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Facebook has begun 2015 with a series of interesting moves. Last week it announced it had acquired the San Diego-based video-processing firm QuickFire Networks as part of its mission to make video “an essential part of the Facebook experience.” This week they unveiled Facebook at Work, basically a corporate version of the social network that puts them in direct competition with enterprise social network companies like Yammer. Both these announcements swiftly follow Mark Zuckerberg’s well-publicized plan, as Facebook, to get the whole world online “for free,” a step towards that being the launch of the Internet.org app in Colombia this week.
Such a heavy dose of Facebook news in a short time reminded me of an excellent article I read recently and why, instead of mentally filing this news as “Facebook just doing its thing,” it’s worth pausing and paying closer attention. In this report from the US Guardian, a professor of public understanding of technology, in conversation with Tim Berners-Lee, recalls the time he met with a member of the government who told him he thought the internet and the web are one and the same thing. He was dismayed when Tim Berners-Lee said that wasn’t the whole story, and that “Hundreds of millions of people now think that Facebook is the internet.”
While the interchangeability of the internet and web (and their wry hybrid, the “interweb”) can be largely understood and forgiven, for me thinking of Facebook as ‘the internet’ is quite staggering. But a closer look at the Facebook Internet.org app reveals why this perspective might increasingly ring true. As pcmag.com notes, users will be limited to the free apps including Wikipedia, weather sites and Facebook and Facebook Messenger.
I think it’s important not to throw the baby out with the bathwater here. Clearly there are huge benefits, not least health and educational, to increasing people’s online access, especially in poorer countries. And Zuckerberg’s comment captured here by abs-cbnnews.com that he expects the app to be the default among mobile operators worldwide to expand internet access suggests a breadth of coverage that is both exciting and encouraging, but might well lead to Facebook being the embodiment of “the internet.” From a communications perspective, it’s ever more important to have a clear, strong and ultra-relevant brand identity and messaging strategy. I’ve written before about the importance on focusing on the brand and content first and this appears to be the case now more than ever.
In other news, the other Silicon Valley behemoth Google announced this week that it was halting sales of its wearable technology Google Glass, and ceasing production in its present form. Google Glass devices caused an enormous amount of controversy, not least here in San Francisco where a number of bars banned patrons from wearing them following fights and privacy concerns. Wearable tech was still big news at this year’s CES exhibition, but as this report highlights, perhaps a move to invisible wearable tech and less ostentatious devices might be the way forward.
If you have any thoughts you’d like to share on this week’s blog, as ever it would be great to here from you. Please get in touch here.
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