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”).


  • 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



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


  • Quidsi of
  • Something contra Blue Apron


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

Google Alphabet

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



  • an app
  • cloned by Facebook


  • 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

      • Josh Elman, with board representation
    • Sequoia

      • 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


  • “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.


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,
  • 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


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>




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


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


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

Previously filled.

Facebook F8, roundup

Original Sources


  • “M” (a robot)
  • Vendors (launch partners)
    available via Messenger

    • 1-800 Flowers
    • CNN
    • Disney
    • eBay
    • HealthTap
    • Hipmunk
    • OwnersListens
    • Salesforce
    • Shopify
    • Staples
  • Deep linking (launch partners)
    available in Messenger

    • Giphy
    • ESPN
    • Imgur
    • The Weather Channel.




All press outlets have the same gif…

Sure … but remember that chatbots is how low-end retail banking outsources customer services to the South and South-East Asia (India, Phillipines etc.) where they can make one operator multitask into ten or twenty different consumer responses at one time. … way to cut the cost out of customer services.

Roundup of Facebook Announcements from F8 2015


  • Messenger Platform
    • 600M MAU
    • has an email feature
    • Something about apps within Messenger
      • Ditty
      • GIF
      • Giphy
      • FlipLip Voice Changer
      • ESPN App
      • There are 40 apps.
  • Messenger for Business
    • crypto email for the young pepole
    • data mine the receipts for trak-n-targ.
  • Facebook Comments
    • Plugins for comments
  • 360° Video “soon”
    • Something about multiple cameras
  • Parse SDK for Internet of Things (IoT)
    • Parse Explorer, a debugger
  • Facebook pays, has paid, developers
  • Facebook Analytics
    • for Apps
  • Facebook Video Player, embedded videos
  • Virtual Rality is cool, no announcement
  • WhattsApp, no announcement
  • Facebook, has deep learning
  • Facebook Ads
    • LiveRail
    • Partners (twelve)
      • AppsFlyer
      • AppLift
      • AppLovin
      • Appsalar
      • Fyber (SponsorPay)
      • Kochava
      • InMobi
      • Millennial Media
      • Supersonic
      • Tune
    • Non-participants
      • Apple iAd
      • Google
      • Twitter
      • Yahoo
    • No announcements
      • Facebook Custom Audiences
      • Facebook Exchange (FBX)
      • Atlas
    • Claim: native ads “work: 7x better than banner ads


  • Deborah Liu, Facebook Platform
  • David Marcus, Messenger Platform
  • Mark Trefgarne, Product Director (and former LiveRail CEO), LiveRail of Facebook.

Via: backfill

Facebook Use Predicts Declines in Subjective Well-Being in Young Adults | Kross, Verduyn, Demiralp, Park, Lee, Lin, Shablack, Jonides, Ybarra

Ethan Kross, Philippe Verduyn, Emre Demiralp, Jiyoung Park, David Seungjae Lee, Natalie Lin, Holly Shablack, John Jonides, Oscar Ybarra; Facebook Use Predicts Declines in Subjective Well-Being in Young Adults; In PLoS ONE; 2013-06-12; 6 pages; landing.


Over 500 million people interact daily with Facebook. Yet, whether Facebook use influences subjective well-being over time is unknown. We addressed this issue using experience-sampling, the most reliable method for measuring in-vivo behavior and psychological experience. We text-messaged people five times per day for two-weeks to examine how Facebook use influences the two components of subjective well-being: how people feel moment-to-moment and how satisfied they are with their lives. Our results indicate that Facebook use predicts negative shifts on both of these variables over time. The more people used Facebook at one time point, the worse they felt the next time we text-messaged them; the more they used Facebook over two-weeks, the more their life satisfaction levels declined over time. Interacting with other people “directly” did not predict these negative outcomes. They were also not moderated by the size of people’s Facebook networks, their perceived supportiveness, motivation for using Facebook, gender, loneliness, self-esteem, or depression. On the surface, Facebook provides an invaluable resource for fulfilling the basic human need for social connection. Rather than enhancing well-being, however, these findings suggest that Facebook may undermine it.


Via: backfill

Mozilla Firefox Social API in Firefox Facebook Messenger (and others)


Turn Off Facebook ServiceDisable Facebook Service




  • Control Messages
  • Service Works
  • Ambient Notification Control
  • Active Notification Control
  • Page Marks (Recommendations)
  • Link Recommendation Control
  • Messages Sent to Widgets
  • from Firefox 23
    • Share (button)
    • Service Discovery


By Mozilla …


Ahem … surely there’s more of a following for Mozilla’s product offerings than one beat reporter over at AOL (TechCrunch).  But that’s not what the search engines are telling me…




Waving Goodbuy: Facebook’s Big Whiff on Traffic of Commercial Intent | Hunter Walk

Hunter Walk; Waving Goodbuy: Facebook’s Big Whiff on Traffic of Commercial Intent; In His Blog (on Linked In); 2013-06-29.

Via: backfill


  • Generalized bitching about Facebook (performed on LinkedIn where the Facebookers can’t read it)
  • Wishes there were a way to buy stuff on Facebook
  • Reminder about dark social severing the direct referral attribution
  • Two words: elf boobs


  • ; Dark Social: We Have the Whole History of the Web Wrong; In The Atlantic; 2012-10-12.
    <quote>tl;dr version

    1. The sharing you see on sites like Facebook and Twitter is the tip of the ‘social’ iceberg. We are impressed by its scale because it’s easy to measure.
    2. But most sharing is done via dark social means like email and IM that are difficult to measure.
    3. According to new data on many media sites, 69% of social referrals came from dark social. 20% came from Facebook.
    4. Facebook and Twitter do shift the paradigm from private sharing to public publishing. They structure, archive, and monetize your publications.</quote>

Or does Facebook just like showing me elf boobs instead of Apple ads?
I don’t like games or cartoon boobs. Stop showing me this.

Facebook is for Gloating, and Old (Rich) People | Bob Lefsetz

Bob Lefsetz (some dude with a wordpress blog, the “acclaimed critic”)

Walled Gardens: Facebook Zero, Google Free Zone

Via: David Talbot; Facebook and Google Create Walled Gardens for Web Newcomers Overseas; In Making Money in Mobile; In MIT Technology Review; 2013-03.Teaser: In some countries, “the Internet” is confined to certain sites as part of a strategy to help wireless carriers offer starter packages.


  • The article is mostly about Facebook with a little Google thrown in.
    • Facebook launched their garden 2010
    • Google launched theirs 2012-10.
  • Facebook Zero
    • Launch 2010
    • Distribution:
    • Features & Availability
      • Messenger for Android (the chat)
      • Messenger for iOS
      • Facebook for Every Phone
    • Biz Model
      • Base charge for the service: $3/month or $1/week or $0.20/day.
      • Match against Telecom’s raw voice+text+data $8/month for 12-months.
      • No (extra) data charges for the Facebook feature
      • Facebook participates in consumer’s data plan usage (e.g. when they click out from the news feed to read the article)
    • Vendors
      • Ericsson
    • Quotes
      • via Derrick Mains, press relations, Facebook
      • via Victor Ferraro Esparza, strategic product manager, Ericsson
      • via Carl Howe, a principal analyst, Yankee Group
  • Google Free Zone
    • Launched 2012
    • Distribution
      • carrier-focused
      • Philippines & South Africa
    • Features
      • Google Plus
      • GMail
    • Biz Model
      • Base charge for the service.
      • No (extra) data charges until they click a link or open a photo or other attachment.
    • Quotes
      • via unnamed press relations, Facebook

Private traits and attributes are predictable from digital records of human behavior | You Are What You Like, My Personality @ Facebook

Michal Kosinski, David Stillwell, Thore Graepel; Private traits and attributes are predictable from digital records of human behavior; In Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America; Vol. 1210, No. 10; 2013-03-05; supplemental info.


We show that easily accessible digital records of behavior, Facebook Likes, can be used to automatically and accurately predict a range of highly sensitive personal attributes including: sexual orientation, ethnicity, religious and political views, personality traits, intelligence, happiness, use of addictive substances, parental separation, age, and gender. The analysis presented is based on a dataset of over 58,000 volunteers who provided their Facebook Likes, detailed demographic profiles, and the results of several psychometric tests. The proposed model uses dimensionality reduction for preprocessing the Likes data, which are then entered into logistic/linear regression to predict individual psychodemographic profiles from Likes. The model correctly discriminates between homosexual and heterosexual men in 88% of cases, African Americans and Caucasian Americans in 95% of cases, and between Democrat and Republican in 85% of cases. For the personality trait “Openness,” prediction accuracy is close to the test–retest accuracy of a standard personality test. We give examples of associations between attributes and Likes and discuss implications for online personalization and privacy.


Facebook’s Scuba, Prism, Corona, Peregrine

Cade Metz; Meet the Data Brains Behind the Rise of Facebook; In Wired; 2013-02-04.


  • Jay Parikh
    • Vice President of Infrastructure Engineering, Facebook
    • he is presented as serious
  • Genie Samuel
    • A QA or intern?
    • She is presented as giggling as she QAs
  • Jeff Hammerbacher
    • Something about Bear Sterns and a Reuters feed; a personal epiphany that drives his life course.
    • Left Facebook 2008, went to Cloudera
  • Others
    • Lars Rasmussen
      • webdev
    • Raghu Murthy, Avery Ching, and Josh Metzler
    • Raghu Murty, Santosh Janardhan
    • Avery Ching, Ravi Murthy, Raghu Murthy, Jay Parikh, Sameet Agarwal, Santosh Janardhan, Josh Metzler, Subbu Submaranian.
    • Santosh Janardhan
  • Building 16, Facebook
  • Facebook’s Scuba
    • Scuba (memcache) A distributed in-memory stats store.
    • Scribe (logs)
    • JSON (encoding)
    • Thrift (services)
    • Who
      • David Reiss
      • John Allen
      • Okay Zed
      • Oleksandr Baryki
    • Promotions
    • And yeah, it seems to be “Scuba” a project title, not “SCUBA” (the acronym)
  • Facebook’s Prism
    • A huge Hadoop with placement & management, or something.
    • A project, not a technology or a release
    • Addressing the Name Node bottleneck & SPF
      • AvatarNode
      • HA NameNode
      • Corona
    • Alignments & Similarities
      • Like Google Spanner; from 2009, publicly describing the platform as a “storage and computation system that spans all our data centers [and that] automatically moves and adds replicas of data and computation based on constraints and usage patterns.”
      • Like MapR with color quotes from Tomer Shiran of MapR.
    • Promotions
  • Facebook’s Corona
    • Promotions
      • Cade Metz; World’s Wired Software Engineer: Marcek Kornacker; In Wired; 2012-10-29.

        • Cloudera
        • Impala
        • Hadoop
        • Spanner
        • BigTable
        • F1
        • Charles Zedlewski, color quotes
          • Something about German heritage and attention to detail
        • Not sure how this article is related to Corona at all, it doesn’t mention it.
  • Facebook’s Peregrine