The Great Facebook Unbundling

“I think on mobile, people want different things. Ease of access is so important. So is having the ability to control which things you get notifications for. And the real estate is so small. In mobile there’s a big premium on creating single-purpose first-class experiences.” Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook CEO & co-founder in conversation with The New York Times.

The great unbundling has finally arrived on the Facebook shores. Full marks to Mark for being willing to self-unbundle versus letting others do it for them. I wrote about this in my Fast Company column, The Facebook Backlash.

The retail industry as a whole vacillates between complex and simple, evolving from the single-product peddler to the general store, from the opulence of the department store to the curated experience of a specialty boutique. The Internet and its social services, like shopping, are supposed to be about more than just a transaction; they are about fun and emotional gratification. If Facebook is Bloomingdale’s, then Snapchat and Instagram are the new boutiques. Expect this trend to continue for a few years—because that’s what we want from the Internet. For now! (From Fast Company)

So far, despite their gargantuan size and massive audience, Facebook had to resort to buying Instagram and WhatsApp in order to prevent them from stealing attention (minutes) away from Facebook.

Paper and Home were new introductions and have flopped. Graph Search is something I have never even considered using — forgotten. Messenger is an app based on existing behavior that they are forcing people to shift to a separate app — not such a bad thing. In other words, Facebook has failed to invent any new behaviors or even innovate on the behaviors that were commonplace on the service. For instance, Poke is a grand-pappy of Snapchat.

The big challenge for Facebook like all big companies — and yes it is a really big company now — is that it has many conflicting demands and as such it doesn’t have the luxury of a singular focus like a startup has.

The new Facebook Creative Labs — a euphemism for let’s throw everything at the wall and see what might stick so we can keep our design/creative/product teams happy — is not such a bad way for the company to try new things, but can they continue to keep people in a world where an app like Secret can go from zero to raising almost $9 million in a few months. If it works, the payoff is pretty huge for the app starters. If they fail — acquhire is a nice safety net.

Here is what Mathew Ingram has to say about the unbundling: “Facebook is one of the few large companies that seems to have taken Steve Jobs’ approach to heart: namely, the need to disrupt yourself before others do so (as Apple did with the iPhone and iPad). It’s true that most of Facebook’s experiments have failed to set the world on fire, but that doesn’t make them not innovative. Innovation also means trying and failing.”

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