$FB is still stuck at $26.25, way down from its $38 IPO price, but it’s made important progress since going public a year ago. Daily users up 26%, mobile monthly users up 56%, and revenue up 38% are some highlights. It’s running out of people to sign up in the developed world, but with this growth and no serious competitor in sight, it’s survived its hardest year yet.
- Likes – 4.5 Billion – Up 67% – Average number of likes generated as of May 2013, up from 2.7 billion likes generated daily in August 2012
- Content Items Shared – 4.75 Billion – Up 94% – Average number of content items shared daily as of May 2013, up from 2.45 content items shared daily in August 2012
[Stats and images provided by Facebook]
Likes and sharing are growing faster than Facebook’s user count, indicating strong engagement. This contradicts rumors that people are tuning out of Facebook. Zuckerberg’s Law, the CEO’s Moore’s Law-style theory, states that people will share twice as much every year. Facebook almost made good on Mark’s claim. It’s important that Facebook keeps that number growing as it’s shared content that keeps people visiting Facebook and seeing its ads.
To do that, Facebook is working on the more immersive mobile experience Home which has increased time spent on Facebook by 25% for its small number of active users. More time spent could lead to more sharing. This year it doubled the speed of its massively popular iOS and Android by switching them from HTML5 to native architecture, which lead to longer session times. It added content-specific news feed to boost browsing, and launched Graph Search to pull additional value out its data and get people to contribute more.
It’s also been beefing up its mobile SDKs for iOS and Android to make it easier for apps to share content to Facebook. That’s a big reason Facebook cares about helping its developers grow — they’re scratching each other’s backs.
- Monthly Active Users – 1.11 Billion – up 23% – As of March 2013, up from 901 million MAUs in March 2012
- Daily Active Users – 665 Million – up 26% – On average as of March 2013, up from 526 million DAUs on average in March 2012
- Mobile Monthly Active Users – 751 Million – up 54% – As of March 2013, up from 488 million mobile MAUs in March 2012
- Instagram – 100 Million Monthly Active Users – As of February 2013
Facebook is still signing up people pretty quickly, but all users are not created equal. While it earned $3.50 per user in the U.S. and Canada in Q1 2013, it only made $0.50 per user in much of the developing world including India and Brazil. Those emerging markets are where Facebook is getting most of its growth, meaning each subsequent 100 million users added is worth less than the last.
Growth in mobile has a similar issue. Facebook can show as many as seven ads per page on desktop whereas it has to be more careful not to overwhelm the small screen on mobile. So as Facebook’s users shift their access medium to mobile, it may earn less on each of them. Facebook is hoping that getting developers to pay for mobile news feed ads to get their apps discovered could counteract this, and that market is poised to grow as more businesses launch apps and the developing world switches to smartphones.
Overall, though, Facebook is still growing strong nine years after launch. The network effect of its ubiquity should not be underestimated. Dislodging Facebook as the premier general purpose social network will require something that’s not just better, but much, much better. Competitors might pick away at certain use cases, but are unlikely to replace it as the core identity provider for the web. Considering Facebook’s willingness to buy out threats like Instagram (which is still growing quickly in the first world), could stave off disruption and let it reign for years to come.
- Local Businesses – 16 Million – up 100% – Number of local business pages as of May 2013, up from 8 million in June 2012
- Promoted Posts – 7.5 Million – Number of promoted posts made from June 2012 to May 2013
- Revenue – $1.46 Billion – up 38% – In the first quarter of 2013, up from $1.06 billion in the first quarter of 2012
- Ad Revenue – $1.25 Billion – up 43% – In the first quarter of 2013, up from $872 million in the first quarter of 2012
- Employees – 4,900 – up 38% – As of March 2013, up from 3,539 in March 2012
- Game Payers – 24% more – Increase from March 2012 to March 2013
There’s no doubt about it. Going public made Facebook focus more on making money. It went from nearly zero revenue on mobile to $375 million a quarter, or about 30% of its total ad revenue. That in large part came thanks to the mobile app install ads it launched late last year. These let developers promote their apps in the Facebook news feed with ads that link straight to download pages in the Apple App Store and Google Play. These stores are getting more and more clogged with apps, inspiring developers to pay Facebook to get found.
Facebook also made big headway with Facebook Exchange, its retargeted ads that use people’s browser histories to show them highly relevant ads. FBX is absorbing advertiser budgets set aside for retargeting. Less successful has been Facebook Gifts, its entrance into direct e-commerce. Gifts has failed to produce meaningful revenue and may need to be overhauled to get more users purchasing real-life presents for their friends. Growth in payments revenue has been relatively slow too, as more game developers move from Facebook’s web canvas where it earns 30% to mobile, where Apple and Google get that cut.
One opportunity that should excite investors is that Facebook started showing ads in Graph Search. While they use the standard Facebook targeting now, they’re expected to incorporate keyword targeting, which could make them a more direct competitor to Google’s wildly lucrative AdWords business. The increasing technological savvy of local businesses could be a boon to Facebook in the future. Right now few of them actively buy social ads, but expect revenue to shift towards Facebook and away from less targeted print and telephone book ads in the future.
Still, Facebook isn’t trying to make as much money as it could. Another year went by without TV commercial-style auto-play video ads (though they’re rumored to be getting closer to this), and it even paused its experiment with a mobile ad network. If Facebook built out these streams it might piss some people off or make them feel like they data is being exploited, but it could definitely produce a huge boost in revenue. Off-site and off-app ad networks could let Facebook leverage its enormous wealth of personal data to power ads elsewhere so it can earn money without showing more ads on its own properties. That potential more than any is an argument for why Facebook is undervalued.
Most importantly of all, Facebook’s efforts to earn more money have not significantly impeded its mission of connecting the world. There are definitely more ads on Facebook, especially on mobile, but the data shows that they’re not annoying users enough to reduce their engagement.
Facebook has grown up. It’s no longer the red-hot startup that could double its user count every year. And it’s not the mature corporation churning out amazing profits by squeezing every last dime out of its data and usage. But Facebook has weathered the storm of going public without letting it destroy its regard for the user experience. It’s now a fundamental utility for most of the world. If it can keep from getting too greedy and stay focused on the long-term health of its community, it will have plenty of time to figure out how to turn the world’s life story into serious business.
Google impressed a lot of people when it debuted its Grand Canyon Street View imagery in October. The Trekker backpack used to capture that imagery, which is essentially a backpack-mounted version of the same all-seeing eye that sits atop the Google Street View car.
The roughly 40-pound backpack is not all that uncomfortable to wear, I found out when I slipped the Trekker on. It’s a little top-heavy, and I’m not sure I’d want to risk running at a brisk clip if I was using one out in the wild, but it’s really no heavier than a standard backpacker’s kit for a few days’ journey.
Silverman explained how the Trekker works, including how its camera sensor head gathers images and how those are then stored on a hefty solid state hard drive built into the backpack, where they can later be transferred back to Google’s servers to get started with the process of recreating a hike.
I asked Silverman whether we might see the Trekker make its way to the backs of other beings beyond humans, and he said that they are indeed mulling the idea of strapping versions of it to beasts of burden to help them continue to map the world in images. There are also plans in the works to mount it to remotely operated robots and small vehicles to help get imagery that otherwise wouldn’t be easily reachable by a human Trekker.
He said to expect plenty more to come from the Trekker team in terms of Street View imagery of some of the world’s most interesting – and most remote – locales. Combined with Google’s new underwater street view project, that means everyone can probably get a lot more familiar with a lot more of the world in the near future.
Secret sharing app Whisper has seen tremendous growth since launching last fall. But until recently, it’s only been available on iOS. With a launch on Android’s Google Play store this week, Whisper is going to be available to a whole bunch of new users, particularly in its key demographic of young adults aged 18-24.
Whisper, in case you don’t know, is an ultra-hot app designed for easily sharing secrets anonymously with other users. It’s like PostSecret for mobile phones, allowing users to upload or search for images online and then adding text messages on top of them. Whispers are shared with all users of the app, and the most popular are surfaced based on the number of hearts or responses received from other users.
In addition to public responses, Whisper users can also privately message each other, as long as they’re willing to pay for the feature. That not only keeps the amount of marketing down, but it also provides a way for users to connect with other users that they wouldn’t have otherwise known.
The app continues to grow phenomenally fast. When we checked in with Whisper, users were viewing about a billion page views on the app per month. That’s up to about 1.5 billion per month now, according to co-founder Michael Heyward. Messaging on the app, which makes up the bulk of Whisper’s revenues, is growing even faster. Heyward said there’s essentially zero churn among users who sign up — and pay — for messaging.
“Any time there’s a new person that enlists in that feature, we grow it at a more exponential rate,” he told me. As a result, there are more than millions of messages being passed around privately among users.
While Whisper has seen pretty fantastic growth over the last several weeks, being on iOS limited the app’s addressable market. That’s especially true since Whisper’s most important user base — those between the ages of 18 and 24 — tend to overindex on Android devices. As a result, Heyward believes that its iOS app could only access approximately 40 percent of its most important audience.
With that in mind, the team worked around the clock to get its Android app released. It initially started work on the app about six weeks ago, looking to replicate all the features and functionality of its popular iOS app.
The Android app first hit Google Play earlier this week and received about 50,000 downloads in the first 48 hours — all without any real promotion from the company. More importantly, the engagement levels with early Android users have been on par with or better than iOS usage. For instance, about 40 percent of initial Android users have created Whispers already.
Whisper has raised $3 million in funding led by Lightspeed Venture Partners, with participation from investors like Trinity Ventures, Shoedazzle founder Brian Lee, and Flixster’s Joe Greenstein. The company now has 14 employees, but Heyward says they’re looking to add a few more hires over the coming weeks.
Flowboard is trying create the best tools for “interactive storytelling” on a tablet. And the best way to illustrate those tools is through a demo, so founder and CEO Brent Brookler stopped by the TechCrunch office today to show us the app.
First, Brookler showed us the beginning of creating a presentation. He chose a template, imported media, and was able to directly manipulate that media using the touchscreen. Then he showed us a finished presentation (it was kind of a like cooking show, where you skip all the boring stuff in the middle). The presentations look great on the iPad and, by allowing users to zoom in on specific images or topics, Flowboard enables the creation of presentations that “go deeper.”
The easiest way to understand what Flowboard is doing is to think of it as presentation-building software for tablets, but Brookler said he’s not trying to compete with PowerPoint.
“We don’t have tables and charts and bullets,” he said. “We’re going after really interactive storytelling. We feel like are iterating and innovating on what the presentation medium should be. … We’re living in a world that’s all Internet-based, and it’s all touch and multimedia. And it’s app-focused — it’s a mobile-first product.”
(To be clear, even though Flowboard’s focus is on tablets, the presentations can be viewed on any device.)
Brookler also showed off some of the features that Flowboard has added since it launched last month, including snap guides that make it easier to move elements into place. He also said upcoming releases will include YouTube integration and an “undo” button.
If you like what you see in the video, you can download the Flowboard iPad app here.
Pinterest works best on the web, with its big images and pinning from other browser tabs. But mobile is the future and Pinterest needs to play catch up there. Today Pinterest mobile added search suggestions to make single screen pinning easier. Its iOS and Android apps also got basics like notifications and mentions. Pinterest will need to add value, not just port its website, to win on mobile.
The problem with Pinterest on mobile is that it’s fundamentally a collection site — and you need other places to collect from. That’s a breeze on the web with its bookmarklet for pinning, or quick multi-window browsing so you can add things onto your boards. But on mobile with just one screen visible, finding content can be a chore.
Pinterest is trying to fix this with a few updates today. First, search suggestions, also known as a typeahead, can quickly find you people or things when you just type a few letters. Instead of having to dream up what kind of apple-based recipes other users are pinning, typing “apple” now reveals a drop down of suggestions like apple pie (expected) and apple cider vinegar (now that’s discovery).
While already allowed on the Android app, Pinterest’s iOS app also now allows you to type in URLs within the app by hitting the ‘+’ sign at the bottom of the screen to bring in outside content. However, most people don’t know the exact URLs they’d want to pin from, so this may work better with cut and paste. Still, you’re going to have to jump back and forth between your mobile browser and Pinterest to make it work. That’s a lot more friction than on the web.
Finally, both of Pinterest’s core apps got some fundamentals added. Somehow there were not in-app or push notifications before, but now there’s both. You can also now tag people with @mentions from mobile, which feeds in nicely with the new notifications.
Pinterest is one company I’m honestly a little worried about when it comes to mobile. I feel like the nesting instinct is very natural on the desktop that you’re often using from home, your real nest. On mobile the desire to collect and arrange seems both less natural and inherently more difficult with the small screen. Pinterest might flourish on the tablet, but it will have to work hard to make its phone experience as alluring.
It needs to add unique value on the platform that takes advantage of mobile. Pin suggestions based on nearby businesses and board suggestions based on nearby users. Instant uploads from your camera roll to a private board might be a bit aggressive, but some way to more easily pin photos you’ve taken on the go would be great. Whatever is does, it needs to go beyond cramming its website into a smaller box.