It makes so much sense for Facebook to buy WhatsApp that I almost decided not to blog about it. But there is an important learning here.
Facebook is redefining its brand in terms of what it owns and represents, and WhatsApp is a natural step in this direction. Facebook is no longer about social media. It has quickly become how we communicate with one another and express our views and ideals to others. It is more of an online and public diary than it is a chat room for our social media circles.
Sorry Google+, the idea of circles (the way Google+ allows you to organize your friends) does not resonate. Trying to compete with Facebook and creating two competing social media platforms was a pratfall, one of the few missteps by Google. Unlike Pinterest, which provided a novel way to pin images of opinions (and is seen as fun— like scrapbooking), Google+ offered no perceivable value except the need to have two high maintenance networks.
Control over who sees what you post, which was Google’s idea with circles, is simply a complication not an advantage. On top of this, people post on Facebook to be noticed—not hidden through circles. It allows for bragging about events and opinions without having to admit you targeted a particular group. Facebook seems more egalitarian to users.
Anyway, watch what Facebook is up to in the next months. I see it buying aligned businesses that don’t meet the social network definition as we see it today. Facebook wants to replace your phone number. It wants to own how you are found as well as what you let others know.
The portal of Facebook may lose some of its luster. Some demographics may desert it. But Facebook the brand will remain. It has to be and I have no doubt it will be.