Fragmentization of Consumer Tech

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In the heyday of Facebook (we can debate that later…), it served as a platform for everything: sharing photos, inviting friends to events, status updates, messages, etc. What started as a simple service began adding until it hugged every possible social function imaginable.

And then, things started to fragment. Entrepreneurs parsed out various aspects of Facebook and decided to take a siloed approached to each of the services Facebook did so well. Enter Instagram, Twitter, Eventbrite, contact applications like Brewster and others. And as time moves along, it seems that these services become derivatives of themselves (Snapchat, Jelly, Secret). Consumer technology seems to be moving only in the direction of even more fragmentation.

Consumer tech giants like Facebook and Google want to get ahead of this trend by fragmenting their own products before others are able to do so themselves. Their M&A and product goals seem to corroborate this hypothesis. Facebook’s purchase of WhatsApp and attempted buyout of Snapchat is only the beginning. Google’s Hangouts app is a great example of the phenomenon. And as of this week, Facebook announced that the mobile app will no longer allow for messages in-app, but instead users must download a separate app to send Facebook messages to their friends. They also tried this strategy with specific apps that flopped, like Poke and Messenger v1.

As for the future? It seems these things go in cycles. I predict that after a poor user experience that fragmentation provides, these consumer products will consolidate once again to make a user experience easier. For the time being, products like IFTTT is a great example of how users will skirt some of the problems fragmentation poses.

Would be curious to hear people’s thoughts on standalone products from within large companies?

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Fragmentization of Consumer Tech

The Resurgence of the Contact List: My Take on WhatsApp

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You’re probably living under a rock if you haven’t heard by now that Facebook purchased messaging service WhatsApp for $16 billion and $3 billion in RSUs. Twitter is abuzz with commentary about the acquisition so I figured I’d throw in my 2 cents.

Say what you want about the brilliance or insanity of the deal, or the fact that you could buy 64 billion McNuggets with that money, but it’s gotten me thinking about the importance of tech around the contact list. Increasingly we are using our phone numbers as the backbone for both mobile apps and security (things like 2 factor authentication) rather than email addresses. Snapchat is rooted in cell phone contacts rather than Facebook connections or Twitter followers.

The address book feels safe because presumably you are genuinely connected to someone if you have their phone number (except for a few outlier scenarios). Services like Snapchat and WhatsApp make users feel safer connecting with one another because you have their phone number. The address book is also a service most people utilize every day. Facebook is likely looking to capitalize on it since this is an additional point of frequent contact for their users.

Several apps have tried to disrupt the contact list space: services like Cobook and Brewster, but haven’t quite nailed it. Social media collects a different kind of address book, but it’s less personal. I think we’re primed to see more apps predicated on/making deeper use of the contact list, and that will become increasingly valuable as we try to connect the world one user at a time.

What do you think? Tweet me @ellenjdasilva to let me know.

The Resurgence of the Contact List: My Take on WhatsApp