Monthly Archives: March 2014

They Did What? Facebook Drops $2 Billion on Virtual Reality Company

Since going public almost two years ago, Web 2.0 darling and social media giant, Facebook, has overcome some hurdles in order to please Wall Street. Throughout this time remaking itself as a profit making social media platform (in a way that matches Wall Steet’s expectations), the company has made quite a few purchases to shore up its offerings to consumers and users.

Recently, Facebook has made news for the prices it has been paying for purchases it sees as vital to maintaining the platform’s dominance on the web. Zuckerberg’s Facebook purchased the messaging app, WhatsApp, for an unprecedented $19 billion. This deal turned the heads of many web enthusiasts. Before WhatsApp, Facebook bought Instagram for about $1 billion, a price tag that now seems paltry compared to the WhatsApp purchase.

However, Facebook has also made some purchases that may just make users scratch their heads instead of turning them. Facebook is planning to buy a drone company for $60 million, and just recently, they announced the purchase of virtual reality company, Oculus VR, for $2 billion.

Yes you read that right, Facebook just bought one of the most promising virtual reality companies operating today. However, given Oculus’ history as a user-supported start-up, the company has received a great deal of blowback for agreeing to the deal with Facebook. Thousands have cancelled their pre-orders and are posting on other social platforms about how Oculus sold out.

Facebook itself took a hit from Wall Street. Its stock fell 7% after the deal was announced. No one is quite sure what Facebook and Zuckerberg have planned for Oculus, or how much independence the company will have. Could VR be the next step for the web? Does Facebook see itself as instrumental and vital in making the change? It will probably be a few years before we see what comes of this acquisition.

Edward Snowden Surprises TED to Talk About the Web

Ten years ago, a discussion about how the web should develop and what privacy rights its users could claim wasn’t much of a discussion. Back then, everyone simply was excited about the new direction the web was taking: more social, more interactive, and more focused on the user.

The web still continues to develop in this manner, but the situation has been changing rapidly. Platforms like Facebook and Twitter combined with web giants like Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and Yahoo have amassed an unimaginable amount of data about all of us on the web. Most of this makes our online experience better, but there are problems that stem from collecting this information.

Thanks to Edward Snowden, the world learned last year about the NSA, government snooping, and data collection on a scale that shocked all but the best-informed. Just this week, Edward Snowden appeared via a robot connected to the internet at the TED conference and was interviewed by Chris Anderson, the TED curator.

The over 30-minute conversation covered a variety of topics. Snowden reminded and warned listeners that “people who have seen and enjoyed the free and open internet, it’s up to us to preserve that liberty for the next generation to enjoy.”

It seems now that everyone on the web has a much more serious choice about where to take the internet than we did 10 years ago. Now it isn’t about how to make interaction more social and about the user, it’s about protecting privacy and the very openness of the web itself.

As we recently celebrated the 25th anniversary of the web, it’s important to take a moment and think about what sort of internet is needed that will work for everyone. Perhaps this will be the next big moment in the internet’s history. Hopefully, the web becomes something that users want and need so it continues moving forward, but this time it might take more involvement from everyone to keep our information and privacy intact.

Excellent Series on the History of the Web

It’s hard to believe, but the internet has been with us for 25 years now. Tim Berners-Lee submitted his ideas for what would become the World Wide Web 25 years ago, and there were few that could have imagined how massive and important the internet would become to billions of people around the world.

In celebration of the web’s 25th birthday, Eric Mack has been writing a four-part series for CNET. He just recently released the third part that covers the time of the emergence of the Web 2.0 philosophy, which still, for the most part, guides the web’s development today.

Despite having fled the problems of the bursting dot-com bubble and lacking much connection to the tech world, Mack actually heard about Web 2.0 concepts and watched them grow. In his series, Mack reminds us of the explosive beginnings of Web 2.0 and social media, discussing Friendster, MySpace, and then Facebook in 2004.

The latter two platforms seem like ages ago in internet time, but they were vital to planting the notion of a social web into the minds of users. Mack argues that thanks to these sites and the Web 2.0 philosophy, the web had “completed the transition from the fringes of youth culture to [become] the bedrock of its mainstream foundation.”

Mack masterfully puts together a clear picture of how Web 2.0 concepts shaped the internet in the early 2000s. He likens that moment to the “maturing of web culture,” and he makes a strong argument to support his claim.

If you’re interested in learning more about the 25 years that the internet has been around, (which you probably are since you’re reading this), be sure to check out Eric Mack’s article with the link above. There are two other parts leading up to the early 2000s, which are excellently written as well.

Facebook Wants to Buy a Drone Company? Why?

Fresh off the heels of a $19 billion dollar purchase of the popular messaging app, WhatsApp, Facebook is once again in the news. This time, the social media company is making headlines for something that at first glance seems a bit strange. Facebook wants to buy a drone maker.

Yes, you read that right. According to TechCrunch and many other news outlets reporting on the story this week, Facebook may buy Titan Aerospace. What makes Titan Aerospace special? The company manufactures solar-powered drones that fly close to the altitude for earth orbit and don’t need to land for upwards of five years.

That’s quite a product that Titan Aerospace has for sale, but why would a Web 2.0 giant and social media site want a bunch of high-altitude drones? It turns out this purchase (rumored to be worth around $60 million) is all about getting more of the world on the internet.

Facebook, along with many other tech companies, want to bring the internet to those who have little or no access. This is a significantly large population of people around the globe, many in places where the regular infrastructure required for internet use is lacking. Facebook’s drones would provide similar services as satellite internet to these regions at a fraction of the cost of traditional satellites.

This push for more world connectivity comes from an organization called Internet.org. Of course, Facebook has a lot to gain from being the force behind attempts to bring connectivity to millions more people. The more people using Facebook, the better their revenues and data will be for advertisers.

At the same time, Internet.org’s mission is altruistic. There is a true desire to bring access to human knowledge to all parts of the globe, in hopes that it will only continue to improve humanity. Keep an eye on this purchase if it goes through, because it could mean a new internet in the not-so-distant future!