Can Facebook Rule The World?

Facebook held its annual conference recently and shared its plans for the next ten years. Its mission to connect the world continues apace as its chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, lauds its march towards creating a global community. The sound bites are, no doubt, genuine but what lies behind them.

A sales machine

Facebook is one of a few major companies shaping the digital world and it finds opportunity in every jot of the billions of bits of data it collects from us.

There are already 1.6 billion regular Facebook users who update, share and obsess about their (almost) every thought and activity.

Facebook also owns WhatsApp with its 1 billion users and Instagram with its 400 million users and hopes to capture countless others as they venture online.

Critics suggest Facebook’s mission to connect the world is less about connecting people and more about corralling customers and consumers.

Facebook profits by selling advertising based on the numbers of users and the amount of time they spend online or more specifically on Facebook.

Every piece of connectivity is converted into a commercial data point as clicks and comments are sifted and shifted to produce prized profiles.

Facebook is handsomely paid by advertisers to promote products in a targeted way based on freely, albeit innocently, given personal information.

It then sells the collected data not necessarily to fulfil its mission of connecting the world but to achieve a more mundane mission of making mega profits.

Understanding how Facebook’s mission reconciles with its extreme concentration on advertising sales is difficult as what it says and what it does seem strangely at odds.

The next ten years

Facebook began by collecting our personal information, kept us engaged through the use of photos and smartphones and now encourages us to share content of all creed.

Future plans include the use of artificial intelligence and virtual reality to capture even more personal information and understand how we act and interact socially.

Facebook wants to know everything (and it means everything) about us to increase our attractiveness to advertisers and therefore garner premium profit.

As a result advertisers adore Facebook and flock to it in droves to raid its reams of data about what, when, where and why we buy.

Facebook’s mission may be praiseworthy but its ability to extract and exchange our personal information for profit is equally noteworthy.

Its success is set to continue as other products like Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram gather further information, which it seems we are only too willing to give.

The irony, of course, is that one of the leading businesses of the digital age is sustained by profits spawned from an industry rooted in a previous age.

SO, connecting the world is the mission and selling personal information to make endless profit is the job: nice work if you can get it.