Questions for Mark Zuckerberg
Has Facebook taken all the recent criticism on board and changed its ways? That was the question many asked as Mark Zuckerberg announced
yesterday that Facebook would be switching its focus to encrypted, private conversations between users.
Zuckerberg acknowledged obvious shifts in internet use. Many people are less keen on sharing their thoughts and life events with big groups of people, preferring to talk in smaller-scale groups. Facebook needs to embrace this, or it will quickly lose relevance.
A plus for Facebook is many of these conversations around the world happen on its own WhatsApp, Instagram, and Messenger apps. A minus is that if you encrypt those conversations, it messes up the company’s business model, which relies on knowing what you’re saying (currently only WhatsApp is encrypted by default).
The move ties in with Facebook merging WhatsApp, Messenger and Instagram into one, dedicated back-end platform, although the apps will all continue to operate as separate products.
There are many questions about the move though:
- Will the public like the idea that a Facebook friend can find them and contact them on WhatsApp? There are benefits to the apps being separate.
- How will Facebook make money if it can’t see people’s conversations? The answer probably lies in the metadata about who is contacting whom, combined with data collected over time and from elsewhere. And Facebook presumably doesn’t expect usage of its main ‘blue app’ to die off completely.
- Has Facebook given up on the Chinese market? It certainly seems that way.
- Will integrating WhatsApp with other apps cause antitrust headaches? Journalist David Meyer thinks it could.
- Will politicians buy this as a completely positive move and back off on regulation of Facebook? That has to have been part of the aim here.
While the 'pivot to privacy’ was presented as a positive move by many in the tech press in the first hour or two after Zuckerberg’s announcement, questions like those above quickly came to the surface. And Facebook’s harshest critics certainly aren’t buying it
If Facebook wants to convince the world it’s changed, it needs to earn our trust – which kind of harks back to yesterday’s Big Thought
, doesn’t it?