Facebook’s self-inflicted wounds come from their founder’s obsession with growth, which at its core was based on three extraordinary tactics: removing friction, staying focused on global growth and stealing other people’s ideas.
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There is no debate over this.
If Zuckerberg had not set the tone of “move fast and break things,” the company would have been more thoughtful about their growth, and if they didn’t steal other people innovations so systematically — from Friendster to FriendFeed to Twitter to Snapchat — they would never have dominated the planet.
Of course, that obsession with speed and copying has resulted in — as Zuck himself instructed — the breaking of things, including our privacy and our democracy.
In this three-part series, I’m going to outline what the new CEO of Facebook should do to reverse the massive ill will that’s built up with consumers, partners and governments. (At least the democratic ones; Facebook is well-loved by despots the world over.)
Step One: Share Revenue with Partners
When YouTube has PR issues, they have a large base of YouTubers — partners to whom they pay out billions of dollars — who will go to bat for them. These individuals are not happy with every decision YouTube makes, far from it, but they are loyal to the platform, even in the face of sometimes getting worked over.
Airbnb makes their share of mistakes and has been faced with crisis after crisis, but their Hosts are there to back them up. Heck, a portion of Airbnb’s customers feels so strongly about the company that they will fight for its very existence.
eBay and Etsy have their sellers to spread the gospel, and even Lyft and Uber have driver partners and customers who will sign petitions to bring or keep their services available in contested markets.
Apple and Google are “splashy cashy” with their App partners to the point of creating a category that, candidly, Facebook should own — or at least be a player in.
Well, Facebook is so sharp-elbowed, that in addition to screwing users and our democracy, they have screwed over their developer and content partners multiple times over the past decade. Not only that, they’ve never built up a reservoir of goodwill.
Imagine if Instagram and Facebook shared revenue with their top users? How about if when you click on a new story on these services, it gave the publisher 70% of the revenue?
These partners would be out there saying “listen, I know Facebook has made mistakes, but Zuck is a good guy. I’m partners with Zuck, Instagram and Facebook, and so are over a million content creators. Trust us, we’re working with them to make this right.”
Sharing revenue would be trivially easy for Facebook to do, certainly easier than reaching billions of users with their products.
Yet Facebook still has their wallet locked … Why?
It’s all top-down, Zuckerberg simply doesn’t want to share the wealth. We saw this when he deliberately screwed over the Winklevoss twins and his early partner Eduardo Saverin at Facebook (he settled those claims), and we see it now with his sinister pursuit of Snapchat at all costs.
The Snapchat pursuit reinforced Zuck’s “might is right” approach and has painted him as so cutthroat and arrogant — and perhaps clueless to this perception — that it is now easy to root for Facebook’s demise.
Instagram and WhatsApp founders criticizing Zuck on the way out only reinforces what we all know: business is personal and Zuck does not treat people well on a personal basis.
This needs to change when the new Facebook CEO starts, or when someone convinces Zuck to reboot his approach. The latter is a better solution, as you always want the founder to stay at the controls, but this requires the founder to evolve — something Zuckerberg hasn’t done (which reinforces the growing legion of “I’m quitting facebook!” and “I hope Facebook fails!”).
Easy solution: give Instagrammers and Facebook’s developers and publishers 100% of their year-one revenue to kick off the program, and then land on 55-70% going forward (like YouTube and the App stores do, respectively).
Can you imagine the goodwill that will grow out of Facebook sharing the wealth?
Zuckerberg can’t, but the rest of us can. Someone forward this email to Mark and say “something to consider, even if the messenger isn’t your favorite person.”
Bottom line: Sharing revenue with partners will give facebook amazing PR and those partners re-engaging the platform could reverse the “peak Facebook” and “Facebook is in decline” narrative.