Expanding functionality is the byword of the week in technology. Either through acquisitions, opening options to the public or tacking on seemingly unrelated features, the desired result is the same; get more users.
The biggest ticket item on the list this week is the $19-billion acquisition of WhatsApp by Facebook. WhatsApp is a platform agnostic smartphone messaging application which allows users to send text and photo messages without using SMS. Given the multi-billion dollar price tag and the fact that WhatsApp costs just one dollar a year, after the first free year, Facebook must be eyeing this acquisition for the users. WhatsApp currently has almost a half-billion users and it’s reported to be on track to hit a billion.
This announcement comes almost two years after Facebook’s last jaw dropping acquisition of Instagram for $1 billion in cash and stock back in 2012. It’s notable that Instagram had the comparably small user base of 27 million users at the time. Some quick math tells us that Facebook is valuing services at about $40 per user. In these cases though, the goal is not necessarily to acquire more users for Facebook, but instead add to the company’s portfolio of services.
Of course, there’s always another angle to the story. Facebook may be the global reigning champion of social networking, but that is not the case in social messaging. WhatsApp has been gaining ground steadily and is now has a commanding lead in the global market. Facebook messenger is still the dominant application in North America, but WhatsApp is the app to beat in South America, Africa and Australia. Another application, WeChat, holds the title in Asia. Perhaps WeChat will be fielding an offer soon.
Next on the list of expanding functionality is the online auction site, eBay. Or perhaps we should term it, the site formerly known for online auctions. Since 2008, eBay has made over 30 acquisitions of its own. These include real time inventory monitoring, website services and more recently, home delivery from selected partners for a nominal fee of $5. In fact, the site has broadened its offerings so much that auctions now account for only 30 per cent of sales.
Not as strange as it sounds
So maybe eBay’s latest update is not as strange as it sounds on the surface. eBay has purchased PhiSix, a company that renders clothing as three dimensional images that you can then try on, virtually. Using a 3D avatar of yourself, you can get an idea of how an item will really look once you have it in your hands. The application will also accept your measurements in order to give you more accurate sizing suggestions. In the Facebook spirit of increasing a company’s portfolio, eBay will be looking to lease this software to other companies as a service.
Another online property that’s looking to shake things up is LinkedIn. The professional networking site has had explosive growth, but recently traffic has been slowing. In an effort to encourage pageviews and overall time spent on the site, LinkedIn is opening up its web blogging capabilities to all users. Up until now only high profile members or “influencers” have been able to post blogs on LinkedIn. The rest of us could only link to external articles or comment on existing ones. LinkedIn has opened the platform to a pilot group of 25,000 users for now to test the results.
Jon Reid is an IT professional working in Corner Brook. His column appears every other Tuesday in The Western Star.