Meta thoughts

Everybody that seems to have an opinion about Facebooks recent name change to Meta seems to have aired it by now.

So naturally, I thought it time to went my own two cents on the subject; why it changes nothing about the fundamentals, why it’s different from Googles renaming to Alphabet, why Mark Zuckerberg needs to succeed with the exercise and what bet he is making in order to make it happen.

First things first: Of course the rebranding from Facebook to Meta doesn’t change anything about the vast challenges that Facebook is facing.

On the contrary; the name change is a testament to the fact that one of the worlds leading brands in terms of market capitalization has become so toxic, it needs to be incinerated from public view.

It says a lot about CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his merry crew that they would rather throw their brand out than actually work to address and solve the myriad of issues affecting Facebook.

It’s will probably be the closest thing we ever get to Zuckerberg admitting guilt. Which of course he will never (see any reason to) do in the real world.

Second, the comparisons with Googles name change is some way off, IMHO. When Google changed into Alphabet it was basically for two reasons:

The original founders Sergey and Larry had pretty much lost interest in search and were looking to pursue other interests. And, more importantly, Google was doing so many different projects that had nothing to do with their core business that they probably needed an entire alphabet to keep track of them all.

Facebook – sorry, Meta – doesn’t have this. For all the existence of different apps, it’s still very much a social media company across software as well as hardware. Even though Mark Zuckerberg is dappling a bit on the side with other projects through foundations etc., it’s not like Meta is about to cure cancer.

Some would argue that Meta is much rather a collection of cancers than any kind of step towards a cure, but I digress.

No, there is a much more compelling reason for Zuckerberg to dip into the met averse in order to keep his collection of apps on a path of growth and prosperity:

The ownership of the operating systems and the platforms that come with them.

Facebook in its old form had grown way too dependent on other peoples OS’s and platforms being it Apple iOS, Google Android or whatever.

Normally that wouldn’t be a problem, because when you’re huge, you hold both sway and leverage within the ecosystem. But to Facebook it has been for the sheer reason that even though Facebook is huge, the OS owners are bigger and more powerful.

And – add to that – pretty pissed with how Facebook operates.

Example? Apples decision to limit apps ability to track users for advertising on iOS.

I could image Facebook has been the single biggest driver for the decision by Apple to roll that out. And on the other side, I could also imagine that that very move has been the biggest motivation for Mark Zuckerberg to go big on the metaverse and do the whole rebranding exercise to Meta right now.

He simply needs to build and own his own OS and be independent of the other OS owners.

So I think this is the light Meta and the bet on the metaverse should be seen; it’s Mark Zuckerberg big bet on creating a brand new form of operating system that he hopes will disrupt and replace and others, so he will be able to have to last laugh.

His biggest asset? The huge user base. If he can convert the users of the many Facebook apps into the univer…sorry, metaverse…he will have won.

Of course the biggest challenge that he will face in doing so, is the lousy history he has with many of the same users, who he through his failed stewardship of Facebook has failed time and time again.

Will they place their faith on more of the same, more immersed, potentially more powerful?

I seriously doubt it. But it’s pretty much the only big bet he can make.

(Photo by Dima Solomin on Unsplash)

Zuck versus Murdoch

So, Facebook decided to pull the plug on links from Australian news organizations in response to a suggested new law that will force Google and Facebook to pay news publishers for links to content.

Good. For. Them.

Facebook, I mean.

Now, I am by no means a Facebook fan, but I think there are so many inherent flaws in the arguments for paying for links that I jump to the other side of the table on this one.

First of all links and linking is an integral part of the web and a key component to the very infrastructure that supports perhaps the most impactful – for better and for worse – invention we have seen since WWII: The internet.

Links is such a crucial underpinning that they need to be free. Free to show that is. What then happens when you click the link is another matter, and that may be arbitraged at will based on the business model of the place, where the link is being clicked.

But just showing the link?

FREE. Period.

Second, what the proposed legislation really does is that it differentiates. It says that some links are worth money, the rest of them are not. It puts rules in place for determining when a link has value that warrants payment, and those rules are such that only a very few get to profit from it.

Who are those few? The biggest Australian news organizations. Who owns a lot of them? Yes, one Rupert Murdoch.

So Rupert Murdoch, whose record on effectively undermining democracy through the use of opinionated media in major countries is…I don’t even know where to begin, is a chief beneficiary. That alone should make you want to kick this particular piece of legislation to the curb.

Because let’s make no mistake about it: This legislation is not born out of concern for democracy. It is born out of intense lobbying by the news media associations, which is taking place every single day all over the world, and where they have so far happened to be most successful in moving the needle in Australia.

This is not about freedom of speech or protecting democracy. This is a Hail Mary pass for failed news executives who have over at least the past two decades failed miserably to meet the challenge posed by the emergence of the internet and innovate their products and business models to keep up with the times and changes in user behaviour and preferences.

Everybody and his uncle knows that when it comes to politics, motivation for action and legislation should not always be taken at face value. There is a reason why there is a term called ‘special interests’. Legislation becomes tainted, skewed and formed to fit individual special interests every day, and to a large extend that is fine. But let us at least call it what it is.

So following on from that, here is what the proposed Australian legislation is: It is a protection money-scheme with the “Pay us or else…” not explicitly stated but with no one in doubt as to who should be kept in a ‘friendly’ mood.

Even in this day and age politicians fear ending up on the front page.

Add to that that the core argument doesn’t really make logical sense:

You need to pay us for showing links that are effectively advertising driving users and traffic to our own properties. We want your dollars AND your traffic.

And you’re just going “WTF?!”

It’s mind-numbing.

In fact it is so inexcusably stupid that Facebook is well within its right to just pull the plug on Australian news organizations. It’s a private company – not a public utility – and they are free to define their policies as they see fit within the law. And if the law works against them they are entirely free to just pull out.

I hope that they do. Australia is the perfect case: It is isolated to a corner of the world, the legislation benefits someone who very few people are true fans of, and the argument just doesn’t make sense.

So if the fight has to be taken, this is the time and place to take it.

And for the sheer stupidity of the underlying media argument and for the demonstration of yet another epic fail to innovate and look forward, I – in this one case – hope Facebook wins.

Media in general and Rupert Murdoch in particular certainly doesn’t deserve to.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)