As Facebook continues to seek out more ways of monetising its mobile proposition, rumours have been circling this week that the social networking giant might acquire OTT messaging service WhatsApp. According to Strand Consult CEO John Strand, though, we could all be barking up the wrong tree – Mark Zuckerberg included.
“Facebook needs a mobile browser,” said Strand in a statement. “Facebook could launch their own browser if they wanted to, just like Yahoo is currently doing.”
But, as Strand points out, Yahoo will have to convince all of its users that the new browser is worth trying. So if you've got the kind of money that Facebook has, why not just buy a company with pre-cooked software? And why not go directly for the one that's used most around the world?
“The world’s single most used mobile browser is made by Opera, a Norwegian company that monetises its browser by selling it to mobile operators,” he said. “By purchasing Opera, Facebook would immediately gain commercial relationships with many of the world's largest mobile operators.
“If Facebook purchases Opera, it would, from day one, own a browser that is already installed on many different devices across the whole world. Additionally, with its purchase of AdMarvel two years ago, and more recently Mobile Theory and 4th Screen Advertising, Opera has ensured that they are well placed on the mobile advertising market.
“Facebook and Opera would be a match made in heaven, and it a future that Facebook should acquire as soon as possible.”
Strand Consult has released its latest report, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly Side of Facebook. As well as examining the future of the social network, the report takes a look at its place in the present and past too.
“Let’s put Facebook within an economic context and the internet industry that emerged about 15 years ago,” says Strand. “We can look at the evolution of the industrial revolution to understand what has happened with the information revolution. When a new industry is founded, such as oil, automobiles or telecommunications, there are many players. After a time, the players consolidate. A single monopoly player, or perhaps an oligopoly, results.
“From that point, the product or service becomes commoditised. Think of utilities – do you know who provides your electricity or water? The same economic process has happened in the internet industry, only the timeline has been compressed.”
In Strand's view, the same process has happened with Google in search and, more recently Facebook, in the area of social networking. Which seems fair enough, except that of course monopolies tend to be a little frowned up for the kinds of practices they lead to. Strand has something to say about that too, and clearly he's not afraid of being controversial.
“The role of labour is transformed with each economic revolution,” says Strand. “In the 19th century, peasants left the country to work in the cities. In the 20th century, we saw labour mechanised in an unprecedented scale in factories. Now, in the 21st century, we see labour transformed again.
“We can say that Facebook is the world’s largest sweatshop. Almost one billion people are creating content in personal profiles that are used to sell advertising. It is the ultimate form of digital slavery.”