When Zuckerberg said that Facebook would have waited for a while before thinking of acquiring another company, after the $19 billion acquisition of Whatsapp, we all laughed because we knew that this was the right time for this company to expand and in particularly differentiate.
Zuckerberg is not aiming at 2 billion monthly active users, he wants the whole world and he’s target is set at 5 billion; which means that in order to reach everyone, he needs to bring the internet in places where people don’t even know what it is. That’s why he launched the controversial “nonprofit” campaign Internet.org, which is “is a global partnership between technology leaders, nonprofits, local communities and experts who are working together to bring the internet to the two thirds of the world’s population that doesn’t have it.”
Rumours say that Facebook has been in contact with Titan Aerospace for a possible acquisition at 60 million. Titan is the company whose building near-orbital, solar-powered drones which can fly for five years without needing to land. The company has produced two models, the Solara 50 and 60, which can be launched at night using power from internal battery packs. Then, when the sun is up in the sky, they can store enough energy, through solar panels, to ascend to 20Km and remain there for five years without the needing to land.
This technology is revolutionary in terms of possibilities, but it seems more likely to be applied for military purposes. For this reason, it makes no sense when we see that the biggest social network in the world wants to buy something like this. However, Facebook is looking at new different ways of expanding its userbase and this makes perfectly sense.
The aim is to produce 11,000 units of Solara 60 and bring internet access to places such as Africa. Low internet access would enable people from different parts of the world to start communicating and accessing what the internet provides. No, we are not talking about Kickstarter and the way entrepreneurs can raise capital without VC venture rounds, but about Facebook and Whatsapp, which has made sms obsolete.
As Zuckerberg said, in Barcelona at the World Mobile Summit, Internet.org won’t be profitable in the first years, but a company that is worth almost 200 billion is not certainly looking at the next 5 years. Facebook wants to become the first and only way to connect the human race and that’s why it’s looking at the other four billion people who still are not connected.
Nonprofits shouldn’t even think of competing with other profitable projects, but what Facebook wants to achieve is going directly in contrast with Google’s project Loon, whose aim is to build a balloon-powered internet for rural, remote and underserved areas, which is already operating in New Zealand. Project Loon is already connecting 50 testers with 30 balloons.
The people who have built services for the internet are trying to spread the access to the internet in places where it wasn’t even imaginable. What we wonder is how legal this is. Google mentality of not being evil is perfectly inline with Project Loon, which is a profitable branch of the entire Google ecosystem.
On the other hand, Facebook is using a nonprofit, with other tech giants such as Samsung, Nokia, Qualcommm, Mediatek and Opera, to increase their userbase and make more money. It’s a noble cause and it’s remarkable to see the amount of money that this no for profit will lose in the first years, but how much are they going to make in the long run? Facebook’s revenues are getting close to 6 billion a year with just 1.2 billion monthly active users; with 5 billion active users, Whatsapp, Instagram and possibly Snapchat, how big is their valuation going to increase?
Why didn’t they force the US government, since they partially rule the country, to start a nonprofit campaign with their funds, instead of running their own? When we are talking about public companies, worth billions, whose only aim is to expand and innovate in the next hundred years, the game changes and that’s why we should always wonder if they are crossing the line (Don’t be evil!) or they truly believe in what they are doing.