As I mentioned in a previous post about Facebook’s purchase of the Instagram mobile photo-mangling application, there is a long and proud tradition in software and Internet industries of companies buying technology and customers. This is done for the following reasons:
- The purchasing company can’t be arsed to write or isn’t capable of writing the software being purchased.
- The purchasing company hasn’t time to wait to write the software or acquire the customers – it may have a pressing deadline…oh, like an IPO?
- The purchasing company just wants to knock a possible competitor out of the game – exemplified by ‘Bill Gates’ in an episode of The Simpsons where Bill tells his henchmen to ‘buy Homer out’ by kicking his desk over…
In this particular case, Facebook score all three scales – they have an upcoming IPO which will go better if they’re seen to have a big handle on the mobile social media market, they’ll get 35 million new customers and they knock out a potential competitor, all for a billion dollars, which probably looks like a cheap price to the Facebook management right now.
While I was writing that last post, it struck me that the approach taken by Facebook is rather like the Borg in Star Trek; “We are the Borg. We will add your biological and technological distinctiveness to our own. Your culture will adapt to service us. Resistance is futile.” Whilst Facebook and similar companies aren’t currently replacing bits of our bodies with technology and absorbing our individuality in to some sort of mindless collective, their effect on the high tech industrial sector is awfully similar.
Where’s Species 8472 when you need them?