Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg just pulled out the best excuse ever for copying somebody else’s stuff.
A few years back, when Snapchat was just a plucky startup and its CEO and founder Evan Spiegel a young jock fresh out of college, Zuck invited Spiegel to California, to come and sell him his business.
“No dice”, said Spiegel, drawing a line in the sand between the two companies, and ensuring they would go on to be the best of enemies.
Ever since, whilst Facebook has meandered down a series of creative dead-ends, Snapchat has gone from strength to strength; and how Zuck must hate it.
Why didn’t his company, with its zen-like offices and creative teams assembled at such great expense from the Harvard’s, Standford’s and Oxford’s of this world, dream up with idea of drawing funny bunny ears on selfie’s.
Why didn’t they deliver the disappearing message?
Why didn’t they release a pair of camera glasses goddamit!
Instead, Facebook delivered endless rumours about things that would come: Virtual Reality is gonna be awesome, we promise, it’s just a bit clunky and geeky right now but just you wait!
Soon, Augmented Reality will be in every classroom in the world! Soon, we’ll make sure that everyone in the world has an internet connection.
Like a 70’s soft rock super band with a million pound a day cocaine habit, Facebook tried to make a tricky concept album that nobody really wanted to listen to, whilst SnapChat churned out hit after simple hit.
Ouch. That’s the problem when your company gets too big too quick. Maybe Zuck himself believed the hype a little too much, and thought he was a genius, when in reality he was just an exceptionally talented coder and entrepreneur who got his timing right and clung on through the tough times to emerge victorious in the battle for social media network supremacy.
Then he sold his network to the advertisers by IPO’ing – and they turned Facebook into one giant YouTube news feed.
Poor Zuck! He thought, and still thinks he could be the leader of the free world, but now he has a whole set of “real world” problems to deal with, like Fake News and People Uploading videos of themselves committing acts of violence against other people.
Not a good look.
So at this year’s F8 conference Zuck tried to put a brave face on it. By launching Facebook Spaces.
Here’s how Facebook spaces works; you buy an Oculus Rift headset for £600 pounds. Then you buy a PC that will work with an Oculus Rift headset for about £1,000 pounds. Oh, and it must be a PC – can’t be a laptop, which means you cannot take your Oculus Rift headset anywhere with you.
Then, on your own, you put on the ridiculous, clunky, headset, fire up the ridiculous, clunky, PC, and hey presto! You become an avatar in a funky cartoon graphic world where you can meet with your other Avatar friends and show each other photographs and do the same kind of stuff you could when you played Monkey Island 2 on your Amiga when you were 12 – with your actual friends.
Ho hum – Spaces isn’t a bad idea, it’s just not ready yet – and it is a bit questionable whether it will ever be something that anybody needs.
So, what does Zuck and his highly-paid team of campus dwelling hippies do?
He kind of rips off SnapChat. Rips it off real bad. Even gives his ripped off copycat versions of Snapchat tools and ideas the same name! Stories, anyone?
And his excuse? Oh that. That plagiarism? That brazen hijacking of somebody else’s work? That’s just a placeholder, a step on the road to the wonderful VR / AR world we are creating and will deliver sometime soon – or possibly never – we haven’t really made up our minds yet.
Facebook’s users are a little its CEO. A little older, a little more tired – and a bit bored with Facebook. So much talent assembled at such great expense, and So. Much. Bluff.
Kind of makes you root for the frat-boy Spiegel.