The Social Network 2: Social Guesswork

The Interactivist has obtained the following pages from the upcoming sequel to The Social Network.

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Title: The Social Network 2: Social Guesswork

Scene 27b

 

INT. FACEBOOK HQ CONFERENCE ROOM, DAY.

We see a pair of bloodshot eyes. We ZOOM OUT to reveal Mark Zuckerberg staring into space.  ZUCK sits at huge black conference table surrounded by middle-aged people who probably used to be cool.

On the table in front of him sits an Oculus Rift developer’s kit. …Right behind 37 lines of cocaine.

ZUCK chews his lip nervously.  Finally he speaks in short quick clip…

ZUCK: That’s cool.

The room nods.

MIDDLE-AGED PERSON WHO PROBABLY USED TO BE COOL #1: Very cool.

ZUCK does a quick line of coke – grimaces – and pounds the table. Everyone jumps.

ZUCK: Whooo! Yeah – THIS… (he points at Rift) THIS – is totally awesome.

His eyes dart across the room in spastic jerks.

ZUCK: It’s awesome, right?

People nod.

ZUCK: I mean, and I’m just doing my magic here, could you imagine… just imagine… if THIS… was Facebook’s “iPhone”.

Inhales heard around the room.

RANDOM PERSON: Wow.

ZUCK: Right?

CTO, MIKE SCHROEPFER, sitting across table, squints disconcertedly.

ZUCK: What!? Shit, seriously? What, Mike? Fuck you’re such a downer!

CTO MIKE: I didn’t even say anything…

ZUCK: I see your eyes! You don’t think I see your eyes getting all squinty and judgmental??

CFO DAVID EBERSMAN: That’s not fair.

ZUCK: Oh, you too?!? You’re an even bigger downer David!

CFO DAVID: Mark, we’re just looking out for the company.

ZUCK: Oh, I’m sorry, so you’re not a downer!? Oh ok, lets see, uh, Instagram wasn’t the future, and it was too expensive. Paper was a lame app, and it was too expensive. These are your words! QUOTE! WhatsApp is “JUST” another app – it will get replaced by some other app in a year or two and was galactically, monumentally too expensive… and… and – what am I missing?

SHERYL SANDBERG: (snorts line of coke) Facebook has no vision and is randomly grasping to find relevance?

ZUCK: Right Sheryl, thank you! – Facebook has no vision and is randomly grasping to find relevance. Your words, David.

CFO DAVID: Look I’m… I’m being honest. And Mike agrees with me.

MIKE SCHROEPFER looks down at his hands.

ZUCK: What are you even doing here David?

CFO DAVID: I just want to help Facebook Mark.

ZUCK: (stares) …well you’re a fucking downer, David. A complete fucking Debbie Downer.

The room is silent.

ZUCK does 8 lines of coke.

ZUCK: Fuck – even the coke doesn’t UN-DOWN you guys! OK WHAT!? What’s wrong with it?!

CTO MIKE: um… well – I mean it’s cool, yes. But It’s not a platform, Mark.

All eyes back on ZUCK.

ZUCK: What do you mean it’s not a platform!? Have you ever experienced that before??

CTO MIKE: No, but Oculus Rift owns no content, you use this device to interact with someone else’s content. The content exists on a computer and probably over the internet. Manufacturing devices like this has nothing to do with creating and owning the experiences people will have in the future any more than manufacturing headphones has to do with creating and owning the music people listen to. If you want to own the social experience as VR emerges, you needed to create the killer software experiences that people will use. Lots of companies will make headsets like these. It’s like a DVD player, it’s dumb hardware! This headset in no way buys you into the world of VR enhanced social networking. Oculus Rift is… well, it’s just a peripheral. Like headphones and monitors. The content is the experience.

Long silence. ZUCK’S eye dart around the room. He looks at some 17-YEAR-OLD-LAWYER-LOOKING-KID who shrugs.

ZUCK: FUCK!! …Why the fuck didn’t you tell me that before I bought it?!

Gasps around the room.

CFO DAVID: WHAT!? You already bought it? Oh God.

ZUCK: Well fuck David, you’re always such a downer – I didn’t want you in the room. … I did it this morning.

CFO DAVID: But you only saw the device for the first time yesterday…! Did you talk to anyone??? Oh Christ – how much did you spend this time??!

ZUCK: Less than last time.

CFO DAVID: Mark. Look at me. Last time you bought an iPhone app for the price of a small country. What – did – you- spend?

CFO DAVID looks around the room.

CFO DAVID: WHAT DID HE SPEND??!

17-YEAR-OLD-LAWYER-LOOKING-KID: …um 2 BMil (unintelligible)

CFO DAVID: What?! 2 what? Million?

17-YEAR-OLD-LAWYER-LOOKING-KID: eh, um no… 2 um… B… billion. 2 Billion.

Several people in the room visibly deflate.

CFO DAVID: (frozen) Good jesus christ.

CTO MIKE slumps in his chair and closes his eyes, visibly shaken.

We hear a loud snort and ZUCK sucks up another line of coke.

ZUCK: SHIT YEA! (laughs maniacally – coke all over his nose) AWESOME, RIGHT? FUCK YEA! WE CAN PUT OUR LOGO ON IT MAN! FACEBOOK! RIGHT THERE BRO!

CFO DAVID: …right where the user won’t see it because it’s covering his FUCKING EYES, MARK!

ZUCK: You don’t think I know that?! I KNOW THAT! And that’s why…. (sly smile) we also put advertising… in the fuckin’ content, baby!

CTO MIKE: …in the content. (sighs) Right, um, Mark, the content doesn’t… it’s not running in this device – it’s just showing up there! The content is running on a computer.

ZUCK: (stares, beat) Well why not? We can just make a smaller computer and cram it in there! CRAM – IT – RIGHT – IN! WHOO!

He snorts more coke.

CTO MIKE: (under breath) Jesus christ. (to ZUCK like talking to a child) Mark, the kind of experiences that people will want to see on a VR device – and there will be many other VR devices on the market to choose from – will, for the foreseeable future require a lot more processing power than you can cram into this thing. Like in gaming, where resolution and responsiveness of VR is a moving target. A bigger box will always yield a superior experience. Which is why people will prefer having a cable – connected to a bigger game box that gives them a way more kick ass experience, than having a self-contained device that runs 10-year-old looking graphics and laggy response times. Again – this device is not VR. This device is only a peripheral that serves it up. Advertising can exist in the software – and if you, Mark, really have a vision for how Facebook can be enhanced by VR, you should have started making that software – WITHOUT ever having to buy this device.

Long pause.

ZUCK: But it’s FUCKING COOL MIKE! NOW WE’LL BE COOL AGAIN, MAN! DON’T YOU GUYS GET IT?  See YOU’RE OLD, and I’M YOUNG!  I HAVE a vision man! I’m gonna hang them all over the place! Sheryl!!!

SHERYL: (finishes a huge line of coke) uhf! Yeah? (closes eyes) Oh Shit.

ZUCK: Everywhere I like to chill with my board homies – I want to see these badasses hung all over the walls – decorate the fuck out of HQ Sharon. Shit this is going to be the coolest batch-eh-lor pad in da world holmes! OCULUS RIFT WALLPAPER BABY!

CFO DAVID: Mark…

ZUCK: And YOU! You don’t even get one David. You either, Mike! ‘Cause you’re totally blowing my high, bitches. (Snorts another line of coke) FUCK! I LOVE BUYING SHIT FOR BILLIONS! DON’T YOU JUST FUCKING LOVE BUYING SHIT FOR BILLIONS?? FUCK!   C’mon Sheryl, I’m hungry, Let’s go buy In-N-Out Burger and Coke.

-Scene end.

WhatsApp: One More Turn of Facebook’s Very Expensive Treadmill

19 Billion is a big number. Dr.Evil big. And like Instagram before it, the WhatsApp acquisition belies Facebook’s utter desperation for relevance, and in contrast to pundits’ breathless projections, signals a likely end to Facebook’s mobile survival.

If you don’t work for Facebook, and you’re not invested in it, you are probably comfortable considering the obvious signs that the Facebook social network has been revealing a lack of relevance.

As Facebook’s users age, and become associatively uncool, the network has become less a place where young, influential, upwardly-mobile users go to “hang out”, and more a place where they “reconnect”, get updates on high school reunions, and share the occasional cute cat picture with grandparents.

Facebook made sense in a web-browser universe, back when digital social connections were still new, few, and cumbersome. But users don’t live in that world anymore, and have increasingly numerous and convenient options for connecting. This has forced Facebook scrambling to find relevance. Literally breaking itself into digestible mobile parts only to find themselves competing with a million other apps with similar attributes.

And it’s exactly this desperate scramble that has Facebook blowing 20 billion dollars on 2 mobile apps.

Mobile is… a perfect storm – one specifically designed to remove dominant players from power.

Yes, I’ve seen the amazing numbers and projections. Every investor has a slightly wide-eyed, positive spin on the Whatsapp deal, lining trajectories of popular mobile apps next to the web’s old guard. But I’m still shaking my head, certain the cards are not stacked in Facebook’s favor. Not because the current numbers aren’t impressive, but because those numbers exist in the eye of a hurricane. Those numbers only make sense so long as the landscape remains recognizable, the natural laws consistent. So long as we don’t acknowledge the inevitability of exponentially disruptive players.

The mobile world is fundamentally different than the one Facebook was born into. The metabolism of business is rapidly increasing before our eyes. There are dominant and unpredictable forces swirling around every business today – let alone those that exist solely on objects of convenience, like mobile apps.

The democratization of development and distribution makes the mobile app ecosystem a whole new world. Never before in history have there been so many competing software developers with so much power to utterly disrupt. The distance between market dominance and failure is now one person, and a day.

Add to this that the very existence of an app store as the portal of distribution, concentrates attention on the value of new discoveries. On trying new apps that might be better than, say, whatever you use today. Face it, app stores are like news outlets; old news isn’t good for business.

Face it, app stores are like news outlets; old news isn’t good for business.

And here you have a perfect storm – one specifically designed to remove dominant players from power. Once you’ve enjoyed a run, the entire ecosystem is optimized to make room for the next thing.

Take the case of Dong Nguyen, a developer in Vietnam who created FlappyBird. In a few days. Single-handedly. One guy. Unpredictably it quickly became the most downloaded game in the iOS app store, and the Android version, released later, was catching up. Was that predictable? Did Rovio or King see that upset coming? How many people stopped playing Angry Birds to addictively play Flappy Bird? Lucky for them Nguyen inconceivably pulled the app from both platforms. A virtual get out of jail free card for every other contender. But see, it was predictable. Because this is the very nature of the mobile app landscape.

Facebook’s 19 Billion dollar deal does not appear to take into account the high likelihood – the inevitability rather – that some deceivingly simple upstart app, like WhatsApp and Instagram before it, will come along and do something different, better, cooler. Just enough that it gets attention, gets downloaded, spreads, and eclipses or replaces the old ones.

Mobile apps are not platforms, they are disposable instances, they are trends. The sturdy limitations that held Microsoft Office in place for so long do not exist here. Nor are the ones that have continued to keep Facebook warm on the web. Every popular 3rd party mobile app is destined to face an unprecedented, massive and relentless onslaught of unpredictable new ideas from divergent competition.

I’m not sure how many multi-Billion dollar app acquisitions Facebook is prepared to close over the next 5-7 years, but I can tell you with absolute certainty that WhatsApp is far from the last app acquisition Facebook will have to make to retain a position of relevance in mobile users’ lives. Far from it. If indeed sheer acquisition of disruptive apps is to remain the sole successful basis of Facebook’s mobile strategy – they’re on a very expensive treadmill.