Facebook’s goal is to connect with everyone, yes every single person in the world. Not just that, but Facebook wants to connect to everyone at all times, in every waking moment. Facebook envisions a future where you will always be engaging with some part of the Facebook ecosystem, whether it’s on its mega social platform at Facebook, using it’s search engine, messaging a business associate or communicating on video or via a virtual reality environment.
But first lets talk business.
“I often talk about how when we develop new products we think about it in three phases, said Zuckerberg. “First, building a consumer use case. Then, second, making it so that people can organically interact with businesses. And then third, on top of that, once there’s a large volume of people interacting with businesses, give businesses tools to reach more people and pay. And that’s ultimately the business opportunity.”
During the earnings call yesterday, Mark Zuckerberg opened the curtain into Facebook’s plans, strategies and dreams for the future. He first provided the latest metrics illustrating Facebook’s continued success, 1.7 billion people now use Facebook every month, and 1.1 billion people use it every day. He said that Facebook revenue grew by 59% year-over year to $6.4 billion, and advertising revenue was up 63% to $6.2 billion.
Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook said that Q2 ad revenue grew 63% and mobile ad revenue hit $5.2 billion, up 81% year-over-year, and was approximately 84% of total ad revenue. Facebook is now truly a mobile app rather than a desktop experience for the vast majority of its users.
Zuckerberg said that they continue to see excellent growth and over the past year Facebook has added over 200 million people using Facebook on a monthly basis. Time spent per person increased double digit percentages year-over-year across Facebook, Instagram and Messenger. And that doesn’t even include WhatsApp yet.
Facebook is still growing rapidly and that’s because it has continued to evolve. It’s evolution has happened because of increased bandwidth, technological advancements, acquisitions of new platforms like WhatsApp and Instagram and most importantly continuing to be on the cutting edge of what people want in a social network. All of this while simultaneously building a successful business model that pays for this evolution.
What’s really interesting however, is how Zuckerberg sees Facebook transforming in the future. “Our results show our progress as we work to make the world more open and connected across our three-, five- and ten-year horizons,” he said. “Over the next three years we are focused on continuing to build our community and help people share more of what matters to them. The next five years are about building our newer products into full ecosystems with developers and businesses. And over the next ten years we are working to build new technologies to help everyone connect in new ways.”
Facebook is seeking to be the world’s business platform, not just the peoples. More on this below in the Search section on a Facebook future where it is competing with LinkedIn.
“We’re excited to announce that we now have 60 million monthly active business Pages on Facebook,” said Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. “We also continue to grow the number of active advertisers on our platform. This shows that both our free and paid products are providing value to marketers of all sizes around the world. We continue to focus on our three priorities — capitalizing on the shift to mobile, growing the number of marketers using our ad products, and making our ads more relevant and effective.”
Trust me, this is just the beginning of Facebook’s morphing into both a personal and business platform in the future.
The Future of Facebook is Video
Facebook used to be mostly text and over the years they changed to be photo centric, with many people using Facebook as their family photo album. People still do that but Zuckerberg envisions a huge change coming. “We see a world that is video first, with video at the heart of all of our apps and services.”
“Over the past six months we have been particularly focused on Live video. Live represents a new way to share what’s happening in more immediate and creative ways,” Zuckerberg said. “This quarter Candace Payne’s Chewbacca mask video was viewed almost 160 million times. Live is also changing the way we see politics, as news organizations and delegates go Live from the Republican and Democratic conventions. And we have seen in Minnesota and Dallas how Live can shine a light on important moments as they happen.”
At Fortune‘s Most Powerful Women International Summit in London, Nicola Mendelsohn, VP EMEA at Facebook, predicted that the Facebook newsfeed will be all video in 5 years. “It will definitely be mobile. It will probably be all video,” Mendelsohn said. “I just think if we look, we already are seeing a year on year decline in text. We’re seeing a massive increase as I’ve said on both pictures and video. So yeah, if I was having a bet, I would say video, video, video.”
“When you think about what’s happening on video on our platform we’re really excited by the production and consumption of video and we’re seeing the full range from people posting the things in their personal lives; the power of what a mobile phone can produce and distribute now is pretty incredible when you compare it to just a few years ago to some of the most sophisticated content producers in the world producing for us,” added Sandberg.
Facebook Focuses on Search
Facebook is moving into the search space aggressively, definitely to help it compete with Twitter and perhaps even Google in the future. Facebook launched true keyword search in late 2014 that allows users to search not just profile names or just your friends posts, but also everyone’s public posts. And, if you didn’t know, all postings default at public, which means that anyone can search for your posts.
The first goal for Facebook with search is to become more like Twitter, where people post their thoughts, feelings and most importantly news reports, especially the on-the-scene kind. When the next plane lands in the Hudson, Facebook wants the survivor standing on the wing to use their platform to post about this breaking news, not Twitter. More precisely, Facebook wants you to use Facebook Live to stream your personalized live news coverage.
“We’re making good progress on core services within the Facebook app, like Search,” Zuckerberg stated. “A growing way people use search is to find what people are saying about a topic across the more than 2.5 trillion posts in our network. Now, people are doing more than 2 billion searches a day, between looking up people, businesses and other things that they care about. Continuous, steady improvement to services like search are an important part of helping people connect and realizing our mission.”
He also said this in minimizing their true plans, in my opinion.
So I’d say we’re around the second phase of that in search now. We have a pretty big navigational use case where people look up people and pages and groups that they want to get to and look at and search. One of the big growing use cases that we’re investing a lot in is looking up the content in the ecosystem and that is an area that we’re very excited about which helps people find more content.
But certainly there’s a reasonable amount of behavior in there which is looking for things that over time could be monetizeable or commercial intense and at some point we will probably want to work on that but we’re still in the phase of just making it easier for people to find all the content they want and connect with businesses organically.
But what’s their next goal? Facebook has certainly focused on the business use of their platform as they continue to look for monetization opportunities. My guess is that Facebook will seek to compete with LinkedIn as the business platform of record.
Over the last few years LinkedIn has certainly moved from a glorified directory of business professionals to a platform for business related news, conversation and connection. Facebook has the platform but would need to figure out how to easily separate family life from business life, which could be done rather easily. With Microsoft buying LinkedIn, Facebook will be highly motivated to compete.
Next up for Facebook Search would be to compete with Google. Why… you ask? Because Google has a market cap of $520 billion, with the majority of that credited to its search business, while Facebook has a market cap of $362 billion. More importantly, it’s about revenue and profit. In 2015, Google had $75 billion in revenue and $16 billion in net income while Facebook had $17 billion in revenue and $3.6 billion in net income.
Google tried to compete with Facebook with Google+ and it failed miserably, but that’s because it’s harder to get people to change their social habits than it is their search habits. You don’t need your friends to use Facebook Search in order for you to find it useful, but you definitely need your friends to move to a new social platform to make it work for you. That was Google’s dilemma, but it won’t be Facebook’s.
“Since it refocused on keywords, Facebook is now seeing 2 billion searches per day of its 2.5 trillion posts,” stated TechCrunch writer Josh Constine. “That’s compared to 1.5 billion searches per day in July 2015, and 1 billion in September 2012. That’s a 33% climb in just 9 months.”
That’s lets than half a reported 3.5 billion searches per day on Google. The difference is that Google’s searches are monitizable, while Facebook searches, not so much. However, this must scare the heck out of Google because it shows how ingrained people are to use Facebook for search. Therefore, over time I predict that Facebook will add web indexing to it’s search engine. They already have 3.5 billion searches, why not open up search to everything and in the process open up a huge monetization opportunity.
One other prediction, Facebook will disconnect its search app from just Facebook.com, just like they did Messenger. Then, voilà, Facebook is competing with Google.
Making Instagram Stronger
Instagram was purchased by Facebook for $1 billion while it was just getting off the ground. It is now center to its plans on connecting with everyone in the world on a constant always on basis. That’s why Instagram is so important to Facebook, it has a foothold with younger people and its active user base is not a clone of Facebook’s, so it expands the corporate Facebook’s universe of connectivity and engagement.
“Over the next five years we are working hard to build ecosystems around some of our newer products,” said Zuckerberg. “Instagram now has more than 500 million monthly actives, with more than 300 million daily. Now we’re working to make the experience more engaging.”
He said that when Instagram, despite user pushback, began to rank its feed in order to improve the experience, that they are already seeing a “positive impact” with people spending more time and share more content within the platform.
As always, business is important to Zuckerberg as well. “We’ve also introduced our advertising tools on Instagram and we’re seeing marketers engage with people in creative and innovative ways.”
Messaging with Messenger & WhatsApp
“In the two years since we separated Messenger from the main Facebook app — which was a controversial decision at the time — we’ve improved performance and given people new ways to express themselves,” commented Zuckerberg. “Now, for the first time, more than 1 billion people are using Messenger every month.”
Facebook sees a huge opportunity with messaging because it moves them closer to their goal of connecting everyone on a constant always on basis. That’s why they paid $22 billion for WhatsApp, which is a service that barely had a business model.
“I’m also happy with the updates we’re making to WhatsApp — which also has a community of more than 1 billion people,” said Zuckerberg. “This quarter we launched new desktop apps and end-to-end encryption, and millions of people are using WhatsApp’s voice calling features.”
Facebook has big plans for messaging because not only does it help them bring even more people into Facebook’s universe, but it moves them into the business space, where Facebook desperately wants to be, because that’s where the money is.
“The scale we’ve achieved with our messaging services makes it clear that they are more than just a way to chat with friends,” Zuckerberg noted. “That’s why we’re also making it easier for people to connect with groups and businesses as well. We are going to keep focusing on this over the next several years.”
Facebook owned messaging has now taken over standard text messaging according to Zuckerberg.
“Between Messenger and WhatsApp I think we’re around 60 billion messages a day which is something like three times more than the peak of global SMS traffic.”
It’s incredible to think that Facebook now owns the messaging space. Who would have thought that 3 years ago?
“I’m also excited about the early progress we’re making on our 10-year initiatives. We are investing in new technologies to give more people a voice — including the 4 billion people around the world who aren’t yet online — and helping more people take advantage of the opportunities that come with the internet.”
Facebook is seeking to connect everyone in the world, regardless of any obstacle. It’s a long term plan, but Facebook is on it.
“One of the biggest opportunities to grow our community is in developing countries where connectivity is less advanced than what we take for granted here at home,” Zuckerberg said. “So over the past couple of years, we’ve began making steady improvements to our apps to make them work regardless of the device or connection people are using. We also built a light-weight version of our Android app, called Facebook Lite, that is tuned to work on 2G networks and is now used by more than 100 million people.”
Virtual reality is another huge area of investment for Facebook, especially with their $2 billion purchase of Oculus. They see VR as an extension of connecting and sharing. Know one really knows the future of VR, but it will be deeply engrained in advertising in the future and since all of Facebook’s revenue comes from advertising, they need to be in this space.
“We believe that virtual reality can help people share richer experiences and help everyone understand what’s going on around the world,” said Zuckerberg. “It’s really early for us in VR but we’re hitting some important milestones. As of the second quarter more than 1 million people a month are using Oculus on mobile phones through our Gear VR 4partnership with Samsung.”
Zuckerberg also commented on the potential revenue importance of their investment in VR:
“More than 300 apps are already available at the Oculus store for Gear VR, we’ve filled all of our pre-orders for Oculus Rift and we are seeing increasing demand from retail as stores plan for the holidays. While it’s still early for augmented reality, we’re doing AR research and are seeing lightweight versions of AR technology today in mobile apps like MSQRD.”
Facebook is Just Getting Started
“So that’s a recap of the progress we’re making in our 10 year plan,” said Zuckerberg. “We have a saying at Facebook that our journey is only 1% done — and while I’m happy with our progress, we have a lot more work to do to grow our community and connect the whole world. That means making big investments and taking risks — focusing not just on what Facebook is, but on what it can be.”