“Stunning Fail”

On reading this article, many things come to mind; and not just how it screams “sensationalism” and “nay-sayer” out loud.

Stunning, indeed!

Musk is headed for a “stunning fail” – Edward Niedermeyer.

Mr. Nostradamus takes a series of arguments, adds layers of “if this then that” on top, and tries to create a straw man. Even in my sleep I could smell oil on this article.

Musk was a newcomer into the payments industry and he re-invented things with PayPal. SpaceX is the first private company in the world that has been able to successfully go farther than government agencies like NASA, and at a cheaper cost.

People said the idea that Tesla could begin shipping the Model S to customers in 2012 was absurd, that they were naive and didn’t understand the complexities of building a vehicle like Detroit does.

Before that, everyone said nobody would buy electric vehicles because (a) you can’t get them over 100 miles in range, and (b) because there is no charging infrastructure.

I would rather live in a world where a man like Musk is pushing the realm of possibilities to the next level as opposed to one in which he joins the rest of us hoping for some miracle to come out of the behemoth car (or any other) industry which hasn’t really done much to innovate in fields like energy.

Even if it happens to be a “stunning fail”, it would be more glorious and would have changed the world more than most others in their entire lifetime.

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Facebook buys Whatsapp

$19 billion.

This is the amount of money Facebook is paying (stocks + cash + RSUs) to acquire WhatsApp.

I’ve not been able to process it yet.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not questioning the worth of WhatsApp. It is a great messaging app which provides a simple, no-frills and reliable way of communicating with people, sharing images, videos, music etc. I have tried using a couple of other messaging apps and every time came back to WhatsApp. That is how good it is.

And ~500 million customers without any marketing is a huge deal that speaks volumes for the product.

But something does not add up. Or maybe I’m too naive to understand it yet.

WhatsApp supposedly deletes messages from their servers once they gets delivered. And they want nothing to do with advertising. Two things that Facebook is big on: data and advertising. Which leaves people’s contact list, which Facebook already has, in most cases by virtue of being installed on almost every Android/iOS phone out there.

Also, WhatsApp’s founder has promised to keep the product and services running as is, without ads. So what is Facebook really getting for $19B?

WhatsApp has become the app which has almost entirely replaced SMS and other messaging services for most people I know (speaking for student and professional crowd in India). By becoming the de-facto communication standard of sorts, and being present on every mobile device with a data plan, they have disrupted mobile messaging. Add to it the ability to create groups, and you have a pretty solid product. Not to mention that you save a lot of money, which is probably why I would be willing pay $5 or even $10 instead of $1/year. I think the fact that it is a private social network with a deep reach (across multiple platforms including Symbian) is a big thing. Also, there is zero effort on the user’s part to get started, besides installing the app. You can choose to share content with one or many people, and you only get to see what people directly share with you. It keeps the noise away. This, in addition to absence of advertising, makes it a good experience for one-to-one or one-to-many interactions.

On the other hand, it makes me think that this belittles the value of the hard sciences, medical and life saving research that people put their lives into. But then, Facebook was also valued at $100 billion+ , right?

What if Google starts doing it?

This has been a question I have come across many times, and must say, is not a pointless one. I have been asked this by my friends many times I discuss an idea with them, and Google told me that many VCs do it too.

I have always loved Google. For their culture, for the simple UI of their products, for supporting open technologies, for providing high-quality products (mostly) for free, unless you are a power user; and for tackling big problems.

Theoretically, many of those things are still valid. But there is a problem. I am no longer a student, and when I pick a product, especially for professional use, I have to know that it will work, I will get the support in case I need it; and most importantly, it will still be around 6 months or 2 years from now. That is where this argument has started faltering lately. I’m sure Google is not abandoning mail anytime soon. But can I be certain about things like Blogger, Calendar, or Feedburner? Not with certainty, I suppose. They’ll notify us in their Spring Cleaning updates and give time to export the data, but I still don’t see why shouldn’t I just stick to a company that is focused on that one product.

If you want to do something they are already doing, I think you should not let this fact be the sole deterrent, as long as you know there is a market and you know that you can provide a solid product and good support.

This keeps getting hotter

I’m not pointing fingers, but iOS 6 is stripping off Google search referrer data. No, doesn’t seem to be an OS bug; Bing data is preserved (read more here). I might be wrong, but you can’t ignore the big picture.

Take this, and add to it the fact that Apple bid goodbye to Google Maps in its latest iOS update and you can start getting a clearer indication of things to come. Siegler puts it well. While you are at it, take notice. Listen to what Marissa Mayer is telling Yahoo! now. Or as we put it at MobStac,  Mobile is the new web.

Also, check out what iOS6 maps shows you.

And here’s the customary dose of fun:

Advertising

Advertising is one of primary sources of revenue for many companies, and of primary expenditure for many others.

In order to validate the humongous expenditure on adverts and to optimize the RoI, a lot of researches are conducted to create the right messaging and feeling around the product and the brand to improve the targeting and enhance the effect advertisements have on the audience. Advertising is what enables us to know about the new products and companies in town, gives us options to choose from and thus provides for a better market (going by the age-old ‘Competition breeds excellence’ adage).

Obviously that is how they try to instill good messaging, but it really annoys me how advertisements imply that the only thing missing in your life keeping you from being truly happy is the one product they are selling. In the real world, especially in the big cities, there almost is no breathing space without ads. In fact, if you look around right now, I can almost assure you that you will come across at least one piece of advertising in one of the multiple forms available. I loved the concept of a place without ads.

With the ‘personalization’ and ‘social’ advent of the Internet, the targeting seems to have started hitting the ‘creepy’ limit, if you ask me. I mean, just because people on my friend list like jewelry does not mean I do too (yes, I’m referring to Facebook showing me all kinds of adverts regarding jewelry and fashion shopping). IMHO, the Google model is as good as online advertising gets. I’m not saying that there can’t be further innovation in the space, but showing ads of things I am actually searching for seems much more sensible to me than showing them to me when I’m communicating with the people in my life. Not just that, Facebook knows (almost) the deepest of your secrets and can sell them to other companies in lieu of advertising revenue.

I really think that the Advertising industry needs a breakthrough/overhaul, but maybe that’s just me.