Sep 19, 2019 Facebook launches Portal TV — this just started "The Living Room Wars" Read More The "I-don't-know-what-to-get-mom/dad-for-Christmas" gift... Facebook's $149 Portal TV turns your tube into an eerily smart and aggressively social streaming device (it's a spinoff of Zuck's AI-powered Portal tablet). ETA is November, but the high-tech camera/speaker bar boasts 1 crucial gadget: A low-tech privacy knob you slide to block the camera.
The snuggling is sold separately... True to Facebook's original mission — connecting people online — the Alexa-powered Portal TV lets you and bae be together even when you're apart. Here are its 2 most powerful features:
Video call using Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp. The face-recognizing camera follows you around while you wash lettuce, bake a pie, and set the table mid-call.
"Watch Together" lets you stream videos on Facebook Watch but keep the corner of the screen on video chat — Your remote plus-1 is watching with you on the screen. Portal TV then adjusts the volume when you need to chit-chat about where you've definitely seen that actor from before.The Takeaway:The Living Room Wars... They're 1 chapter away from The Streaming Wars. You've heard about the battles between Netflix, Disney+, and others over who owns Seinfeld and Peter Pan. Even Comcast announced yesterday it's making its "Xfinity Flex" streaming device free for all cord-cutters, which dropped Roku shares 14%. Now it's all-out conflict for the living room, and Zuck wants in. May 1, 2019 Facebook rolls out dating and one big redesign Read More Welcome to Zuckapalooza. Now please update your FB app... Mark began Facebook's F8 developer conference with a preview/tour of the redesigned Facebook: aka "FB5" (it's rolling out to users starting today). Facebook Dating is also expanding to the US later this year and 14 more countries right now — Swipe right on any friend or indicate a friend-of-a-friend "Secret Crush."
Operation FB5-star is a Group team effort... Go look at Facebook's app in the App Store — it has about as many 1-star as 5-star ratings. It's polarizing. This redesign is intended to improve that by focusing on Groups:
Better privacy: Worried those embarrassing freshmen year pics may go viral? Facebook's concerned, too. So it's emphasizing Groups and Messaging, which keep posts more contained.
Admins = Policemen: It doesn't have enough humans or AI to stop extreme content from reaching innocent eyes. So it's de-emphasizing the newsfeed, and letting your Group's Admin take down bad stuff.
Potentially worse isolation: Limiting chats to Group life means conspiracy theories, hate, and misinformation could potentially thrive even more.The Takeaway:This could hurt profits. It doesn't matter... It's not clear how this privacy focus will affect the Book's ad-tastic business model. But 18-29-year-olds are ditching Facebook fastest (usually for Insta, which Facebook also owns) because FB posting is too public. So it's disrupting itself with a more private version before a competitor does. Jul 25, 2019 Facebook's living its best life (as it shrugs off the $5B fine) Read More Fun fact... Facebook's stock price is just 5.5% away from its record high. That's despite Wednesday's big official settlement with US regulators for handing over 87M users' personal details to Cambridge Analytica.
Facebook knew this was coming... So it guestimated back in April for investors that a $3B-$5B fine was coming. It even put money aside to prep for the government's hammer. A+ for FB's forecasting department.
The fine: $5B. Even though that's a record fine from the FTC, it's equal to less than 1% of Facebook's net worth (when measured by its $577B value by market capitalization).
Strings attached: Hardly any. A huge criticism is that the privacy of 2B humans is controlled by 1 human — Mark Zuckerberg — who owns majority voting power at FB. This settlement installs a new "independent privacy committee" within the board that he'll have to check in with monthly.
Personal accountability: A tad. Zuck must personally certify (with a real-life signature) every quarter that his company is following every privacy order from the settlement. Pinky swear.The Takeaway:BTW, Facebook also announced profits. Big ones... In the Western world, we're obsessed with Facebook-owned Instagram, which doesn't have Zuck brand baggage. In the rest of the world, Facebook's rep is fine and people use WhatsApp and Facebook at a carpal tunnel-inducing pace. Facebook's investigations aren't over, but they've barely slowed it down so far. Here are the Q2 highlights.
Revenues up 28% to $16.9B
Operating profit up 14% to $6.6B (if you exclude the big fine)
Monthly users up 8% to 2.4B
Jul 17, 2019 3 Congressional hearings. 4 scrutinized tech giants Read More 1 four-pack of shade... coming right up for Silicon Valley. The main event yesterday was David Marcus, Facebook's head of cryptocurrency, who suffered a grilling by the Senate (he hits the House tomorrow). But all 4 of America's tech-powered giants sent lambs to get questioned and criticized by elected officials.
Facebook: Defending Zuck's new cryptocurrency, Marcus promised Libra wouldn't launch until it "fully addressed regulatory concerns." Politicians from both sides didn't like Facebook's crypto-moves given its marred privacy record. PS: Bitcoin dropped 10% on DC's overall anti-crypto tone.
Google: President Trump said he would investigate whether Google has been infiltrated by the Chinese military. That's based on a claim from Peter Thiel (Facebook board member) that Google is an unpatriotic company engaged in treason.
FB, Google, Apple, and Amazon: Execs from all four faced a different set of lawmakers who accused them of breaking rules set up to protect consumers from monopolies as well as for having a bias against conservatives in search results.The Takeaway:Despite the politi-hate, record highs... The stocks of all these companies are close to their record highs. They've scaled their business models across the world and kept growing as people in developing countries adopt smartphones and the internet. And 2+ years of tech as a political punching bag hasn't resulted in laws or policies to rein in profits. Sep 6, 2019 Match drops 5% as Facebook Dating just happened Read More Whip out the pint of gelato and romcom marathon... Tinder-owner Match is feeling the pain as Facebook's dating feature goes live in the US (just update your app and opt-in if you're looking to mingle). Technically, Facebook told us last year that this was coming, but here's the love story timeline.
1st date (fall 2018): Colombia. The magic begins when Facebook started testing in the land of Arepas.
1st trip (winter 2019) Latin America. Facebook expands the tests regionally to Mexico and Argentina.
1st fight (spring 2019) Feedback. Listening to early users, Facebook updates the feature to make it easier to set up a profile (and creepily proposes a pic for you).
Facebook makes it Facebook official (today): Another 19 countries enjoy access, including the US (Europe waits 'till 2020).
"If you're a bird, I'm a bird"... The Facebook dating concept is that simple. Since Facebook knows what you like/click/join/share, Zuck thinks he can play match-maker better than Tinder. But the most unique feature we could find in our Snacks research is "Secret Crush":
Facebook Dating defaults to not matching you with friends, but there are 9 exceptions.
If your sophomore Geography class partner is the one that got away, you can "Secret Crush" tag them.
If they unknowingly reciprocate, Facebook makes the connection (warning: You get 9 "Secret Crushes" max).The Takeaway:Instagram is Facebook's surprise +1... That's what crushed Match. Match investors have known for months what Facebook was up to. What they didn't know was how much Facebook's Insta would be involved. Turns out Facebook integrates photos from Insta profiles into the dating feature. Since Instagram is where a whole generation's digital-selves obsessively live, FB Dating is now much more of a threat than Match expected. Aug 9, 2019 Facebook is reportedly planning a new initiative to fix the news it helped break Read More This has rom-com written all over it... We're at the last 30 minutes when Facebook tries to rekindle its fraught relationship with the news industry. According to the WSJ, Facebook is offering news publishers up to $3M per year to license entire articles and stick them in your newsfeed.
The last time Facebook dated news, it didn't go well... Promises were broken, and the breakup was bad.
How the relationship worked: Just as news publishers were getting disrupted by the internet, Zuck welcomed them to post articles on Facebook, which it would promote in newsfeeds.
The promise to news: People will click on your articles! And you can make money through that web traffic (with ads) or by getting them to subscribe!
What actually happened: FB traffic didn't lead to much money for news publishers, who struggled. Then Facebook tweaked its algorithm to demote news, and promote baby pics instead.
The really bad part: Fake news replaced real news, and the troll-authored content got loads of likes, shares, and comments.The Takeaway:Facebook knows news got burned last time... so it's offering money this time. News agencies aren't buying the "traffic will convert to subscriptions" story. Facebook's eager to prove it can now help news agencies by paying them $$$ for their product. As soon as this fall, we could get a new tab on the FB app for news, with real, paid news in there. Sep 4, 2019 A side-hustler reveals Facebook's test to hide your "likes" Read More #AnxiouslyWaitingForLikes... Been there. You post a pic of you and that friend — or worse — a pic of just you. After 5 minutes you've got 2 likes. After 10, 6. After an hour, 14. DELETE POST. The like-struggle is real. Facebook is aware and just confirmed its test to remove the number of a post's social media affirmations from public view.
Side hustle... Jane Manchun Wong enjoys one as a "reverse engineer" — while you're reading Snacks, she's mining code, searching for deep-app irregularities. We'll let her describe what happened next in her own words:
"I observed that Facebook has recently begun prototyping this hidden like/reaction count feature in their Android app by reverse-engineering the app and playing with the code underneath."
Facebook confirmed it's testing a way to hide the likes from your followers/friends, but still showing you. Letting go 100% is hard.The Takeaway:This is a classic cost-benefit analysis... It's testing to see how users react first before it makes the thumbs-up invisible. The cons could hit Facebook's bottom line (less user engagement and potentially ad revenue), the pros are mostly for society (less anxiety). But Facebook could win valuable PR points if it makes the right decision — just as it separately faces political tech-lash over its privacy problems and anti-competitive size. Sep 26, 2019 Facebook unveils "Horizon": A huge virtual world Read More We were happy with air hockey... Facebook prefers virtual worlds. It just unveiled one through Oculus, the virtual reality startup it acquired in 2014 for $2B. Facebook offered up this charming video to entice you to enter the digital land of "Horizon" — a massive-multiplayer world to interact with anyone who can afford the $399 VR headset.
Picture Ready Player One without the violence... Your avatar (the digital version of you, like a 3D-ish emoji) enters Horizon around a central town square. Then you customize your virtual shirt, or build a virtual island to hang out on with your other real friends playing virtually. Meta. Here's what else surprised us:
No coding: Don't need the skill set. Use your hands and building blocks to whip up an arena where you can play virtual soccer with real friends.
No pants: For some reason, none of the avatars in Horizon have lower bodies.
Yes, privacy/policing/enforcement: Facebook clearly focused on this one. You can mute people who bother you and create space boundaries. Plus, there are "Horizon Locals" — Avatar guides who are real people, dressed casually, cracking down on trolls.The Takeaway:Welcome to Facebook 2.0... Facebook acquired Instagram on the bet that users may head there when they were bored of the 'Book. They did. Now it's betting you'll hit up virtual reality when you're tired of reality. Here's the big question: Will Zuck introduce virtual billboards and stores to Horizon so it makes real ad money just like Facebook does? Jun 3, 2019 The Regu-tech-lation wars just began — And Google and Facebook fell over 6% Read More According to extra scoops of WSJ journalism... Two of the nation's main business regulators, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Justice Department (DOJ), are divvying up which tech companies to regulate. And they've been training: FTC and DOJ can enforce antitrust laws — the power to investigate, sue, fine, and break up monopolies.
DOJ: It's focused on Apple and Google.
FTC: It's taking on Facebook and Amazon.
Fun party game... Try naming a bipartisan political issue. Answer: Regulate Silicon Valley. Conservatives think tech is too liberal and censors conservative voices, liberals think it kills jobs/equality/competition. But Capitol Hill hasn't teamed up to do anything about it — Then we learned regulators game planned X's and O's, and Google fell 6% while Facebook face-planted 8% Monday.
$130B: That's the total market value lost by tech companies in just Monday's drop.
10%: That's how much lower the tech-heavy Nasdaq stock index is from its high in April (that means it's technically in "correction" status).The Takeaway:Tech is free, but it still has a price... Regulators used to tackle monopolies only when customers were hit by high prices. Now Google and Facebook definitely could fit the definition of monopolies — they own nearly 60% of all US online ads — but they're free for us to use. So if regulators finally regulate tech, they won't be looking at prices — they’ll look purely at power (too much of it). That's a new frontier. Jul 12, 2019 Facebook's cryptocurrency faces big resistance — like from Fed Chairman Jerome Powell Read More Unfriend... The Chairman of America's central bank visited Congress this week. Most focused on his interest rate plans — Jerome Powell strongly hinted that the Fed would lower rates to support the economy during the trade war. But he also opined on Mark Zuckerberg's latest project, Facebook's cryptocurrency "Libra." He's just not that into it.
Regulators and politicians are anti-ZuckBucks... It's not just Powell. We've seen resistance to the idea of Facebook owning an alternative financial system from all over. And it runs deep.
🏛 US Congress: The Financial Services Committee wants Facebook to "immediately cease implementation plans." One senator called it "Monopoly Money."
👔 The 27 corporate partners: Uber, Mastercard, Spotify, and other companies that paid $10M to oversee the future stablecoin with Facebook are reportedly nervous about the whole thing.
🌍 The world: Central bankers from China, Europe, and Singapore are all concerned. The Bank of England head won't let Facebook "learn on the job."
The Takeaway:Facebook could actually get stopped... Since sophomore year, Zuckerberg's done what he's wanted to do. But now the Fed has set up a working group of regulators with broad political backing to investigate Facebook's financial plans. Here are Powell's concerns:
Money laundering: FB's non-regulated financial pipes could make it easier for drug deals to go down.
Privacy: No explanation needed.
Consumer protection: Fraudulent schemes could run as wild on Facebook as fake news did/does, out of reach of regulatory oversight.
Financial stability: What if Libra, the global currency, had an outage? That could spread to other markets. Worldwide. Fast.