Facebook as the Consumer Platform of the Future

It’s generally fair to say that Facebook is the dominant consumer platform today. But given the recent bets they have made, Facebook could also be the dominant consumer platform of the future.

Facebook successfully on-ramped a significant portion of offline relationships online to become the largest desktop consumer network. Today, Facebook is also the largest mobile consumer network with over 1.1 billion mobile users (about half of them being mobile only). Between desktop and mobile, Facebook has 1.4 billion users!

While Facebook’s dominance as a social network is indisputable, we all know that mobile messengers are the future of the consumer internet. Facebook saw this trend early, made some bets, and here’s what the league table for the consumer category looks like nowadays.

It is striking that while most companies are still getting their bearings on how to react to the massive consumer shift to mobile, Facebook has already sewn up the top-3 positions in this fast growing category (at least on iOS in the US). And this list doesn’t even include Instagram.

Furthermore, many experts believe that WhatsApp will eventually be even bigger than what Facebook is today. (And from my personal experience, that’s already true in large parts of the world outside the US).

But Facebook’s dominance as a consumer platform doesn’t end in winning on the desktop and leading on mobile.

They have started placing their bets on consumer platforms of the future, starting with Virtual Reality, via a $2 billion acquisition of Oculus. It is clear to me that VR is fundamentally different from any other kind of consumer experience, and has the potential to become an all-out consumer platform in it’s own right. The market is not limited to gaming or entertainment alone, in-fact, I think VR has the potential to change all kinds of social experiences — imagine re-living the vacation videos you uploaded to Facebook last year or the party from last week. Whether the future is VR or AR, it is safe to assume that Facebook has strong optionality and is adequately future-proofing itself.

This begs the question about what’s in store for today’s other leading consumer companies — Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Yahoo, eBay and Twitter. Among this group, Google and Amazon seem best positioned. In search and commerce, Google and Amazon respectively have extremely strong consumer platforms today. And in the investments they have made, they have strong optionality in the future (Google’s X Labs and Magic Leap, and Amazon’s delivery and media investments). But what about the rest?

No one knows the future for sure, and given the rise of mobile first consumer companies such as Uber and Snapchat, Facebook’s domination isn’t a given, especially from startups we don’t know about yet. Specifically, Facebook is relatively weak when it comes to two consumer gateway experiences — search and commerce. There really aren’t any big information discovery companies to pick up and traditional commerce companies may also not make sense for Facebook. However, bitcoin might. Especially if bitcoin breaks-through to become a mainstream consumer experience. Now that would be really future proofing yourself!

Check out my post on Medium: https://medium.com/@anamitra/facebook-as-the-domin...


Originally published at www.foundationcapital.com.

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