Facebook: Pivotting a Planet
posted by shuri on 2010-05-05 12:38:40
tags: news,facebook,privacy,pivot,social,networks

The latest buzz word on all the startup blogs seems to be "pivot" (see also here). The idea is as follows. Let us say you are a young startup: you already raised some money, assembled the team, started developing software and maybe even have some clients. Things are going great! Great that is, until at some point you discover you are headed towards a dead end or maybe an even a greater opportunity. what do you do? You pivot. Being so young here is an advantage. You can talk to your small team and convince them that this new direction is much more promising. Ideally, the new direction would work even better for your existing clients and would allow you to salvage some of your efforts uptill now. Congratulations, you pivoted. There is a nice thread on the lean-startup-circle attempting to break down the concept to a whole pivot taxonomy.

Now what happens if your company has been running for more than six years, you raised several hundred million dollars, have over 400 million active users and now, for some reason you want to pivot?

You are positioned as the safe haven for you and your friends and you are great. Everybody loves you and trusts you. However, suddenly you become jealous of the new guy (Twitter envy?)? Maybe you realize monetizing social networks is tricky? Maybe you realize there is a whole web out there and you want a piece of that too? You make up your mind you are going to pivot. Pivot the whole planet; Pivot your 1200 employees, the code and the concepts. You also have to pivot the 400 million active users into thinking their safe haven was actually a public park all along. That public is the new private. You can learn about the new APIs facebook introduced: the open graph, facebook on connections and eff on connections., I am not going to go into details.

Some people find it scary? A lot of people are upset, trying to hold on to the wall and pivot the thing back. Returning your privacy one site at a time. Some people just want to leave their violated safe haven. Politicians as well as the eff also found it necessary to voice their concerns.

Facebook made a strategic decision to try and aggressively encourage people to be more public about their information. I am not sure that is such a big sin. They were one of the first companies to face the need for these type of privacy controls. Quite frankly, I think Facebook offers the users amazingly fine grained privacy controls which should be studied and adopted. Facebook is a business, and the owner of the business made a strategic decision to attempt and speed up social evolution. If nothing else it is a daring attempt that is very interesting to watch.