Facebook is on top.
No other tech company is executing so well across so many areas at once — from product development to business management to public relations.
Take a look:
Users are addicted. Facebook has more than 968 million active daily users, the company said on its earnings call this week.
Let’s put that another way so it sinks in. Nearly 1 billion people — one out of every seven people on planet Earth — checks Facebook every day. And these users aren’t just conducting a search query or two, they’re spending more than 46 minutes per day on the site.
More users are coming aboard every day. Facebook’s monthly active user count increased 13% from last year. That’s not a big percentage, but it’s starting from an absolutely enormous base and went from 1.32 billion users to 1.49 billion users.
Another way of looking at is that Facebook added 173 million new users since last year. That’s greater than the population of Germany and the U.K. combined.
It’s already planning for the day when current internet users are saturated. CEO Mark Zuckerberg portrays the Facebook-funded Internet.org as a way to bring internet access to the the next billion people who don’t have it today, but this isn’t just for charitable purposes. The more people who are online, the more people can use Facebook. That’s how 1.49 billion becomes 3 billion. Or 5 billion.
And it’s creating some really cool technology — like this internet-beaming drone plane and these communication lasers — to get there.
The company has managed revenue growth incredibly well since going public. Take a look at this chart:
When Facebook went public in spring 2012, investors could look at the past few years’ performance and see a fast-growing company. At that time, Facebook had no mobile advertising business. It started selling mobile ads that same quarter.
Since then, the businesses that Facebook used to rely on have gone flat — but mobile advertising has grown in a perfect trajectory. All of Facebook’s revenue growth since its IPO has been in an area that didn’t exist when it filed to go public.
Facebook has multiple other revenue streams it’s just waiting to tap. Facebook just started selling self-service, targeted ads — the kind Google made famous for search — on Instagram. Analysts predict it will be a billion-dollar business in the next couple of years.
Facebook hasn’t even started to monetise its messaging products, Messenger and WhatsApp, which are used by more than a billion people combined, but CEO Mark Zuckerberg dropped a big hint about messaging on the earnings call. Basically, the company’s going to follow the same exact process as it did with the News Feed — use Messenger as a way for users to communicate with brands, then gradually charge brands to reach those users.
Not all of these products will succeed with users or turn into big dollar signs. But some surely will.
Its acquisition strategy is genius. You may have a teenager at home who thinks Facebook is boring, for old people. They probably use Instagram instead, like 300 million other people. Or maybe WhatsApp, like 800 million other people. Facebook owns both.
Plus Messenger, which is its own, standalone app with 700 million users.
It’s quietly revolutionising the $US140 billion hardware market. While most of us know Facebook the product, the company is quietly putting the screws to decades-old computer infrastructure giants like Cisco by taking the designs it built for its own data centres and releasing them under an open source licence. Now, a bunch of startups are taking those designs and starting to build businesses around them.
The days of awkward PR gaffes are over. Remember Zuck’s disastrous, sweaty, on stage performance at the D Conference in 2010?
Contrast that with his calm demeanour at more recent conferences, or the pitch-perfect way he announced his wife’s pregnancy — and past miscarriages — this week. The guy’s gone from being viewed as a sort of uber-rich brat who doesn’t care about your privacy to a likable genius.
Oh, and speaking of privacy, when’s the last time people got up in arms about Facebook’s privacy policies?
Don’t take my word for it. Wall Street analysts are tripping over themselves to explain why you should buy the stock.
Who else is there?
The iPhone revolutionised tech more than any product since the personal computer, but it’s eight years old. Apple hasn’t had a big hit product since — iPad sales are sinking, the Watch is off to a slow start, and Apple Music is shaping up to be its worst-received product since Apple Maps.
It’s bigger than Facebook by many measures — users, ad revenues, profits — and it had a solid quarter too. But Facebook is coming up fast in areas where Google should have dominated, like mobile and video. Google’s not going anywhere, but unless one of Larry Page’s moonshots starts to pay off soon, it’s not going to rule the tech industry like it did last decade.
Microsoft? Comebacks are fun, but it’s been playing defence for years.
Amazon is probably the closest — lots of users, impeccably managed business, and at least two major lines of business (e-commerce, the original, and Amazon Web Services, its $US7-billion-a-year cloud computing juggernaut).
But Amazon has had an extra decade to get its business churning, it doesn’t reach as many users around the world as Facebook does, and it’s never proven it can turn consistent profits like Facebook has.
Every generation in tech has its hero. The current generation kicked off in 2009, the beginning of the long boom.
Facebook won this generation. Mark Zuckerberg, COO Sheryl Sandberg, and the rest of the people there should take a deep breath and enjoy their success.
But not for too long. The one thing you can always count on in tech is that kings have a short reign.