Zuckerberg on Platforms

Oct 18, 2021

For all the criticism Mark Zuckerberg gets in the press, I think he's one of the greatest tech leaders of this era. As more emails become public because of various legal proceedings, it's been a masterclass to read the way that Zuck outlines his strategy to other executives at Facebook.

One of the best is a 2015 email on VR / AR strategy.  

Andy Grove, ex-CEO of Intel, once said Only The Paranoid Survive. In 2015, it was clear that Zuck was paranoid about Facebook's weak platform positioning:

The strategic goal is clearest. We are vulnerable on mobile to Google and Apple because they make major mobile platforms. We would like a stronger strategic position in the next ave of computing. We can achieve this only by building both a major platform as well as key apps.

He's honest about Facebook's other weaknesses as well:

The weakest element of our brand is innovation, which is a vulnerable position for us as a technology company dependent on recruiting the best engineers to build the future.

Keep in mind this is the same company that was beating Wall Street's estimates every quarter, with Instagram and WhatApps with record usage numbers. This is a company that is now worth nearly $1 trillion and still paranoid.

Zuckerberg's plan was (is) to own the next platform, which he believes in AR / VR. He goes over the ways that Facebook can win the platform: subsidizing and accelerating hardware and low-level AR / VR systems, building platform services like an App Store and identity, and the benefits of acquiring a company called Unity, which makes a real-time development platform for game engines.

The acquisition never happened, but Facebook continues to aggressively invest in AR / VR, trying to win the next frontier of computing. At least from an outside perspective, they are still paranoid.

Most of all, I'm impressed by the clarity that Zuckerberg communicates his strategy – it's clear that he's deeply thought about this strategy from the low-level integrations to the high-level vision.

Read the full email here.