Is Mark Zuckerberg the new Bill Gates?
In the 90s Bill Gates held a strong handle on the tech industry. Microsoft became known as the company that would win at any cost under Gates’ leadership. When Microsoft couldn’t buy a competing app or web browser, it would simply create its own to crush its rival, and would sell it to its huge existing customer base.
Could history be repeating itself in the form of Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook? Snap’s recent $3 billion IPO could be seen as a response to its ongoing strive for dominance within the social networking sphere, and the subsequent growing pressure it is facing from its competitors Facebook and Instagram.
Facebook launched Instagram Stories back in August 2016, replicating Snapchat’s feature of the same name. Meanwhile Snapchat reported a dip in user growth in the second half of 2016, which many argue may be due to Instagram’s adoption of the ‘story’ function.
Similarly Facebook started testing Snapchat-style stories in its main app in January. This could result in yet another dip in users for Snapchat.
Gates probably would have adopted a similar tactic in capitalising on the “Stories” feature during the Microsoft era. Moreover it is well known that Zuckerberg has long suffered from Snapchat envy. Facebook attempted to purchase the startup app in 2013 for $3 billion in cash. Unsuccessful, Facebook released rival app ‘Poke’ the following month.
Though Poke didn’t take off, nor did its successor ‘Slingshot’ in 2014, Facebook’s message was clear; anything you can do, we can do…better. However, Snap saw a brief explosion in revenue growth, rising 590% from 2015 to 2016, following it’s IPO filing.
Gates’ coined what is known as the “platform advantage” with Microsoft, and it appears Facebook is following suit. Facebook’s ‘messenger’ thrived as a standalone app due to its ties to the social network’s vast user base. Likewise, Instagram has succeeded where other photo-sharing services have failed because of its integration with Facebook, thereby resulting in 600 million active users for the app.
Thus its next step, the replication of Snapchat stories for Instagram, seemed like a natural progression for the social platform. By implementing its competitor’s key feature and bringing it to its existing massive network of users, Facebook once again reasserted its top position among social networking apps. The company even went a step further with its adoption of Facebook Stories, now accessible to its 1.23 billion daily active users.
And so tech startups and tech companies should be wary of Facebook’s aggressive growth tactics, as with Gates, Zuckerberg has monopolised the social app space and there’s no escaping it.