Facebook’s last battle?

Today’s Financial Times has an article covering Mark Zuckenberg’s  presentation at the Cannes Lions advertising festival. In it Zuckenberg talked about four countries that Facebook doesn’t have a lead in: Japan, South Korea, Russia and the People’s Republic of China.

The authors seem to think that Zuckenberg’s remarks about ‘Now for the first time we are focused on doing some specific things in specific countries’ was aimed at conquering these markets. Facebook would need to be very careful to avoid the graveyard of previous efforts by companies like Yahoo!, Google and Microsoft in these territories.

All of these markets have established communities on products and services that are in many ways superior to Facebook. They have cultures and online behaviours that are markedly different than peers elsewhere, in the case of Korea there are technical standards and three out of the four countries have unique legislative environments.

As Google and Yahoo! have found to their costs, success in China may bring a backlash in their established western audiences.

The challenging geographic focus steered discussions away from other factors that maybe affecting Facebook’s slower growth:

  • How have privacy concerns affected their business? How has it affected engagement levels and the user utility?
  • How does the user experience suffer from negative network effects of too much noise?  Try searching on a particular topic and wading through the morass of groups and pages now available
  • Is Facebook now suffering from a lack of clarity of purpose as it has undergone service bloat?
  • Are partners and collaborators concerned about being zucked?