Change of pace and strategy for Facebook, to get out of the storm. In a long post, Mark Zuckerberg made it clear that the future of the social network is completely different from what it has been until now. It is direct messaging, from person to person, which will be the vast majority of Facebook’s use. And the availability of end-to-end cryptography systems (by virtue of which even Facebook itself will not know what we are writing about, nor will anyone else be able to do it) through a unified network of messages passing through Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram.
This, at least in theory, because in practice there are a lot of pending questions and ways of working to be clarified. After all, the devil is in the details. How much is visible in the apps that make advertising profiling? How can you check that no prohibited or even dangerous content is circulating? How will the payment blockchain project fit into all this?
But the important thing is the direction Facebook is taking, which is indeed radical. And that could solve some of today’s problems: fake news can’t become viral if there’s no newsfeed anymore. And even the “voyeurs” of other people’s data can no longer aggregate if there is no more data available, and so on. But above all, the new Facebook strategy now remembers the WeChat approach much more closely. And this is actually the most interesting thing.
Because WeChat, in the Chinese version that is different from the one available in the rest of the world, is practically an operating system platform. A single application in which everything is done: communicating, joining private and semi-public areas, exchanging information, consuming content, booking taxis and restaurants, shopping online and offline, making payments. And WeChat has made smartphone models practically irrelevant: it is enough for the app to work and for an iPhone or Android to become just a matter of aesthetics. Because all the important functions for the user take place within WeChat.
It turns out that the scandals of user privacy and monetisation, from Cambridge Analytica down, are only offering a golden opportunity to Mark Zuckerberg. That of changing everything and marrying a model – that of WeChat – that otherwise would have remained strongly indigestible to users and regulators. And in making it become also the savior of the homeland. Pardon, privacy.