The long-term consequence of Facebook’s 2018

As has been well-discussed, one threat to Facebook’s future, after its torrid 2018, is that people begin to leave the network. People have even more reason to after today’s revelations.

But what makes that less of an issue is the lack of viable alternative to what Facebook currently offers: a hub of life involving your family, friends and colleagues. There is still no sign of a meaningful competitor rising up the ranks, and indeed, if there were, Facebook would probably buy it (or crush it).

There is another doomsday scenario, however – and that’s Facebook being so distracted with its problems it gets left behind with whatever’s next. Today, via Business Insider’s Rob Price, the news that Facebook was closing its Building 8 research lab:

The super-secretive organization was inspired by DARPA, and billed itself as a unit dedicated to building “new, category-defining consumer hardware products.” In its buzzy heyday, it worked on far-out projects like brain-scanning tech and skin sensors.

It was a moonshot factory, in other words, in the same vein as Google’s X. But things have now changed.

The piece is behind BI’s paywall, so you may not be able to read the whole thing. But the gist is that Facebook is putting more effort into the here-and-now, such as its Portal video chat project, rather than the big out-there ideas it once had, such as brain-controlled tech.

It is still experimenting with blockchain, however, but not without hurdles also created by 2018’s disasters. Cheddar reports on the company’s hiring spree in crypto, but notes:

Despite its interest in several crypto start-ups, Facebook has encountered problems with recruiting due to the negative perception of its brand and many public scandals, according to people who have had discussions with the blockchain group in recent months. Many in the crypto and blockchain industry see heavily centralized, data-hungry companies like Facebook as the very entities they are trying to disrupt.