Archive for the 'Facebook' Category

Facebook messaging + payments + Connect = a bad headache for PayPal

Friday 22 August 2014 @ 12:32 pm
Facebook messaging + payments + Connect = a bad headache for PayPal
Image Credit: Illustration: Eric Blattberg / VentureBeat

The idea that Facebook is going to build payments into messaging platforms has been well reported.

Zuckerberg said as much during the company’s last earnings call. Facebook also hired PayPal president David Marcus to head up its messaging product team. That should have telegraphed Facebook’s plans clearly.

But what’s not been well discussed is the fact that Facebook could absolutely kill it in messaging-based payments. Here’s why.

Lots of people (including me) were blown away when Facebook announced it had paid $19 billion for WhatsApp. But WhatsApp is widely used in the developing world, and it could actually enable Facebook to reach markets that haven’t already been saturated with social media apps.

Facebook, of course, has its own messaging app, which it recently forced on users who wish to use Facebook’s messenger on mobile. The payments engine is likely show up there, too.

Facebook early this year applied to the European Union for a license for money transference. This would allow it to process online and mobile payments in Europe. Facebook will apply for such a license in the U.S., or, as one app industry source half-joked, just buy a failing bank, a faster way of getting licensed.

So Facebook now has the leadership, the messaging platform, one payments license, and plenty of money to make messaging payments happen.

That’s the bullet. Here’s the gun.

Add that to Facebook Connect, which could very quickly bring Facebook payments to thousands of existing apps, messaging and otherwise. So users could simply log in to those apps using their Facebook credentials, and they’d be ready to make payments.

From an app developer’s perspective, they’d be able to build an app where users could use existing credentials to log in, then add in a payments engine from the same partner (Facebook) that would neatly enable in-app purchases.

Using WhatsApp or Messenger with payments, a consumer could easily discuss or negotiate a sale via chat or voice call, then hit the Buy button to close the deal.

Of course, Facebook Connect would put the payments engine on the desktop sites of Facebook’s thousands of partners as well.

Marcus and Facebook are very likely right now building the back-end systems that will store buyers’ and sellers’ addresses and financial information. They’re also likely building in anti-fraud technology that’s been proven to work at PayPal.

Bottom line: Facebook will beat PayPal to the messaging space. And the messaging space will grow even faster with the addition of payments.

We're studying digital marketing compensation: how much companies pay CMOs, CDOs, VPs of marketing, and more, with ChiefDigitalOfficer. Help us out by filling out the survey, and we'll share the results with you.

Facebook is the world’s largest social network, with over 1.15 billion monthly active users. Facebook was founded by Mark Zuckerberg in February 2004, initially as an exclusive network for Harvard students. It was a huge hit: in 2 w... read more »

4 alternatives to increasingly expensive Facebook ads

Friday 22 August 2014 @ 1:30 am


4 alternatives to increasingly expensive Facebook ads
Image Credit: Assets via Shutterstock & Facebook, illustration by Eric Blattberg / VentureBeat

The news that the average cost of a Facebook ad had jumped 123 percent compared to a year ago was disheartening for small businesses.

Until recently, growing businesses and startups had found the social media site an affordable place to post ads. But competition for Facebook’s limited ad space had become fierce, prompting the company to look for ways to offer more effective ads for a premium price.

Since many small businesses have limited ad budgets, blowing an entire month’s advertising budget on one Facebook ad is likely not an option. Because Facebook advertisers pay for each click, the extra expense snuck up on many of them, appearing on their monthly statement gradually over the past few months.

What’s more, brands haven’t exactly been enthusiastic about the results they get when advertising through the site, claiming little ROI.

If your small business is looking for an alternative to Facebook, here are a few options to explore.


While Twitter still hasn’t passed Facebook in popularity, the site has 271 million monthly active users. The micro blogging site tries to attract SMBs through the Twitter Ads program, which allows businesses to set their own campaign objectives. Once those are in place, businesses pay only for user actions that specifically align with those objectives, helping save money on wasted clicks. The fact that campaigns are based on a business’s overall objectives also ensures each ad placement is as effective as possible.


With more than 17 million unique visitors each month, Reddit is a serious contender for small business ad dollars. The company is specifically reaching out to SMBs with ad prices as low as $5 with a CPM of $0.75. The site has Subreddits, where users are divided into categories based on their specific interests, and businesses can take advantage of that by placing ads to users in categories relevant to their products or services.


This scrapbooking-style website has a customer base that enjoys sharing information about unique products with other members. Its business model makes it ideal for small business advertisers who are often interested in introducing new products to consumers. Pinterest allows advertisers to bid on ad units specific to various categories, such as home décor or fashion.


For B2B brands or companies that target professionals, LinkedIn can be a great resource. The site offers ad prices beginning at $10 per day. With LinkedIn, businesses get to choose which of the site’s members see the ad and where ads are displayed. Advertisers also set a budget for their campaigns, including how much they’re willing to pay for each click. Because ads are targeted to only those members you want to see them, you’ll reduce the amount you pay on wasted clicks from people who wouldn’t be interested in your brand.

The rising costs of advertising on Facebook are sure to send many small businesses in search of alternatives. There are many other similar sites that can offer a better ROI while still allowing you to remain within your advertising budget. Find the demographics that are right for your brand and choose your ad strategies accordingly.

Drew Hendricks is the COO of AudienceBloom, a digital agency. He’s also on the board of advisors for an incubator in San Francisco called Founders Space.

We're studying digital marketing compensation: how much companies pay CMOs, CDOs, VPs of marketing, and more, with ChiefDigitalOfficer. Help us out by filling out the survey, and we'll share the results with you.

Facebook is the world’s largest social network, with over 1.15 billion monthly active users. Facebook was founded by Mark Zuckerberg in February 2004, initially as an exclusive network for Harvard students. It was a huge hit: in 2 w... read more »

Twitter is a real-time information network that connects you to the latest information about what you find interesting. Simply find the public streams you find most compelling and follow the conversations. At the heart of Twitter ar... read more »

Instagram adds tools for brands, starts to look like a real ad platform

Thursday 21 August 2014 @ 11:01 am

Today is a bit like Christma-Hanu-Kwanz-ukkah for brands that use Instagram in their marketing efforts, as the photo-sharing network just announced three new tools for them.

The new tools, “account insights,” “ad insights,” and “ad staging,” are now available to all Instagram advertisers and are meant to give brands better control over their campaigns and results.

From Instagram’s blog post:

The new tools will help brands monitor their posts and campaigns by providing information on reach, impressions, and engagement. For example, an advertiser will now have access to a real-time campaign summary and data showing how their target audience is responding to each of their sponsored photos. Also, brand marketers will be able to better understand the best time of day to post a photo or video.

We’ve worked closely with several of our advertising partners to make sure these tools meet their needs. We’re now making them available to all Instagram advertisers, whose feedback will help us improve the product before releasing it to additional brands later this year.

Account insights shows brands how their Instagram account is doing, including impression, reach, engagement, and so on, and it appears to be for the brand’s photo activity, not paid campaigns. In fact, it looks a lot like the “Insights” page of a Facebook brand page, which is not surprising, given Facebook’s ownership of Instagram.

instagram account insights

Ad insights provide analytics for a brand’s paid campaigns, including impressions, reach, and frequency. The feature conveniently includes an “Export data” button to enable social media managers to easily use the data in their workflow.

instagram ad insights

Ad staging is where social media managers can create, edit, preview, and even collaborate on paid ad campaigns on Instagram. It’s sort of the sandbox before the ads go live.

Instagram first introduced ads on its network back in November 2013 and has since signed deals with ad agencies (not coincidentally once it introduced videos) and opened up its ad program more widely to brands. Now, it’s adding real analytics and insights tools that are turning Instagram from a fun photo app the teens were using, into a real advertising platform.

Facebook, which acquired Instagram in April 2012, has been beefing up its mobile efforts, and reported a strong second quarter for 2014, largely thanks to its mobile business. Unfortunately, Facebook does not report separate figures for Instagram, so it’s impossible really know how much revenue Instagram’s ads have been generating so far.

Fellow visually-driven social network Pinterest has also been leveraging visual ads amongst its user-generated content in the form of promoted pins.

We're studying digital marketing compensation: how much companies pay CMOs, CDOs, VPs of marketing, and more, with ChiefDigitalOfficer. Help us out by filling out the survey, and we'll share the results with you.

Facebook is the world’s largest social network, with over 1.15 billion monthly active users. Facebook was founded by Mark Zuckerberg in February 2004, initially as an exclusive network for Harvard students. It was a huge hit: in 2 w... read more »

Instagram is a free photo sharing application designed for use on Apple iOS devices developed by Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger. The application, which is compatible with any iPhone or iPod Touch running iOS 3.1.2 or above, allows user... read more »

Pinterest is a social networking site with a visually-pleasing “virtual pinboard” interface. Users collect photos and link to products they love, creating their own pinboards and following the pinboards of other people whom they fi... read more »

Lessons from a game guru: Candy Crush Saga creator once survived six months without pay

Monday 18 August 2014 @ 10:00 am
Lessons from a game guru: Candy Crush Saga creator once survived six months without pay

Above: Arseny Lebedev (left) and Tommy Palm

Image Credit: Dean Takahashi

I’ve talked before about the charmed life of Tommy Palm, a key figure at King Digital Entertainment in the creation of the hit mobile game Candy Crush Saga. But in looking at Palm, it’s clear that the line between winners and losers is a thin one.

Palm was part of a team of four people who took a so-so game on the Web and converted it into one of the biggest mobile sensations ever. Last year, King generated more than $1.8 billion in revenues, most of it from one game: Candy Crush Saga.

That was enough to enable the company to go public at a valuation of $6 billion, making Palm a rich man. His story is like many entrepreneurs. He was once so broke that he considered giving up on the game business. He endured six months without a paycheck, and he almost took a job at McDonald’s to pay the bills.

King missed its targets for its most recent earnings, and the company’s stock price tanked. But for someone with humble beginnings like Palm, King’s current troubles aren’t all that bad. He has hit low points in his life before, as we learned during the Casual Connect conference in San Francisco. At that industry event, fellow game developer Arseny Lebedev (the founder of casual game house Signus Labs) interviewed Palm about his life. Here’s an edited transcript of their talk.

Arseny Lebedev: You’re an inspiration to me. You’ve been in the business forever. You have a nickname — Tommy “Danger” Palm. Tell us more about yourself. Where are you from? What’s your background? Why are you in games?

Tommy Palm: I’m from Stockholm, Sweden. I’ve been passionate about game development ever since the age of 12, when I had a Commodore 64 and learned programming with some friends. We made games together. I continued doing that on a hobbyist level until the end of the 1990s, when I started my first game development company, Jadestone. In 2009, I founded Fabrication Games, which King acquired in 2012, together with Alex, our technical director.

Lebedev: What did you work on at Jadestone?

Palm: Our first game was a war strategy game called Kodo, but the first big game that we made was a football manager game with online multiplayer. Mostly for web, but we had some mobile extensions to it. At the time, it was impossible to get those kinds of things working, though, especially with a business model around it.

Arseny Lebedev of Signus Labs and Tommy Palm of King

Above: Arseny Lebedev of Signus Labs and Tommy Palm of King

Image Credit: Dean Takahashi

Lebedev: What about Fabrication Games? That was a mobile company, right?

Palm: Jadestone eventually went more over to gambling, so Fabrication was where we took the mobile content we’d developed and continued with that. We focused solely on making cross-platform games. That’s what we figured would be big in the future.

Lebedev: This was over a period of 15 years or 20 years?

Palm: Yeah, basically, from the end of the 1990s.

Lebedev: What were some of the high points and low points in that long stretch?

Palm: They were often tightly connected. I started Jadestone straight out of school. There was no money backing it whatsoever. It was just me and some guys early on who were able to live on very little money.

We were blown away originally when we saw mobile games on the Nokia 6110. The multiplayer Snakes version was fantastic. We figured this was going to be huge. We just didn’t know it would take 10 or 15 years for it to get there. It was a lot of struggling with great ideas and the limits of technology — plus, nobody really had a clue about business at the time. But we figured out we needed that when we ran out of money.

I remember this vivid moment in early 2000 when I’d been living without any income for the past six months. I’d started to evaluate whether I was going to take a job at McDonald’s to support myself, or if I was going to continue doing this. We were at a conference in Gotland, and it had been raining. Everything was very gloomy. But we’d sent a proposal to Nokia, and we sat down at a bar and got the deal. The contract was huge by our standards at the time, and at that moment, the sun came out. I was almost in tears. That would save the company for another two years, and we started working very closely with Nokia. That’s one of my absolute highlights.

Another of those moments was later, with King, in November 2012, when the mobile version of Candy Crush was released and we saw the numbers for the first weekend. That was one of those moments you never forget. We had a bet going in the team as far as what kind of numbers we were expecting, and I was ten times under that number.

Candy Crush Saga is one of the big smartphone games that is driving the growth of mobile gamers.

Above: Candy Crush Saga is one of the big smartphone games, and it’s driving the growth of mobile gamers.

Image Credit: King

Lebedev: We’ll talk about that soon. But what about a low point? As an indie guy, sometimes the low points just seem so low, and you wonder why you’re even doing this.

Palm: When you’re an entrepreneur, you invest so much — not only money, but your time and your passion for something. The low points can be terrible. I’ve heard a couple of great leaders talk about how depressed they’ve become when their companies are doing badly. I’m amazed, when I meet entrepreneurs, that they can keep doing this. We need those kinds of people to create great companies.

Lebedev: King bought Fabrication. What was King then, and what is it now?

Palm: King has been around for 11 years now. A lot of the original founders are still working very actively in the company. They originally came from a Swedish startup called Spray, where they were working with a lot of cool web ideas.

Lebedev: What was the vision with King when it started?

Palm: It’s changed a couple of times. But it’s been focused on games. Casual, skill-based games were something King was doing for quite some time and leading in that small segment.

Lebedev: It was a website, right?

Palm: It was a platform for games that was shared with a lot of partners. These skill games were games where you would bet a dollar on the result and you’d be matched with someone of equal skills. If you won you’d get the dollar or whatever it was. But there’s a lot of regulation in that area now. It’s different in different regions. It was fairly big at the time.

View All
Continue Reading ...

How Bugcrowd uses crowdsourcing to uncover security flaws faster than the bad guys do (interview)

Monday 18 August 2014 @ 6:34 am
How Bugcrowd uses crowdsourcing to uncover security flaws faster than the bad guys do (interview)

Above: Casey Ellis, CEO and cofounder of crowdsourced security firm Bugcrowd

Image Credit: Dean Takahashi

Given enough time, the masses on the Internet will find a security flaw in any piece of software.

Smart companies are using this power to their favor. Bugcrowd in particular is marshaling the power of crowdsourcing to fix security flaws for big corporations before the bad guys can exploit them.

The business is the brainchild of Casey Ellis, who figured that companies would pay big bounties to security researchers who fixed potential nightmarish flaws in code before too many people became aware of them. Bugcrowd has signed up more than 10,000 hackers to find bugs. And it has also signed up a bunch of corporations that are willing to pay rewards, or bug bounties, to those who find flaws in software. A hacker can safely approach a company working with Bugcrowd without fear of being ripped off or sued, and a company can rely on the fact Bugcrowd records a hacker’s history of reliability.

This kind of crowdsourcing can be a huge force multiplier for companies that have small resources dedicated to fixing their own security flaws. We interviewed Ellis at the recent Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas. Here’s an edited transcript of our talk.

VentureBeat: Tell me all about Bugcrowd.

Casey Ellis: Bugcrowd runs bug bounty programs on behalf of our customers. We’ve built a platform to make the process efficient and secure. On one side, you have researchers, 10,500 at the moment. On the other side, there’s people who have seen the Facebook or Google bounty programs and like that idea. They want to start to apply it to how they’re doing security. Either in that very open, public way or in a way that’s a bit more private and trusted and so on.

VB: How long did it take to get going?

Ellis: About 18 months ago, at the beginning of 2013. We got accepted in an accelerator program in Sydney and did four months of that. It was working by that point. I came out here, raised a seed round, and relocated to the Bay Area.

Bugcrowd tablet user interface

Above: Bugcrowd tablet user interface

Image Credit: Bugcrowd

VB: What was involved in making it work technically?

Ellis: In the initial instance it was about proving the concepts. My background prior to this, I ran a penetration testing company, a security services company. It was, okay, can we structure this bug bounty model in a format that people I’ve been selling to already, who are already consuming this type of service, could stomach? Will that model work, in terms of delivering the solution, and will they buy it? That was most of our first four months, proving out that piece.

VB: What sort of activity level is there now? How many people are using it?

Ellis: We launched a program for Medium yesterday. just switched on. We have Pinterest, Heroku, a couple of folks there. They’re the open programs. We also run private programs where it’s just a trusted tier of testers. All in, we’ve run 95 programs so far.

VB: How do you deal with the questions around this whole model?

Ellis: When we started, the concept was seen as an even crazier idea than it is now. You’d come to a place like this and talk to people about the concept of crowdsourcing, being able to find vulnerabilities. It’s taking off in the market. We’re doing our piece to push that, but it’s happening anyway. It’s because software is always going to have security flaws, because people aren’t perfect. And there aren’t enough people to find them all. The demand for the type of people who are able to find these issues before the bad guys do is high.

So the question, where else do we get people who can do this and apply them to the problem? — crowdsourcing is made for this. That’s how the bad guys do it, after all.

VB: How do companies describe their problems so they can get people to solve them?

Ellis: When we engage someone, we find out, do they want to run an open program or a private program? If they want to run an open program, we take them through the process of getting ready for that. We’ll start it off quietly, get them used to dealing with the researchers, and then start to open it up. It’s a matter of, what do you want these guys to test? What do you want them not to test? What things are you most interested in?

The way a bug bounty works, the first person to find each unique issue gets rewarded. The more creative or severe that issue is, the more they’re rewarded. One of the things customers can do is say, “We’re particularly concerned about this thing here as a company. If this was to happen, it would be especially impactful. If you can prove to us that there’s a problem there and that we can fix it, we’ll reward you with more than we ordinarily would.” Oftentimes, if they’ve already been doing things like penetration testing, security testing, they’ll already know about that from the past. They’ll kind of forklift it into this process.

Computer Virus

VB: What sort of problems do you get compared to the days of individual negotiations with hackers? A company could rip off the hacker and just take the information and not pay them.

View All
Continue Reading ...

How to make Facebook work better for you: Quit the ‘Like’

Sunday 17 August 2014 @ 2:13 pm
How to make Facebook work better for you: Quit the ‘Like’
Image Credit: afagen

The “Like” button on Facebook seems harmless enough: It’s an easy way to express your appreciation of something.

But as some people are discovering, that innocuous little like has some unintended consequences.

Wired writer Mat Honan found out what happens when you like every single thing that shows up in your Facebook feed. The results were dramatic: Instead of his friends’ updates, he saw more and more updates from brands and publishers. And, based on what he had liked most recently, Facebook’s algorithm made striking judgements about his political leanings, giving him huge numbers extremely right-wing or extremely left-wing posts. What’s more, all that liking made Honan’s own posts show up far more in his friends’ feeds — distorting their view of the world, too.

But Medium writer Elan Morgan tried the opposite experiment: Not liking anything on Facebook. Instead of pressing like, she wrote a few thoughtful words whenever she felt the need to express appreciation: “What a gorgeous shock of hair” or “Remember how we hid from your grandmother in the gazebo and smoked cigarettes?” The result, as you might guess, is just the opposite of Honan’s experience: Brand messages dwindled away and Facebook became a more relaxed, conversational place for Morgan.

While far from conclusive, these two personal experiments are highly suggestive. Facebook’s algorithm is tuned in a way that makes it respond to likes by giving you more of what it thinks is related — and those suggestions are usually driven by brand marketing. Stop liking things, and Facebook eases off the marketing messages, letting your friends’ updates come to the fore.

“Once I removed the Like function from my own behavior, I almost started to like using Facebook,” Morgan wrote, concluding:

Give the Like a rest and see what happens. Choose to comment with words. Watch how your feed changes. I haven’t used the Like on Facebook since August 1st, and the changes in my feed have been so notably positive that I won’t be liking anything in the foreseeable future.

Not so secretly, I think the humanity and love, the kinder middle grounds not begging for extremes, that many of us have come to believe are diminishing in the world at large are simply being drowned out by an inhuman algorithm, and I think we can bring those socially vital experiences back out into the light.

Would you quit the like? I’m going to try it. If you do, too, please use the comments section below to let me know what happens.

We're studying digital marketing compensation: how much companies pay CMOs, CDOs, VPs of marketing, and more, with ChiefDigitalOfficer. Help us out by filling out the survey, and we'll share the results with you.

Facebook is the world’s largest social network, with over 1.15 billion monthly active users. Facebook was founded by Mark Zuckerberg in February 2004, initially as an exclusive network for Harvard students. It was a huge hit: in 2 w... read more »

Gillmor Gang: What’s That Sound

Saturday 16 August 2014 @ 9:00 am
Gillmor Gang Artcard The Gillmor Gang — Robert Scoble, Keith Teare, Kevin Marks, Dan Farber, and Steve Gillmor — struggle with the news and raw emotions of the death of Robin Williams and the Ferguson upheaval. The intersection of social and mainstream media is no longer the big story it once seemed to be. Instead, the speed with which technology, particularly mobile, has transformed not only the… Read More

Why breaking up is hard to do … for social apps like Facebook, Foursquare, and LinkedIn

Saturday 16 August 2014 @ 6:00 am
Why breaking up is hard to do … for social apps like Facebook, Foursquare, and LinkedIn

Volume Up is a regular column on consumer technology and digital ecosystems by Reticle Research principal analyst Ross Rubin.

With sophisticated mobile operating systems came the promise of “desktop-quality” apps. But recently, there’s been evidence that the piling on of features in such apps as Photoshop, iTunes, and Microsoft Office may not hold true in the mobile world.

And, paradoxically, this has been exemplified by apps for social networks, which are generally focused on integrating people, information, groups, and messaging. But, as the song goes, breaking up is hard to do, and the split off portions of key social apps have elicited different reactions from their users.


Facebook Messenger has long been a popular app in the Apple app store, but it recently rocketed to the top of the charts when Facebook decided that it would discontinue supporting messaging in its flagship mobile app.

Facebook has indeed added a few new tricks to its messaging app that weren’t supported in the core experience. But of course, the blowback has been related to the forced change and the likely exasperation of having to deal with another messaging app alongside existing popular options that support one-to-one media swapping such as Skype, Snapchat, the engmatic Yo, and WhatsApp, the latter of which is already in Facebook’s fold.

Facebook likely wants to see its Messenger associated with this group of fast-movers in a hipper demographic as a hedge to its own Slingshot. However, it’s worth remembering that the category also includes such faded stars as AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) and BBM. There may also be latent concerns about setting a precedent of that may lead to even more messaging apps being launched out of services such as Twitter. One quasi-social app that isn’t following suit is real-world networking site Meetup, which just added messaging to its app.


The app that popularized the check-in long had a dilemma of how to move beyond its cult and key demographic of young, social adults. Foursquare was also stuck in something of a technology gap. Its founders knew that, with the pending arrival of technologies such as Bluetooth beacons, check-ins would one day be automated or redundant, but we’re not there yet. At the same time, it has seen increased interest from companies such as Apple working with Yelp as a provider of local business information.

Its answer was to launch a new app that portioned out the check-in and friend-finding to a new app called Swarm and made Foursquare more of a direct competitor to Yelp, albeit one infused with more of Foursquare’s social DNA. Curiously, Swarm relies heavily on your Facebook social graph and even the company’s new Messenger app for communication with contacts, despite the competitive history between the two companies.

The new pairing has a better clarity of purpose on both ends. Old hands have been grousing about changes to mayorships and the finer points of badges versus stickers, but Foursquare has grown up and it’s poised to attract more people who are willing to do the same.


LinkedIn was relatively late to release both its mobile app and tablet app, but its native mobile efforts have improved over the years. It’s also branching out by releasing  a pair of apps that provide a slicker window into parts of its service.

LinkedIn Job Search lets you save searches for quick surveys of new employment opportunities while LinkedIn Connected provides quick browsing through contacts for updates such as job anniversaries and title changes. (Coincidentally, a third-party app called Weave has recently provided yet another window into LinkedIn, allowing you to flag local people with whom you want to professionally network with Tinder-like swiping left or right.)

But, unlike with Facebook and Foursquare, there’s been no backlash. This is because the new features apps haven’t resulted in any new real functionality that isn’t in the core LinkedIn app and nothing’s been removed from that app. While the company may have played it safe by retaining the core experience of its mobile app, it risks the confusion that was spurred by Facebook’s Paper experiment. That app provided a slick, mobile-first overlay over a core portion of the Facebook user experience. Many who tried it seemed to like it, but few ultimately used it.

The motivations and methods for all three social network app carve-outs were different, but one thing they all share is a quest for mindshare versus dedicated competitors. If you see that icon on your Android home screen or iPhone dock, you’re far more likely to consider Facebook versus Snapchat to message, Foursquare versus Yelp to find a place, or LinkedIn versus Indeed to check for new opportunities.

Ross Rubin is principal analyst at Reticle Research and founder and editor of the crowdfunding product site Backerjack. He also blogs about the tech industry at Techspressive.

Mobile developer or publisher? VentureBeat is studying mobile app analytics. Fill out our 5-minute survey, and we'll share the data with you.

LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional network on the internet, with more than 259 million members worldwide, including executives from Fortune 500 companies. Founded on May 5, 2003, by Reid Hoffman and founding team members f... read more »

Facebook is the world’s largest social network, with over 1.15 billion monthly active users. Facebook was founded by Mark Zuckerberg in February 2004, initially as an exclusive network for Harvard students. It was a huge hit: in 2 w... read more »

Foursquare is a location-based mobile platform that makes cities easier to use and more interesting to explore. By “checking in” via a smartphone app or SMS, users share their location with friends while collecting points and virtu... read more »

Just 15 minutes of this blog post could save you up to 15% on your data center costs (thanks, Facebook!)

Friday 8 August 2014 @ 12:30 pm
Just 15 minutes of this blog post could save you up to 15% on your data center costs (thanks, Facebook!)

Above: A Facebook data center

Image Credit: Open Compute Project

Today social networking giant Facebook revealed a new load balancing system for its several data centers that results in some serious energy savings.

The system for balancing web requests on web server clusters, called Autoscale, saves power by “10-15% for different web clusters,” according to a blog post today from Qiang Wu, an infrastructure software engineer at Facebook.

The company has been working on data center energy efficiency for a very long time. Facebook built servers from scratch for its data center in Prineville, Ore., saving energy significantly. Other companies have also worked on data center energy efficiency. Google even uses artificial neural networks to cut data center energy usage.

So, how does this new Autoscale thing work? Usually, web servers at Facebook’s data centers follow a load balancing policy that distributes around the same number of page requests to each server, according to today’s post. When workloads get low — like at midnight — each server processes the same low number of requests and are all underutilized.

However, “for example, a particular type of web server at Facebook consumes about 60 watts of power when it’s idle (0 RPS, or requests-per-second). The power consumption jumps to 130 watts when it runs at low-level CPU utilization (small RPS). But when it runs at medium-level CPU utilization, power consumption increases only slightly to 150 watts.”

Spreading the workload to every server doesn’t seem to be energy-efficient. It might a better idea to have a bunch of servers running at medium level utilization. And that’s what Autoscale does.

Facebook now assigns a subset of the physical server pool to be the “active pool” while making the rest of the web servers have no traffic. The Autoscale system “dynamically adjust the active pool size such that each active server will get at least medium-level CPU utilization regardless of the overall workload level.”

Facebook has already rolled out Autoscale to its production web clusters, according to the post.

And it “led to a 27% power savings around midnight” in one web cluster and 10-15% average power saving for different web clusters over a 24-hour cycle.

It’s unclear if Facebook will release Autoscale under an open-source license. That move could help lots of other companies improve energy efficiency in their own data centers, at least with web servers.

We're studying digital marketing compensation: how much companies pay CMOs, CDOs, VPs of marketing, and more, with ChiefDigitalOfficer. Help us out by filling out the survey, and we'll share the results with you.

Facebook is the world’s largest social network, with over 1.15 billion monthly active users. Facebook was founded by Mark Zuckerberg in February 2004, initially as an exclusive network for Harvard students. It was a huge hit: in 2 w... read more »

Facebook growth chief: You lose users if you try to trick them

Wednesday 6 August 2014 @ 5:16 pm
Facebook growth chief: You lose users if you try to trick them

Above: Alex Schultz, VP of Growth at Facebook

Image Credit: Michael O'Donnell/VentureBeat

SAN FRANCISCO — Facebook vice president of growth Alex Schultz is a well-respected marketer, in part because he’s a staunch advocate for quality acquisition tactics that will drive engagement — and firmly opposes gimmicky ones that erode user trust.

“If you really have a long-term view on this, you cannot be duping users because they will not stay with you. Retention is the number one thing we focus on,” said Schultz during a fireside chat at VentureBeat’s GrowthBeat 2014 event.

What Schultz was referring to is the practice that a lot of startups, especially younger ones in a rush to reach a certain registered user count, are resorting to. These often include tactics such as automatically sending invites to a user’s contacts or opting them into them things by default instead of letting them choose to on their own.

“Those users will cease to trust you,” he said. “Retention is the number one thing we focus on [at Facebook]. You can’t trick users into doing that.”

Schultz’s unit may be a called a “growth” team, but instead of creating landing pages with hidden opt-ins or sharing requests, it’s focused on adjusting the product to make it easier for new users to sign up and get comfortable — and hooked. For example, Schultz and crew are currently focused on the Indian market. They’re studying what phones Indian consumers own, how they use them, whether Facebook’s interface is making it easy for them to navigate and not get frustrated, how to help them easily find and add new friends once they’ve signed up, and so on.

“A lot of the folks arguing for these short terms hacky things, are not looking at the long view. Mark [Zuckerberg] takes the long view,” he said.

Schultz also advocated for a close relationship between the growth and product teams, as much of the mechanisms that help you grow must be built into a product, not merely added.

But Schultz’s view of growth is not only about adding user acquisition mechanisms but also about removing points that prevent people from joining. The trick, however, is to balance removing friction and falling into duping mechanisms.

“There’s a really fine line between removing friction and duping users. … Tricking users hurts users. Adding friction hurts users,” he said.

But ultimately, having too much friction is what will put the nail in your growth coffin, according to Schultz.


We're studying digital marketing compensation: how much companies pay CMOs, CDOs, VPs of marketing, and more, with ChiefDigitalOfficer. Help us out by filling out the survey, and we'll share the results with you.

Facebook is the world’s largest social network, with over 1.15 billion monthly active users. Facebook was founded by Mark Zuckerberg in February 2004, initially as an exclusive network for Harvard students. It was a huge hit: in 2 w... read more »

«« Previous Posts