Facebook has been making waves lately, tidal waves in fact. After $19 billion for WhatsApp and $2 billion for Oculus, some are left scratching their head and asking some very good questions. Why? How are these related?
I think the answer is simpler than many have offered. I believe it boils down to Facebook wanting to stay relevant long term, no matter what technology or platform enables it.
Messaging is a (or the?) primary means of communicating for billions of people, and Facebook Messenger was largely a flop. In a sense, messaging is the simplest highly private social network; you share very specific things with very specific people. I firmly believe that messaging with reign supreme as a top, if not the top, use of mobile phones for the foreseeable future.
Virtual reality (VR) has been attempted repeatedly for decades. The idea is usually focused on gaming, but I suspect it will eventually grow beyond that. Technology is finally getting to a point where it is nearly ready for the masses, previously it has been more of a cool demo. There is little doubt that VR will play a role in technology for many years to come, and many believe it'll be a common household technology in the not-to-distant future.
Facebook isn't Your Regular Tech Company
Facebook is run by a forward looking CEO that has zero interest in becoming a "normal" technology company. Legacy tech companies move surprisingly slowly when growing, expanding into new markets, or acquiring companies. Zuckerberg is running a new type of technology company. Move faster, innovate more quickly, and skate to where the puck is going rather than where it has been before anyone else does.
Parts of this remind me of Apple, but even Apple seems to have more of a sluggish corporate feel. Facebook was happy to cannibalize Messenger because it knows WhatsApp was better. Facebook isn't operating with the baggage of a bunch of executives that have been in the industry for long careers and are applying that knowledge to each decision. They move quickly and with a sense of how vastly different the technology landscape is today compared to just a few years ago, and how fast it is changing.
This isn't to say that Facebook's methods will yield the results they hope, but it is a very fast-paced and aggressive approach. It sends the message "I dare you to keep up" to the other major tech companies out there. Only time will tell if they can keep up, if they even want to keep up, or if Facebook's fast-paced trajectory is even headed in the right direction.