co-founder, Chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg
British Parliament published a trove of top-secret
executive emails on Wednesday.
hundreds of pages of documents provide an unprecedented window
into Facebook leadership’s approach to competition and growth.
the key takeaways from the documents below.
Parliament has just given the world an unprecedented look at the
ruthless tactics of Facebook’s executive team.
Wednesday, the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee
published leaked emails
from the Silicon Valley tech giant’s leadership team that had been
obtained by Six4Three, an app developer that’s locked in a legal
battle with Facebook after it blocked its bikini photo app.
are hundreds of pages of documents and emails, mostly dating from
between 2012 and 2015, that detail the way Facebook allowed
third-party apps to access friend data through its platform.
provide a unique window into how Facebook’s senior leaders privately
discussed strategy and competition at a period of intense growth for
the company, which has since been bogged down by numerous scandals and
flatlining user numbers in key markets.
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Facebook’s attempts to kneecap “strategic competitors” to CEO
writing that his company’s interests don’t always match up with what’s
best for the world, here are some of the key takeaways from the
Facebook had a list of “strategic competitors” that it restricted
personally oversaw a list of “strategic” competitors to the social
network, and decided whether to restrict them from accessing valuable
undated memo stated that companies considered to be “strategic
competitors” to Facebook were even more restricted in what they could
access. It added that Mark Zuckerberg personally reviewed the list of
competitors, and either he or another senior executive had to
personally sign off any further access to data these companies might
the eve of the publication of the documents, Facebook announced it was
relaxing restrictions on competitors’ apps in an apparent attempt to
get ahead of the news.
built our developer platform years ago to pave the way for innovation
in social apps and services. At that time we made the decision to
restrict apps built on top of our platform that replicated our core
functionality. These kind of restrictions are common across the tech
industry with different platforms having their own variant including
YouTube, Twitter, Snap and Apple.”
Zuckerberg personally approved Facebook’s decision to cut off social
network Vine’s data.
of the Facebook competitors Mark Zuckerberg played a personal role in
stamping on was video social network Vine.
an email dated January 24, 2013 (the day Vine launched on iOS) VP
Justin Osofsky proposed shutting down the new app’s access: “Twitter
launched Vine today which lets you shoot multiple short video segments
to make one single, 6-second video. As part of their NUX, you can find
friends via FB. Unless anyone raises objections, we will shut down
their friends API access today. We’ve prepared reactive PR, and I will
let Jana know our decision.”
responded: “Yup, go for it.”
Facebook tried to figure out how to grab users’ call data without
for user data, Facebook in 2015 explored trying to access Android
users’ call logs and SMS history to use to feed into features like
“People You May Know,” while acknowledging the risk of user anger.
“This is a pretty high-risk thing to do from a PR perspective nut it
appears that the growth eam will charge ahead and do it,” Michael
Kwon also said Facebook was looking into ways to grab call log data
without even asking users for permission: “Based on [the Growth
team’s] initial testing, it seems this would allow us to upgrade users
without subjecting them to an Android permissions dialog at all,” they
statement said: “This specific feature allows people to opt in to
giving Facebook access to their call and text messaging logs in
Facebook Lite and Messenger on Android devices. We use this
information to do things like make better suggestions for people to
call in Messenger and rank contact lists in Messenger and Facebook
Certain key apps were white-listed and given greater access to user
data even after a broader clampdown.
2015, Facebook made major changes to its app developer platform – but
a chosen few partners were “whitelisted,” meaning they got more access
to data than regular developers using Facebook’s platform. These
included Airbnb, Netflix, and Lyft.
Zuckerberg privately admitted that what’s good for the world isn’t
necessarily what’s good for Facebook.
third-party apps’ access to Facebook’s platform, the CEO talked about
how to try to ensure users shared content on Facebook, rather than
external platforms – even if it isn’t in the users’ best interests.
that may be good for the world but it’s not good for us unless people
also share back to Facebook and that content increases the value of
our network. So ultimately, I think the purpose of platform – even the
read side is to increase sharing back into Facebook,” he wrote.
Zuckerberg suggested users’ data was worth 10 cents a year.
has insisted that it has never sold user data – but one of the
revelations from the documents is that the company discussed the
possibility of charging for access to it.
one October 2012 email, Zuckerberg discussed a monetisation model that
would let developers use Facebook’s login tools or publish to Facebook
for free, but would charge for “reading” data.
much did he value his users at? Around 10 cents each, per year.
basic model could be: Login with Facebook is always free … Pushing
content to Facebook is always free … Reading anything, including
friends, costs a lot of money. Perhaps on the order of $US0.10/user
each year,” he wrote.
its response, Facebook said: “We explored multiple ways to build a
sustainable business with developers who were building apps that
were useful to people. But instead of requiring developers to buy
advertising – the option discussed in these cherrypicked emails – we
ultimately settled on a model where developers did not need to
purchase advertising to access APIs and we continued to provide the
developer platform for free.”
Execs discussed the single biggest threat to Facebook.
does Facebook consider its single biggest threat?
to an email written by exec Sam Lessin in 2012 addressed to
Zuckerberg, it’s not one rival site or app – it’s lots of them.
number one threat to Facebook is not another scale social network, it
is the fracturing of information / death by a thousand small vertical
apps which are loosely integrated together,” he wrote.
will either happen because there is fundamentally no ‘return’ on the
centralization of information / the [social] graph OR it will happen
because we sell off the graph piecemeal for less than it is worth and
in the process destroy efficiency and value.”