Although the company has faced a pretty substantial devaluing since it floated publicly two weeks ago, resulting in an estimated $5bn loss of net worth for Zuckerberg, this has been largely attributed to the initial overestimation of its stock value, similar to Twitter’s experience, and the social media giants are pressing ahead with their new plans.
This appears to be the development of a social media-driven smartphone to compete with android, a rumour that has been chasing the company for quite some time: as early as 2010 Techcrunch were reporting work beginning on a now-defunct smartphone project. This seems to be far closer to reality than ever, though, as the New York Times cited reports from unnamed sources suggesting that several former Apple employees have been approached to design the hardware. There is also a claim that Zuckerberg is worried about Facebook becoming merely an app on someone else’s hardware, with all the associated creative limitations.
Additionally, talk is abroad that Facebook is lining up a $100m bid for Face.com, an upstart facial recognition app whose users already connect to their social media profiles in substantial numbers. Again, it isn’t the first time that Face.com has cropped up on FB’s shopping list, but with the acquisition of Instagram already secured, the tech offered by Face is of immediate and clear value for a FB-branded and social media-integrated smartphone. With the expansion of the FB app’s capabilities, the brand’s movement away from desktop-based users is greatly strengthened, not least by the other company in its sights: mobile/PC browser company Opera.
In a move that might be something more than coincidence, Opera also announced the launch of its own social media oriented smartphone browser, Opera Mini 7. The browser is not aimed at Apple or Android but more ‘basic’ mobile devices like Blackberry, and has a bunch of cool features that are perfect for social browsing. It provides a one-page news summary of the user’s Facebook and Twitter feeds, links to the user’s most-visited sites, and a function that provides suggested content based on the user’s browsing history. Not too difficult to tell why this is all so desirable for Zuckerberg and co., and for Opera, providing all of a user’s necessary info on the company’s own page means spending less time elsewhere. Even the CEO Lars Boilesen noted that Opera’s previous phone software required a frustrating amount of time spent entering urls.
As of yet, and not surprisingly, none of the players involved have released any categorical statements of intent. But it’s more than tempting to fill in the dots, and Facebook certainly won’t feel any ill-effect from having their projects feature so prominently on so many top level sources.