The rise of rival social apps really annoys Facebook.
I mean, that makes sense – if a competitor gains traction and starts to eat into your market share, you need to fight back, or you risk losing your position, which is how Facebook ousted MySpace back in 2008.
It makes sense that Facebook wouldn’t be overly happy about newer apps gaining traction, but unlike many other companies, Facebook has the resources to do something about it. And it’s now taking extra steps to seemingly suppress rising competition before it has a chance to cause an impact.
We’ve already seen this with Facebook’s NPE team – Facebook launched its ‘New Product Experimentation’ team in July last year, with a view to:
“Develop new types of experiences for people and to try different ideas by creating small, focused apps in order to see whether people find certain features useful or engaging.”
Thus far, the NPE team has taken aim at a range of rising app trends, replicating similar functionalities to tools available in TikTok, Clubhouse, Pinterest and others. And now, Facebook is adding another string to its bow in battling competition.
As per Axios:
“Facebook has been hiring seasoned tech investors to help lead a new “multimillion dollar” investment fund within its experimental apps team.”
In addition to replicating any new app trends via its NPE experiments, the NPE team will also now look to invest in rising social apps and tools, in order to catch them before they can become rivals.
As Axios additionally notes, detecting these rising tools early will be key, as both Facebook and Google are under scrutiny for anti-competitive behavior, which means that Facebook likely won’t be able to make any major investments in key rivals. But if Facebook can latch onto them quickly, before they have a chance to develop, that could be another way for the company to quell competition, before it even has a chance to take flight.
Of course, Facebook has always sought to keep tabs on its competition. Early last year, Facebook was forced to shut down its Onavo tracking tool, which it had been using to monitor app trends among consumers, in order to see where people’s attentions were shifting over time. Onavo, which Facebook acquired in 2013, pitched itself as a way to help limit background data usage by apps, but it also tracked which apps users opened, and provided that insight to Facebook.
That enabled Facebook to keep tabs on trends, but with its forced shutdown, Facebook had to resort to new methods. That lead to the development of the NPE team, which has since released eight test apps within the space of six months.
This new investment fund will provide more capacity on this front – and while, as noted, Facebook is under scrutiny over its efforts to stop competitors, if it can replicate functions, and buy up trending tools quickly, it could be a means to stop another Snapchat or TikTok from gaining traction, helping Facebook maintain its position at the top of the social heap.
But then, of course, it could just keep copying the latest trends. After Facebook copied Stories from Snapchat, it pretty much cleared the way for it to blatantly ‘borrow’ from any other app moving forward – though that type of activity is also what’s raised the hackles of antitrust investigators, who are concerned that Facebook’s market dominance is too much.
It’s an interesting element to watch, and it’s clear from this latest announcement that Facebook is pushing ahead, despite rising noise from officials and regulators.
We’ll wait and see what apps Facebook invests in, and how they translate into new Facebook tools.