Turning inner space into outer space

November 1, 2014

Like it or not, Facebook owns the future

Mark Zuckerberg
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg

When Jian Ghomeshi was fired by the CBC, he turned to the most powerful medium of communication in the world to put out his side of the story.

Yes, I’m talking about Facebook.

Unfortunately for Ghomeshi, this was one of the few smart things he’s done recently. But that doesn’t take away from the force to be reckoned with that Facebook has become.

With more than a billion users and billions of dollars in profits, it is the envy of publishers great and small — whether in print or online. They gaze in awe of CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s endless ability to rake in massive amounts of advertising money while all they can hope for is a few crumbs from the table.

From the New York Times to Buzzfeed, editors spend their days trying to outguess the algorithms that push some stories to the top of Facebook feeds while others languish in obscurity. It can make the difference between getting a few clicks on a story and the swarm that comes when a post goes viral.

Zuckerberg loves having news stories on Facebook and he’s all too happy to play — er, help — publishers. So he and his minions have come up with what may be the ideal solution: ditch your website and publish entirely on Facebook.

David Carr of the New York Times outlines how this complete capitulation would work:

One possibility it mentioned was for publishers to simply send pages to Facebook that would live inside the social network’s mobile app and be hosted by its servers; that way, they would load quickly with ads that Facebook sells. The revenue would be shared.

He adds: “Media companies would essentially be serfs in a kingdom that Facebook owns.”

But what a kingdom! In third-quarter earnings results reported recently, the company posted $3.2 billion in revenue. Nearly $2 billion of that came from mobile advertising. Facebook has grown to more than 1.3 billion monthly active users.

And there’s more to come. Marcus Wohlsen, at Wired, foresees a world in which Facebook controls pretty much everything online.

Along with the news, video is also a big priority for the company. There are plans to compete with YouTube and one deal has already been made for a series of short films based on the Twilight franchise.

I’ve talked about Oculus Rift before, and I still see a big future for this artificial reality technology. Facebook bought it for $2 billion, but will wind up making billions in profits once this catches on with the public.

As Wohlsen points out, Zuckerberg isn’t interested in anything unless it numbers in the billions, whether it be users or dollars.

What do I think about a future for the news and entertainment where Facebook is busy behind the scenes pulling strings? Frankly, I find a bit creepy — although not nearly as creepy as Ghomeshi’s sexual preferences.