Controversies aside, Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg has always known how to leave a mark wherever he treads. The man might be a magnet for corporate drama, but he always knows how to make an impression.
His magnum opus, Facebook, is no different. Launched in 2004 on the foundations of a good idea, talent, hard work and a whole lot of controversy, it has now become a mainstay of modern life. However, Zuckerberg’s ambitions have never stopped there.
In fact, Facebook has been aggressively investing in new ventures and sectors, expanding its reach.
Here are 5 ways Facebook is diversifying its business.
One of Facebook’s most publicized acquisitions of recent years involves Oculus VR, the virtual reality startup that was heavily investing in the sector and pushing VR and gaming to new heights. Bought in 2014 for $2 billion, the purchase came hot on the heels of Facebook also buying instant messaging company WhatsApp,
Facebook’s primary source of revenue has always been its users’ data, amassing and utilizing it to maximize ad dollars. After all, market research firm Valuate Reports forecasts that the global VR headsets market size is projected to reach $19.8 Billion by 2026, from $6.8 Billion in 2020, at a CAGR of 19.5% during 2020-2026.
VR has great potential to finally break into the mainstream once the technology becomes more affordable and optimized, and Facebook wants to be there when that happens.
While not on par with its Big Tech rivals in terms of AI investments, Facebook has been ramping up its investments in the field to complement its existing products and services, like its Oculus VR headsets and programmatic advertising on its social media platform, as well as to offer new solutions such as its own personal assistant.
In recent years, it has purchased many companies to power its AI vision. These include Scape Technologies, the London-based computer vision startup working on location accuracy beyond the capabilities of GPS, natural language processing (NLP) startup Bloosbury AI, and machine learning startup Deeptide Ltd.
Facebook created a lot of chatter in the tech and finance sectors when it announced it was developing its own cryptocurrency last year, dubbed Libra. Unlike a decentralized digital currency like Bitcoin, Libra will be “backed by a reserve of real-world assets, including bank deposits and short-term government securities, and held by a network of custodians,” Reuters reported at the time.
Users would store their Libra currency in a Calibra wallet which will be accessible from the Facebook, Messenger, WhatsApp, and Instagram apps.
Originally advertised as a solution for the world’s unbanked, it had big-name backers such as PayPal, Mastercard, Visa and eBay, but many of these have since abandoned the project due to the regulatory scrutiny Facebook has been under in recent months.
Since then, a new version of the Libra, dubbed Libra 2.0, was put forward in a new whitepaper to appease concerns from financial institutions and regulators. This version has a much higher chance of going forward and gaining official approval.
Back in May, Facebook revealed “Shops,” a digital storefront feature that represents Facebook’s first real push into e-commerce, after having dabbled with it through its Marketplace feature and Instagram’s Checkout feature where users are able to buy featured products directly from the app.
With Shops, Facebook and Instagram users can create free storefronts where they can sell their goods directly to consumers, a significant step ahead of existing options. Marketplace has long been an afterthought, a glorified Craigslist in a sense, though Instagram’s purchase features have been much more successful in recent years, particularly with small businesses and influencers.
“Facebook Shops is a mobile-first shopping experience where businesses can easily create an online store on Facebook and Instagram for free,” Facebook explained. “Shops let you choose which of your items you want to feature, merchandise with product collections and tell your brand story with customisable fonts and colours. In Facebook Shops, you’ll be able to connect with customers through WhatsApp, Messenger or Instagram Direct to answer questions, offer support and more.”
5. Internet connectivity
Like Google and Amazon, Facebook is also dabbling with its own internet services. With its project internet.org, it wanted to connect the entire world through a network of satellites and drones. It was visioned to bring less developed countries access to the internet.
In reality, the project was met with significant backlash, as many had doubted Facebook’s true intention with the project, and wondered how their notoriety for harvesting and monetizing user data would come into play here. Many even feared that net neutrality would be at risk. It was even banned in India in 2016 for this very same concern.
Revealed in 2013, Zuckerberg had said the project should be possible within five to 10 years. So far, not much progress has been made, at least publicly. There are even doubts the project will continue at all at this point.