But YouTube leads on mobile
Netflix now accounts for more than a third of all downstream Internet traffic during peak evening hours in North America, according to research firm Sandvine.
Netflix’s share of traffic during the second half of 2014 rose to 34.89%, up from 34.21% in the first half of the year, Sandvine found in its biannual report. The figure is the highest for Netflix in Sandvine’s publicly available data since 2011. The streaming service has long dominated downstream Internet usage — a point that’s sparked battles between it and Internet Service Providers like Comcast and Verizon, which have argued Netflix should pay up for the bandwidth it uses.
While Netflix’s share inched up slightly, other tech companies also made gains. Facebook, which has been pushing video heavily this year, saw its traffic share increase from 1.99% to 2.98%. Amazon Video, Netflix’s most direct competitor, rose from a share of 1.9% to 2.58%. YouTube’s share also increased, rising from 13.19% to 14.09%. These gains in traffic came at the expense of iTunes and bitTorrent, which both had their shares dip below 3%.
These figures don’t account for Internet connections made via cellular data networks on mobile devices. On that front, YouTube is the leader with a 19.75% share, and Facebook is right behind it with a 19.05% share.
Can Facebook make a popular standalone app?
Facebook has a good track record of pulling off big things. One-sixth of the world’s population is on the social media platform, which, by the way, is also developing laser-based Internet to connect the rest of the humanity while its CEO finds time to pick up Mandarin Chinese.
But if there’s one project that’s stumped the company, it’s the very thing that made Facebook what it is today: Creating the Next Big Thing, particularly in the form of a new mobile app. Facebook has recently released several apps separate from its primary offering, hoping one will be a hit. Its most recent attempt, Groups, takes the social media platform’s group messaging feature and spins it off into a separate mobile app. Before Groups arrived on Tuesday, there was Rooms, an anonymous chatroom app, Slingshot, a Snapchat-style disappearing messages app, Paper, a Facebook app redesigned for mobile devices and a much-mocked “Facebook for celebrities.”
Rooms and Slingshot are standouts because they’re the company’s first attempts at designing a completely new app outside its core platform. And while Slingshot feels very much like a Snapchat clone, Rooms, with its focus on old-school online chatting’s anonymity, is curiously distant from Facebook’s real-life focus. That makes it special among other apps from Facebook Creative Labs, a Facebook initiative that seeks to create new platforms to “support the diverse ways people want to connect and share.”
While the Facebook Creative Labs’ mission statement doesn’t say anything about building mainstream ways to connect, making popular apps seems an implied goal of a company that wants to be as much of a daily presence as running water. However, most of Facebook’s standalone apps have seen their rankings nosedive since their debuts, according to data from business intelligence firm App Annie. (Groups is still too new to track.)
Facebook does have a proven, if unpopular, way to get people to download its standalone apps — it can force them to do so. Several months ago, Facebook removed the messaging feature from its primary mobile app, telling users to go download the separate Messenger app instead if they wanted to keep privately messaging their Facebook friends. Messenger quickly climbed to the top of the app rankings and mostly remained there, despite poor reviews from users upset over the split.
But Facebook, like other social media companies, has shown it has another option, too: Finding successful apps outside the company’s walls and snatching them up in big-money acquisitions. Facebook’s desire to capture top-notch, widely-embraced apps — and keep them out of rivals’ hands — helps explain why the company paid nearly $1 billion for photo-sharing app Instagram and a jaw-dropping $19 billion for the WhatsApp messaging app, with both deals involving a mixture of cash and Facebook stock.
Whether Facebook can ever come up with a new mobile app that people really love — or if it should even bother trying — is an open question. But that clearly hasn’t stopped Facebook from trying to think up the “next Snapchat,” even if some of its attempts, like the now-extinct Poke and Camera, have totally flopped. As CEO Mark Zuckerberg said himself, the failure of new products has been “humbling.” As a company on top of its own particular mountain, Facebook can afford to learn by trial and error. So until it adds one of its own creations to its portfolio of big-name apps, expect it to keep trying.
The drivers want higher wages and better shifts
Facebook’s shuttle-bus drivers voted to unionize on Wednesday in an effort to secure higher wages and better shifts.
The drivers voted to join the Teamsters union by a margin of 43 to 28, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Leaders of the union’s Northern California chapter — Teamsters Local 853 — said that the drivers want better pay and changes to the current shift system, which has them working two three-hour shifts in the morning and evening with a six-hour gap in between.
Facebook’s shuttles, operated by a company called Loop Transportation, ferry the tech giant’s employees from San Francisco and other areas to its headquarters in Menlo Park.
Loop issued a statement accepting their drivers’ wishes. “Even though we don’t feel that our drivers’ interests are best served by union representation, our drivers have spoken and we will now begin the negotiation process,” the statement said.
Facebook reportedly declined to comment.
Enterprise software is indeed a very lucrative space, but the time, energy, and development resources that it would require for Facebook to meaningfully challenge are simply too high.
This isn’t the first time, and it might not be the last. Dominant social network Facebook FACEBOOK INC. FB 0.2038% is reportedly looking to challenge LinkedIn LINKEDIN CORP. LNKD -0.5493% in the enterprise segment, among others. The Financial Times reported that the social kingpin is developing a new “Facebook at Work” site geared toward corporate settings.
The service is said to feature ways to communicate with colleagues, connect with other professionals, and collaborate on documents. Personal profiles and professional profiles would be segregated for the sake of privacy, and would be free initially. Beyond LinkedIn, this service means Facebook would compete with other large enterprise software makers like Google GOOGLE INC. GOOG 0.4992% and Microsoft , as well as start-ups such as Slack.
Does Facebook have a chance? Let’s look at all of these areas where Facebook wants to make a dent.
Helping people make professional connections is LinkedIn’s claim to fame, and the company has established an incredibly strong business in connecting recruiters with job candidates. Before even considering monetization methods, Facebook is a much larger overall network, which means it has a shot at growing its position here.
At last count, Facebook boasted 1.35 billion monthly active users, or MAUs, worldwide. That’s over four times LinkedIn’s count of 331 million registered members. Of that total, 89.7 million members log in on a monthly basis. LinkedIn reports these as unique visiting members, but in practice they are the same as MAUs for the sake of comparison.
“Facebook at Work” is unlikely to tap into Facebook’s entire network, since its rollout is still speculative and would likely be on a small scale. Still, there’s definitely some long-term potential here if Facebook builds out the rumored service, and eventually integrates it with its broader network.
Communicating with colleagues
Microsoft Exchange is the dominant player in enterprise email, but a slew of popular chat applications are also used in the workplace. Slack has been skyrocketing in popularity recently, and is now one of the fastest-growing enterprise software applications ever.
The key to Slack’s success is the ability to integrate with a plethora of third-party services that are already popular within the enterprise segment, creating a platform out of the enterprise messaging service. Slack also has powerful search features to help workers find what they’re looking for. The start-up’s blistering growth has already attracted the attention of high-profile venture capitalists. Slack recently raised $120 million at a $1.1 billion valuation.
In general, messaging is becoming an increasingly competitive arena. Facebook has both Messenger and WhatsApp under its blue belt, so the company undoubtedly has plenty of experience with developing messaging products and services. Facebook might have some strength in consumer-oriented messaging, but it seemingly lacks the deep integrations that rival services like Slack can offer.
Playing well with others
On the collaboration front, Microsoft acquired Yammer in 2012 for $1.2 billion. Yammer is a private social network that integrates with collaboration software and business applications, and is now part of Office 365. Yammer is a big part of Microsoft’s strategy with collaboration software as it transitions away from SharePoint.
Microsoft also recently partnered with Dropbox. By integrating the other’s services, Microsoft and Dropbox will bolster the collaborative features that are critical to each company’s enterprise customers. Google Apps for Business has also been winning customers from Microsoft for years, becoming a notable player in the collaboration space in the process.
This is easily the most important area of enterprise software, since employee collaboration is so critical to productivity. This is also where Facebook likely brings the least to the table. Current providers of collaborative tools offer comprehensive feature sets and have become very entrenched in the enterprise. Facebook will face a steep uphill battle in this area.
We don’t know what we don’t know
To be fair, not much is known about “Facebook at Work.” The company reportedly uses the product internally, and only began testing it at other companies within the past year or so.
Facebook’s current portfolio of consumer offerings might not be representative of what it hopes to offer the enterprise space. However, it’s hard to imagine the company could develop a full-featured offering that spans all of these areas in under a year when incumbents have spent many more years specializing and catering to these precise needs.
On top of that, Facebook is predominantly associated with personal social networking. The ability to separate personal and professional activity might be an attempt to blur the line, but consumer connotations aren’t easily shifted. Besides, aren’t Facebook’s privacy settings cumbersome enough already?
Shares of LinkedIn fell 5% of the news that Facebook could be developing a competing service, so it seems there is indeed some investor concern. However, history doesn’t inspire much confidence in Facebook’s professional abilities, which should downplay these fears.
Facebook acqui-hired job-search site Pursuit in 2011, but hasn’t done much in the job listing space that LinkedIn is disrupting. Third-party professional networking service BranchOut attempted to carve out a niche within Facebook as a free application (casually known as the “LinkedIn within Facebook”), but failed spectacularly and is now trying to sell itself.
The risk is that Facebook could become distracted by its pursuit of the enterprise segment, rather than focus on key business developments, notably building out the infrastructure for video ads or determining some type of monetization strategy for WhatsApp.
As an investor, I do like when Facebook takes calculated risks, such as Paper or Home, even if they fail. But those were inherently low risks with high potential rewards. Enterprise software is indeed a very lucrative space, but the time, energy, and development resources that it would require for Facebook to meaningfully challenge are simply too high.
But don't worry — Groups will still be accessible from the main Facebook app
The Groups app was built “with the people who use Groups the most in mind,” such as those who use it communicate with coworkers, fellow students or distant friends, according to Facebook’s press release.
The Groups app features a list of user’s Groups on a single screen, in addition to a notifications page providing updates on what’s going on throughout all of a user’s groups. There’s also a discovery feature to suggest groups of interest based on a user’s likes or friends.
Unlike Facebook Messenger, which Facebook moved entirely to a standalone app, the Groups function will still be available in the main Facebook app. All told, the Groups app appears similar to WhatsApp, a group messaging app that Facebook purchased in October in a deal worth about $19 billion.
The Groups app is a product of Facebook Creative Labs, a Facebook initiative to designs apps that facilitate new ways of communication. Facebook has also recently released standalone apps for chatting anonymously and for sending self-destructing messages.
Groups is now available for free download on iPhone and Android devices.
New feature makes it harder for law enforcement to access contents
The latest update to the WhatsApp messaging service announced Tuesday includes end-to-end encryption by default, which means the content of a message is only decrypted and readable when it reaches its recipient. Encrypted texts via the TextSecure protocol will now be nearly impossible for law enforcement officials or WhatsApp to access.
The new feature was created using open-source code created by the development community at Open Whisper Systems. For now the feature is only available on Android devices, but in a blog post Open Whisper Systems says it plans to expand to other mobile platforms. The encryption only applies to basic texts right now, and group messages and photo messages don’t get the extra security boost.
The new encryption protocol backs up WhatsApp’s longstanding mantra of valuing people’s security over access to users’ data. CEO Jan Koum famously wrote a missive against using data mining to serve ads on social networks years before selling the company to Facebook for about $22 billion.
Big changes are afoot for the likes of Twitter, Facebook and others
This year started with a death sentence for Facebook. In January, a research company called Global Web Index published a study showing that Facebook had lost nearly one-third of its U.S. teen users in the last year. Headlines pronounced the network “dead and buried.”
Fast forward to the present and Facebook is reporting record growth. The company earned $2.96 billion in ad revenue in the third quarter of 2013, up 64 percent from just a year ago. More impressively, the network has added more than 100 million monthly active users in the last year.
All of which goes to show how difficult it can be to predict the future of social media. With that caveat in mind, here’s a look into the crystal ball at five ways social media will (likely) evolve in 2015.
Your social network wants to be your wallet
Hacks released in October show a hidden payment feature deep inside Facebook’s popular Messenger app. If activated by the company, it will allow the app’s 200 million users to send money to each other using just debit card information, free of charge. Meanwhile, the network has also already rolled out a new Autofill feature (a kind of Facebook Connect for credit cards), which allows users who save their credit card info on Facebook to check out with 450,000 e-commerce merchants across the web.
So why does Facebook want to handle your money in 2015? Right now, some of tech’s biggest players are battling it out in the mobile payments space, including Apple with its new Apple Pay app, upstarts like Square and Stripe and even online payments veterans like PayPal. The endgame at this stage isn’t exactly clear. Facebook may eventually charge for its money transfer services, leverage customer purchasing data to pull in more advertisers or even try to rival traditional credit cards like Visa and Mastercard (which make billions on fees). One thing’s for sure: You can expect to see major social networks jockeying more aggressively to handle your transactions in 2015.
New networks proliferate, but will they last?
2014 saw the rise of a number of niche social networks, many built specifically in response to the perceived failings of the big boys: the lack of privacy, the collection of demographic and psychographic data, the increasingly pervasive advertising. Newcomers range from Ello, which launched in March with promises to never sell user data, to Yik Yak, which allows users to exchange fully anonymous posts with people who are physically nearby, and tsu, which has promised to share ad revenue with users based on the popularity of their posts.
Will these networks grow and stick around? New social platforms that try to replicate the Facebook experience while promising, for instance, fewer ads or more privacy, have the odds seriously stacked against them. The biggest challenge – one that even Google+ has struggled with – is attracting a sufficient userbase so the network doesn’t feel like a ghost town compared to Facebook’s thriving 1.3-billion-user global community.
On the other hand, new networks that map onto strong existing communities or interests (interest-based networks, as opposed to Facebook-style people-based networks) have a much better chance. In fact, thousands of these networks are already thriving below the radar, from dedicated sites for cooks and chefs like Foodie to sites for fitness junkies like Fitocracy.
Shopping finally comes to social media
Earlier this year, both Twitter and Facebook began beta-testing “buy” buttons, which appear alongside certain tweets and posts and allows users to make purchases with just a click or two, without ever leaving the network. Expect e-commerce and social media integrations to deepen in 2015. In fact, it’s a little surprising it’s taken so long.
For starters, this approach eliminates one key dilemma all merchants face – how to get customers in the door (or to your website). On Facebook and Twitter, you’ve already got a receptive audience, happily chatting with friends, browsing the latest trends, sharing photos and videos, etc. Once their payment details are on file, purchases are a tap or two away. Then it’s back to cat GIFs and updates on weekend plans.
In addition, since Facebook and especially Twitter are real-time media, they’re perfect for short-term deals tied in with fleeting trends. With time-sensitive offers literally streaming by, consumers may well be inclined to act quickly and seal the deal, forgoing the obsessive comparison shopping that characterizes lots of Internet transactions.
Finally, there are major benefits to advertisers. Connecting individual Tweets and Facebook posts with actual purchases has thus far proved a huge analytical challenge. But with the advent of buy buttons, concrete revenue figures can be attached to specific social media messages in a way that hasn’t been possible until now.
Smart devices get more social
Cheap sensors have led to an explosion of smart devices. Everything from home appliances like thermostats, bathroom scales and refrigerators to wearables like fitness bracelets and smart watches are now collecting data and zapping it off wirelessly to the Internet. Lots of these devices are also pushing notifications to Facebook, Twitter and other networks, a trend that will continue in 2015. The question is: Is that a good thing? The prospect of growing legions of washing machines, smoke alarms and Nike FuelBands spitting out Facebook posts isn’t exactly something to get excited about.
The challenge in 2015 becomes how to more intelligently integrate the fast-growing Internet of Things with social media. In short, smart devices need to improve their social intelligence. This might start with tapping users’ social graph – their unique network of friends and followers – in better ways. A very simple example: a smart fridge that tracks your Facebook Events, sees you’re planning a party and how many people have RSVP’d and alerts you to make a beer run. By listening to social media in more sophisticated ways – tracking users’ activities and interactions with friends and followers, then responding accordingly – smart devices stand to get even smarter in the year ahead.
The illusion of social media privacy gives way to the real thing
2014 saw a number of anonymous and ephemeral social networks – Snapchat, Secret, Whisper, Yik Yak and Telegram, to name a few – surge in popularity. Not everyone wants every conversation over social media broadcast to the world, after all. At the same time, savvy users are increasingly aware – and concerned – about ways personal data is being collected and later sold to advertisers, manipulated in tests or accessed by government agencies.
The problem is that few of these “private” networks fulfill their mandates. Snapchat has been hacked, repeatedly, with hundreds of thousands of sensitive – supposedly disappearing – user photos posted on the Internet. And in October, it was revealed that the anonymous network Whisper was actually saving users’ posts and locations and compiling this information in a searchable database. As Venture Beat points out, real anonymity and privacy on the Internet is extremely difficult to achieve. While it’s easy to make promises, it’s nearly impossible to deliver.
But demand for anonymous social media will only get bigger in 2015. In fact, there are signs that even the major players are beginning to acknowledge the issue. In October, Facebook rolled out its new chat app Rooms, which allows users to create chat rooms around shared interests, with no requirement to reveal name or location. Meanwhile in November, Facebook became the first Silicon Valley tech giant to provide official support for Tor, the powerful, open-source anonymizing service – popular among journalists, political dissidents and law enforcement – that allows users to conceal their identity, location and browsing history.
Ryan Holmes is CEO of Hootsuite. Follow him @invoker
‘Facebook at Work’ would allow users to chat with colleagues, build catalogs of contacts and collaborate on documents –just like LinkedIn and Google Drive
Facebook is planning a new product aimed at professionals, in an effort to compete with Google Drive, LinkedIn and Microsoft Office (and maybe end the stigma of being seen as nothing more than a distraction at the workplace).
Citing people familiar with the matter, The Financial Times said the new ‘Facebook at Work’ would allow users to chat with colleagues, build catalogs of contacts and collaborate on documents–core functions of LinkedIn and Google Drive.
It said Facebook had begun testing the product with companies as its launch approaches, after more than a year of development.
The company will have some headwinds to work against: many employers ban its social network at the workplace due to concerns about lost productivity. It will also have to persuade corporate customers that it can be trusted with their data, after a series of damaging revelations about its policy towards user data in the past. And it will have to assuage concerns about polluting feeds with ads and other tools aimed at monetizing the service.
However, the rewards have the potential to be big: founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg estimated earlier this year that the company’s U.S. users spend a total of nine hours a day on digital media, but only 40 minutes of that on Facebook.
Paid ads are still fair game, however
Facebook will reduce the volume of promotional material that appears in users’ news feeds beginning early next year, the company announced Friday.
“Our goal with News Feed has always been to show people the things they want to see,” said a statement on the company’s site. “People told us they wanted to see more stories from friends and Pages they care about, and less promotional content.”
The effort will target promotional material posted by pages that a user likes, but not paid advertisements. The company said it would target three types of posts placed on the pages of companies and products: “posts that solely push people to buy a product or install an app,” “posts that push people to enter promotions and sweepstakes with no real context” and “posts that reuse the exact same content from ads.”
Facebook said that most pages will not be affected by the change, but provided a guide so that businesses with pages can adapt to the change. The move will force businesses to pay to reach Facebook’s 1.35 billion monthly active users and follows a previous News Feed tweak in September aimed at showing users more timely stories shared by their friends.