you in check, if need be.
While we’re not big on conspiracy theories – we’re simply too busy to get sidetracked – we do love to follow trajectories to see where things may be going. Or to once again quote Wayne Gretzky, if you want to know where the puck is going, look to where it has been.
The news this week was the banning that has been happening with the social media platforms. War on Free Speech: Facebook Bans People It Considers “Dangerous”, and Twitter is at it, too. While the question seems to be coming up more and more – Is it time to break up Twitter, or regulate it as an edited platform (Big Tech Trying to Have it Both Ways as Platform and Publisher)?, and this would extend to all of the socials – let’s be honest, aren’t they publishers, after all? In fact, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg himself is calling for regulation, and that should be concerning, especially given his focus, which is in lock step with that of the tech cartel, trust us. As Wired reported, Platforms Want Centralized Censorship. That Should Scare You.
So, why now?
Forest through the trees time, and Big Tech has gotten the four Ds down to an art, and yes, four – Deny, Deflect, Defend, Delay. Important, considering what else has been going on in tech to which not many people have been paying much attention: the rise of the Fakes, or as we prefer to call them, PHAkEs, which is our acronym for Post Human-Acknowledged Entities.
You have to give Mark Zuckerberg credit. Love him or hate him, he does act very deliberately, even if you might believe that it is with malice aforethought.
Netflix founder and CEO Reid Hastings resigned from the Facebook board this past week. Peggy Alford, currently senior vice president of Core Markets for PayPal, will be nominated to join the board of directors and become its first black member, but there’s a clear case of missing the forest through the trees here.
Facebook is reportedly spending $1 billion on producing original content. When Hastings joined the board in 2011, he said that he had been trying to figure out how to integrate Facebook and make Netflix more social, so getting on the board was a good deal, according to Business Insider.
In a seeming change of heart, Mark Zuckerberg backs stronger Internet privacy and election laws: ‘We need a more active role for governments’, he said, and no, there wasn’t a sudden rip in the universe. Zuckerberg penned an opinion piece in the Washington Post entitled The internet needs new rules. Let’s start in these four areas, which are harmful content, election integrity, privacy and data portability.
The editorial, no doubt, comes on the heels of the attention that Facebook, Twitter, Google and Amazon have been getting from Congress and various Presidential candidates, and as a result of the recent announcement that Facebook, Twitter and YouTube execs face jail and multi-billion pound fines over terror videos. “Australia could become the first country to introduce prison terms and fines if firms fail to speedily remove terror videos like the Christchurch massacre live-stream,” reports The Sun.
The World Wide Web turned 30 this past week. Web creator Tim Berners-Lee marked the occasion by noting that the web is now dysfunctional with ‘perverse’ incentives, while Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg seems to have marked it by announcing Facebook’s new pivot to privacy. Trust us, he did not suddenly have a come to Jesus moment. The only pivot here in his manifesto is away from Facebook’s current town square format into one focused more on the ability to have private messages among people and groups, which is the way that Facebook users had been going anyway.
“I believe the future of communication will increasingly shift to private, encrypted services where people can be confident what they say to each other stays secure and their messages and content won’t stick around forever. This is the future I hope we will help bring about,” said Zuckerberg in his manifesto.
Web 1.0 was built on smoke and mirrors.
Web 2.0 was built with the user as the product.