Roundup on Onavo Protect VPN used to inform Facebook UX, M&A | Houseparty contra Bonfire, On This Day contra Timehop

In archaeological order…

tl;dr → Onavo is a VPN. Facebook snoops the traffic on it to grok trends. Trends highlights cause cloned features in Facebook UX or deal flow at Facebook M&A.

  • The Washington Post piece goes broad to illustrate the pattern across a wide range of business lines and a long time span.
  • The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) piece goes deep to focus on travel log: group video chat with Facebook’s attempt to acqui-hire Houseparty prior to the launch of Bonfire in 2017-Q4 (“in the Fall”).

Mentions

  • Onavo
    • Onavo Protect
    • Tel Aviv, Israel
  • Science
    • a startup studio, an incubator, a venture capital shop.
    • Los Angeles.
  • Meerkat
  • Verto Analytics
    • sourced the DAU factoids.
    • Hannu Verkasalo, CEO
  • Sensor Tower.
    • sourced the app popularity factoids
  • Bonfire, Facebook

The Four Dominant Companies

  • Apple
  • Google Alphabet
  • Amazon
  • Facebook

AAAF? AGAF? GAAF?

Concept

The Misdirection

Onavo does not not state its affiliation with Facebook in T&C on stores.
This is positioned as a sort of misdirective cloaking to consumers. It allows Facebook to observe nominally the VPN traffic flowing over “its” wires.

The Subsumption

Facebook competitor apps become tabs in the Facebook UX.

  • Event scheduling
    Cloning: Meetup
  • Fundraising
    Cloning: Kickstarter, GoFundMe
  • Messaging (WattsApp)
    Cloning: SMS
  • Marketplace
    Cloning: Craigslist
  • Meal delivery
    Cloning: Grubhub, Seamless, Caviar, Postmates.
  • Photo memorabilia (On This Day)
    Cloning: Timehop, Dropbox, Google Drive, iPhone camera (on box?)

The Pattern

Amazon

  • Quidsi of Diapers.com
  • Something contra Blue Apron

Facebook

  • Instagram
  • WhatsApp
  • Something contra Snap’s Snapchat.

Google Alphabet

  • Waze for (Google) Maps
  • Something contra Snap’s Snapchat.

Exemplars

Timehop

  • an app
  • cloned by Facebook

Houseparty

  • an app
    • casual small-group chat by video.
    • Like, but different
      • Meerkat
      • (Google) Hangouts
      • “everyone” has a teen-focused group chat.…
    • Cultures (both)
    • The promotion page uses Flash.
      <snide>Are you kidding me?  In 2017?</snide>
    • Something about a kerfluffle with a change in the Terms & Conditions (T&C)
  • Launched
    • 2016-02.
    • as Life on Air Inc.; renamed Houseparty
  • Location
    • San Francisco, CA
    • Some warehouse; around SOMA
  • Founders
    • Ben Rubin,
      • age 29
    • Sima Sistani
      • age 38
    • Itai Danino
      • exists
  • Funders
    • Greylock Partners
      via

      • Josh Elman, with board representation
    • Sequoia
      via

      • Mike Vernal, with board representation
      • $50M
      • 2016?
  • Staff
    • Employees
      • 25
      • “30% increase” since “then” in 2016.
    • Kinshuk Mishra
      • vice president of engineering, Houseparty
      • ex-Spotify AB
      • hired 2016

Quotes

  • “Don’t be too proud to copy” attributed to Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook via a leaked memo; in The Wall Street Journal (WSJ).

Attributed to The Washington Post.

  • <quote>acebook is able to glean detailed insights about what consumers are doing when they are not using the social network’s family of apps, which includes Facebook, Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram</quote>
  • <quote>Facebook’s use of Onavo is partly borne of need. Because Google and Apple, for instance, control the operating systems in which many apps live, they have access to huge amounts of information about how consumers use their apps. Facebook is more limited. It knows what consumers do within its own apps, and it knows about behavior on apps that work with Facebook — such as for sign-in credentials. Onavo, on the other hand, helps Facebook’s expanding ambitions by offering near real-time access to information about what users do while Onavo is active in the background. Onavo sends anonymized data to Facebook on what apps consumers have installed, how frequently they open those apps, how long they linger inside them, and the sequence throughout the day of consumers’ app usage — information that functions as an early-detection system on whether an app is gaining popularity, according to the people familiar with the company’s activities. This information can be far more valuable, and be available earlier, than waiting for an app or feature to publicly take off.</quote>
  • <quote>Onavo was used to detect the popularity outside the United States of the messaging service WhatsApp, which Facebook purchased for $19 billion in 2014, several months after the Onavo acquisition, according to the people familiar with the company’s activities</quote>

Attributed ot The Wall Street Journal (WSJ)

  • <quote>Facebook uses an internal database to track rivals, including young startups performing unusually well, people familiar with the system say. The database stems from Facebook’s 2013 acquisition of a Tel Aviv-based startup, Onavo, which had built an app that secures users’ privacy by routing their traffic through private servers. The app gives Facebook an unusually detailed look at what users collectively do on their phones, these people say.</quote>
  • <quote>Mr. Elman says he is encouraged that Bonfire is a stand-alone app and that Facebook hasn’t been particularly successful with those. But, he says, if Facebook figures out how to integrate the power of Houseparty “into a property that I’m already using 10 times a day, that would scare the crap out of me.”</quote>
    but that’s sorof the point of launching Bonfire as a separable MVP.

Who

In alphabetical order…

  • Jeffrey P. Bezos
    • CEO, Amazon
    • owner, The Washington Post.
  • Itai Danino
    • founder, Houseparty
    • not featured, quoted, pictured.
  • Josh Elman
    • partner, Greylock Partners
    • investor, director, Houseparty
    • ex-product manager, Facebook.
  • Scott Heiferman, chief executive, Meetup.com.
  • Alfred Lin, partner, Sequoia.
  • Kinshuk Mishra
    • vice president of engineering, Houseparty
    • ex-Spotify AB
  • Roger McNamee
    • founder, Elevation Partners
    • claims on Facebook & Google,
      • reminds us of his prescience as evidenced in his early contribution credit.
      • regret on his early contribution as such participation is no longer politic:
        I helped create the Google-Facebook monster — and I’m sorry; Roger McNamee; an oped; In USA Today; 2017-08-08.
        Teaser: ‘Brain hacking’ Internet monopolies menace public health, democracy, writes Roger McNamee.
  • Peter Pham, co-founder, Science (a vc boutique).
  • Scott Sandell
    • managing partner, New Enterprise Associates
    • ex-product manager, Windows 95, Microsoft.
    • quoted for color, background & verisimilitude;
      a confessional testifying to illegal, abusive & predatory aggressive M&A tactics from “back in the day.”
  • Fidji Simo, “head” of “video efforts”, Facebook.
  • Sima Sistani
    • founder, Houseparty
    • age 38
    • featured, quoted, pictured.
  • Scott Stern
    • professor, management, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
    • quoted for color, background & verisimilitude.
      testification that an early exit is good for the investors & good for the founders, and something vague about <quote>might be at the expense of a more competitive landscape</quote>
  • Ben Rubin
    • founder, Houseparty
    • age 29
    • featured, quoted, pictured.
  • Rick Webb, CEO, Timehop.
  • Hannu Verkasalo, CEO, Verto Analytics
  • Mike Vernal
    • partner, Sequoia
    • investor, director, Houseparty
    • ex-”executive,” Facebook.
  • Mark Zuckerberg, CEO, Facebook

Sources

The Washington Post

  • Some, surely; they went broad.
  • <quote>Facebook declined to comment but noted [some platitudes]</quote>
  • Not so obviously sourced on deep background & pure gossip & rumor.

The Wall Street Journal

  • <quote>says a person familiar with the contacts.</quote>
  • <quote>Rubin and Elman declined to discuss details of the conversations.</quote>
  • <quote>the person says. Facebook said Ms. Simo declined to comment.</quote>

Related

Color

Honorific

  • the prominent venture capital firm
  • the investment firm
  • the startup studio
  • the venture-capital firm

Salutary

  • is nimble
  • forces the best entrepreneurs to be more creative

Epithettery

  • tech giants (contra media giants)
  • Silicon Valley is dominated by a few titans
  • libertarian-leaning Silicon Valley

Previously filled.

Comments are closed.