We are told so often that Facebook’s founder is a genius that it can surprise when he actually does something that seems halfway smart. How else to account for his success in getting The Wall Street Journal to buy into this story, which led the front page on Thursday: Facebook Pivots to Private Sharing. What a masterstroke of public relations! The reporter, one Jeff Horwitz, was somehow induced to believe that Zuckerberg sees a vastly profitable enterprise in encrypted messaging and ‘ephemeral’ communications that disappear. So much for the existing, ad-based business model that has attracted billions of users. This deftly planted story seems no more believable than if Elon Musk had announced Tesla is shifting away from electric automobiles toward the production of high-tensile paperclips. Is there any money in it, we might ask? And how high are the entry barriers?
More important, can Facebook’s leopard change its spots? Presently, the company makes its money selling out each and every one of its users a thousand times to advertisers (and, as we learned last year, to political consultants, even those who work for the “wrong” side.) For this, Zuckerberg & Co. has developed a reputation for lying about exactly how this is done, and how soon the company plans to stop doing it.
Letting Zuck Off the Hook
But look at how easily reporter Horwitz lets Zuckerberg off the hook: “[Facebook] will also develop products within those messaging services — such as payments and e-commerce — that eventually could allow it to diversify from the ad-supported business model that led to a number of privacy missteps…” Missteps! Are these guys kidding? Zuckerberg’s business practices have made him a pariah to everyone on the planet who values privacy. European regulators would shut him down tomorrow if they could. And U.S. lawmakers, tired of being bamboozled by bulls**t whenever Zuckerberg is on the Hill, would gladly follow suit. But now he has masterfully distracted us with a fantastic story about making hundreds of billions of dollars from, um, paperclips. This is probably all the cover that stock analysts will need to resuscitate Facebook’s shares. All credit to Zuckerberg, who turns out to be almost as clever as the press has made him out to be.