Company / division: Facebook
Facebook’s Hiring Process Hinders Its Effort to Create a Diverse Workforce – Bloomberg (Jan 9, 2017)
Like most big tech companies, Facebook struggles with diversity, but would like to do better. And yet its own internal processes are apparently hindering its efforts here, with existing engineers having too much power to shape hiring of candidates in their own image. This is a known issue at this point, and it’s frustrating that Facebook – with all its innovation – can’t crack it. All this just highlights that all the will in the world can’t trump flawed processes.
This is yet another step in Facebook’s evolving vision of its identity. Campbell Brown isn’t going to be producing news for Facebook, but rather working with news organizations that use Facebook, but it’s a recognition that news is a huge content category on the service, and that many people get their news through Facebook. It will be very interesting to see how this role pans out in detail, and whether it feels Facebook is really helping news organizations, especially when set against recent moves to combat fake news.
Although Zuckerberg sets himself a personal goal every year, this one feels like a more corporate one than those he’s set in the past, and it’s hard not to read it as an attempt to understand and assuage concerns about Facebook’s increasing power and its role in our lives. I’m curious to see how Zuck goes about connecting with ordinary people and what he hears from them (and who else will be present to hear that feedback). It’s hard to tell at the outset whether this will be more of a stunt or PR exercise or a true listening tour, but Facebook and Zuckerberg definitely need to do more of the latter.
The Ad Tech Renaissance – Brian O’Kelley (Jan 3, 2017)
This piece does a great job of breaking down the headline figures on the size of the online ad market into its constituent part, and argues that even though Google and Facebook dominate both ad dollars and growth in them, there’s more going on beneath the surface, and opportunities for other companies do exist in ad tech, even if not ad display. Separately, Brian argues that finding better ways to serve up ads on content sites is vital for their survival. I don’t know that I agree with all of this, but there’s some very good analysis here.
Facebook Developing Copyright ID System to Stem Music Rights Infringement | Billboard (Dec 31, 2016)
It’s been clear for some time that Facebook is setting itself up as a competitor to YouTube, and of course a big investment in video requires an investment in copyright policing too. Unlike YouTube, of course, much of the content shared on Facebook is private, which means it’s almost impossible to properly gauge the scale of infringing material. Instagram already does some of this for recorded music, but this article implies a lot of the infringing videos on Facebook are covers rather than the originals, which is quite a bit harder to detect.
This is a fantastic post about how tech companies hide behind that identity, and shouldn’t. Facebook is the obvious example that springs to mind, and does seem to be coming around on this point, but it applies to others too. Many tech companies abdicate responsibility, because responsibility means an imperative to act and self-examine, and most importantly to question the assumption tech is always a force for good. We need more of that questioning in 2017.
The headline here is overblown – Facebook, Google, and many other over-the-top services have already eaten into telcos’ business, but end user Internet access remains pretty inviolate as a telco domain. This piece skims over that element very quickly, without addressing any of the big barriers to entry that exist. I’ve no doubt that some of the other changes discussed will occur, but that’s the big one that’s going to keep telcos relevant and even healthy going forward.
Facebook and Google Dominate ‘Top Smartphone Apps of 2016’ List, While Apple Music Ranks 9th – Mac Rumors (Dec 30, 2016)
Facebook and Google absolutely dominate this list, and to my mind this dominance remains one of the biggest threats to Apple going forward: to the extent that people increasingly use their iPhones to access services and apps provided by other companies, those companies are in an increasingly strong position to usurp Apple’s position in devices. Apple Music is the only Apple app in the top 10, while Facebook and Google have 8 of the other 9, with Amazon scraping in at #10.
This is a narrative that gained significant steam during the course of 2016 – the idea that Facebook is becoming incredibly powerful as a filter through which people experience the Internet and the world, and that this much power is dangerous. That danger is arguably heightened by the incredible power Mark Zuckerberg still has as CEO to single-handedly shape policy for the company. I suspect we’ll see a lot more of this kind of thing in 2017.
Great summary of US digital and mobile ad spending in the first three quarters of 2016. Overall spending is way up, driven by mobile, while search advertising is mostly shifting from desktop to mobile rather than growing, and video is the only desktop segment that’s growing. However, as we’ve seen from eMarketer and other estimates, a great majority of the total growth is going to two companies – Google and Facebook – so though this all sounds like good news for the broader industry, others largely have to fight over the crumbs that fall from the table.
Great summary of the history of the Facebook Copying Snapchat narrative over the past few months. The interesting evolution during that time has been a shift in focus from trying to recreate new apps to mimic Snapchat in part or entirely to mostly using Instagram to borrow features.
Further confirmation that Facebook and its Oculus subsidiary are serious about advancing their VR technology. VR is finally starting to hit the mainstream, but there are still lots of areas where the technology can improve.
The headline doesn’t do the focus of the article justice – the point the article makes is that Facebook buys in offline data sources to supplement the data it collects itself, to create a fuller picture of its users when it comes to targeting ads. It isn’t transparent with its users about this, however, which some consumer advocacy groups find bothersome. The fact is, this data is gathered and used pervasively throughout the consumer marketing industry, but it’s a different flavor of data gathering and targeting from what we’re used to with Facebook.
Facebook said all the way back in November that it intended to form a measurement council to improve external oversight of its metrics and reporting. This is one of the first concrete signs that it’s moving towards better outside auditing, though it’s not an announced deal yet.
Ever since the US presidential election, Facebook and CEO Mark Zuckerberg have been grappling with what kind of company Facebook is, and its role in the modern world. Zuckerberg’s initial reaction to claims Facebook affected the election was dismissive, but his views seem to be evolving, which is a good thing. Facebook is enormously influential, and needs to recognize that.
Critics of all stripes have found fault with Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan’s philanthropic efforts, but there’s no doubting the commitment to effecting real change here. On balance, I’m inclined to think this is a good thing, though it’s worth continuing to evaluate the methods and structure of the Initiative.
Facebook kills off exact location sharing in Nearby Friends, adds “Wave” | TechCrunch (Dec 22, 2016)
In a world in which it seems threats to privacy get steadily stronger over time, this is an unusual retrenchment. Facebook will now share less detailed information in its Nearby Friends feature, though arguably to make the feature more appealing rather than out of any sense of altruism. It’s an interesting example of dialing back user data sharing to win user trust.
Government requests for Facebook user data up 27 percent in first half of 2016 | TechCrunch (Dec 22, 2016)
As more and more communication takes place on online platforms, law enforcement agencies will inevitably shift their data gathering to those platforms too, and we’re seeing this play out here. The more data these platforms have on us, of course, the more meaningful that is, and Facebook is a treasure trove.
America’s Big 5 tech companies increase patent filings, Microsoft holds lead in AI technologies – IPWatchdog.com | Patents & Patent Law (Dec 22, 2016)
Interesting and valuable analysis. But clearly an oversimplification to make patents held the arbiter of a “lead” in AI. Ultimately, whether you lead in AI comes down to the customer benefit you drive from it, not the patents themselves.
This is good context for a couple of different narratives – fake news and Facebook’s enormous power as a filter for news and other content. This is survey data on where people get their news from, and it shows that Facebook is the main online news source, with 32% of respondents saying they use it (Google News is next, at 21%). Some 18% of users only use one source of information, and for half of those it’s Facebook, whereas the majority do use multiple sources. And lots of people still use newspapers and TV for information too.