Facebook seems to have started its holiday shopping with rumors that global messaging app Whatsapp is next on its list of companies to buy. As we all wait to see how much Facebook overpaid, we’re reminded of the Instagram fiasco, and everyone’s getting all amped up about what this means for Facebook mobile.
Let’s get something straight – Facebook’s struggles in the mobile realm aren’t a result of ignorance. You don’t grow into a worldwide cultural phenomenon and billion-dollar media platform without stellar minds behind the scenes. The reason the Facebook mobile experience doesn’t stack up to Twitter or Instagram’s is because the site offers too much. Twitter and Instagram are incredibly simple and provide a single functionality. Facebook allows for status updates, photos, movies, games, link sharing, chat, and seemingly anything else you can use to avoid the original reason you turned your computer on. When you try and fit all of that functionality into a handheld device, things get cluttered. Therefore, buying into new services, especially ones that Facebook already competes with, isn’t going to help matters.
The Facebook mobile problem won’t be solved by adding, but rather by dividing. Facebook has the audience, resources and capabilities to dominate in the photo/video sharing, mobile chat or social gaming realms. In order for them to capitalize on that potential, they have to treat them as separate mobile offerings in order to create the best possible user experience. They’ve already started down that path with Facebook Camera and Facebook Messenger, but they need stronger marketing support around those products, and they need to continue to expand. Facebook isn’t interested in being the most utilized app on your iPhone, they want to take up an entire folder, filled with all their offerings – that’s the only way to translate the experience from laptop to smartphone.
So as Zuck keeps shopping around, don’t think he’s trying to form one mega-app, because that would just make his problems worse. He’s investing in companies that have potential to become highly profitable, while leveraging their leadership talent to create his own versions of niche-Facebook offerings.