Tidbits in the News: Facebook’s LinkedIn Playbook, Snapchat’s Luck Reversal, California’s Driverless Future

Lots have happened in the news recently, including early signs of a trade war, trouble in the White House, and the whole debate surrounding the gun (which I am not going to touch), there have been many interesting, rather insignificant news that went largely under the radar.

So let’s get started.

Facebook’s LinkedIn Playbook

This week, Facebook did something rather interesting. Facebook decided to pull a LinkedIn, except it didn’t. It did something LinkedIn would never do. Facebook decided to make a jobs board for blue collar workers. This may seem insignificant, but, trust me, it is.

First, let’s talk definitions. Most people, when they hear the term “blue collar”, think “factory jobs” or “manual labor”. To be fair, those jobs fall under this umbrella as well. But, a vast majority of blue collar work is actually in the services industry, specifically in local businesses. For Facebook, this is where the market is — part time work.

It’s a market that’s largely underserved in countries like the US. So far, the focus has been on reducing inefficiencies in high skill labor recruiting, a la LinkedIn, Indeed, even Angel List. Even startups looking to disrupt the market are focused on the high skilled laborers, not giving a second thought to blue collar workers. Facebook is looking to take advantage of the vacuum in the market.

Now let’s talk about basic economics. At least until automation gets rid of the need for waiters, there will be a greater demand for low skill labor than there will be for high skilled workers. Which is strange that the market didn’t step up to fill this void earlier. When you look at other parts of the world, specifically Asia, there are major players in the market already, from Albamon in Korea to Baitoru in Japan, the market is actually rather saturated.

Which is why this is interesting.

Because Facebook has shown that when it does something, it does it everywhere, this is a direct challenge to those established players in Asia. The only thing is, everyone goes on Facebook regardless — it’s a lower barrier to entry for end users. Moreover, it’s a great way for Facebook to establish itself as the platform of choice for employment opportunities in developing markets, specifically in those markets where LinkedIn has little to no brand recognition.

But then it begs the question, should LinkedIn respond?

I’d say no. LinkedIn established itself as an upscale job board, specifically targeted at “professionals” working “professions”. If it suddenly opens up to part time work, it will dilute the brand, which will definitely do more harm than good over the long run. I do, however, think it’s worth talking about LinkedIn launching a new brand specifically for this blue collar market. It’s a market that’s too risky to miss out on, especially if those people later go on to pursue professional careers — Facebook may be able to move up the market and threaten LinkedIn’s market dominance.

Snapchat’s Luck Reversal

Yet more good news for the troubled firm — the redesign hasn’t impacted download numbers at all. It’s great to see the firm is doing better than what some celebrities will claim about its health, especially since the stock is still far below its IPO price of $27.

But, let’s be fair — Facebook has already shown that users are more resilient to interface redesigns than most people fear. In fact, after the initial impressions, a redesign tends to work in a firms favor, especially after they hit the critical mass of users to generate the network effect. After that, any redesign to simplify the interface actually works in the platform’s favor.

Snapchat is looking to be another example of this. In fact, Snap as a company seems to be retracing Facebook’s early steps in eerie fashion. Facebook was also heavily scrutinized when it went public back in IPO back in 2012, especially on its ability to become and remain profitable. It was also heavily criticized for its interface redesigns early on. Moreover, many celebrities and influencers alike took to bashing the platform as yet another pointless thing for young people to spend time on.

The realization recently made me reevaluate my stance on the company as a whole, and, though I’m not entirely bullish on the company, I’m not entirely bearish now either. It’s possible that, given time, Snap will become just as successful, and stable, as Facebook. But you can’t ignore recent setbacks either, such as its recent downsizing of its hardware and content partnerships teams. The reduction in the content partnerships team is especially worrisome, given that this team is responsible for curating and maintaining corporate content on the platform.

Its recent PR issues aren’t much help either, especially the fact that CEO and founder Evan Spiegel got a huge payday for just taking the company public — a signal of larger, systemic problems in the valley, and a symptom of companies’ reluctance of going public. Snap, being the most public face of the startup scene in recent years, is bound to be the hardest hit by any news of this sort.

But as a whole, Snapchat’s story is becoming more nuanced. It’s not all bad, nor is it all good. And it’s been that way for a while. But whereas before, the company’s stock would react to every negative news that came its way, this time, it’s proving to be more resilient. The best anyone can hope for in all of this is for the company to become the Facebook for the next generation. And, it’s looking increasingly, albeit slowly, possible.

California’s Driverless Future

California was always open to testing self driving cars within its borders. Just, don’t leave it to its own vices. Well, that’s all about to change as the DMV just changed its rules pertaining to self driving cars, allowing autonomous vehicle tests to be conducted without a safety driver on board.

 

This is rather huge news, especially for people involved in the AI space. This is a sign from the Californian government that they have confidence, given certain safeguards, that AI can perform certain tasks (in this case, driving) as well as humans. This is tacit acknowledgement that AI is ready for prime time, at least from a government’s perspective.

There’s not much else to say about this, other than it’ll be a boon to self driving business valuations, and in fueling the hype around those companies. Hopefully it’ll speed up the data gathering process for the AI engines powering self driving cars, accelerating the process of reaching fully autonomous fleets, and eliminating human drivers.

The biggest downside to this news is that it may catch the taxi industry off guard, before the government can come up with contingencies on how to secure jobs for the onslaught of people who will be out of one in the eventuality that AI takes over driving duties. This may be a sign that the Californian government has a plan, of sorts, to retrain driving professionals to move into different career paths. Or, at least, I hope that’s what it means.

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