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Tech plus Culture

Interesting point of distinction between Google and Facebook’s approach to the world in this long feature of Zuckerberg and Facebook’s approach to wiring the world. Specifically in reference to Facebook and Google buying drone companies as a possible approach to getting internet to rural areas:

Google also has a drone program—in April it bought one of Ascenta’s competitors, Titan Aerospace—but what’s notable about its approach so far is that it has been almost purely technological and unilateral: we want people to have the Internet, so we’re going to beam it at them from a balloon. Whereas Facebook’s solution is a blended one. It has technological pieces but also a business piece (making money for the cell-phone companies) and a sociocultural one (luring people online with carefully curated content). The app is just one part of a human ecosystem where every-body is incentivized to keep it going and spread it around. “Certainly, one big difference is that we tend to look at the culture around things,” Zuckerberg says. “That’s just a core part of building any social project.” The subtext being, all projects are social.

This is a pretty interesting point of difference between how the two companies view the world. Google sees every problem as a pure technical issue whereas Facebook sees it as part cultural and part technical. I’m not totally sure I buy it (it seems unfair to call Android a purely technical solution), but it’s an interesting lens to look through when examining two of the world’s most important tech companies.

December 9, 2014 // This post is about: , , ,


  • Peter Spear says:

    This is a great catch. Zuck surely sounds like a man attempting to build a business on the distinctive competence of cultural insight and anthropological sensitivity – and this is really pretty new for them. I would love to see a timeline of their efforts here. (Home was a disaster, their brand campaign was confusingly grand, anthropologists warned them they lost their cool, etc.) It would certainly seem they had a moment where 2 things happened: the first is they embraced unbundling and realized there were limits to the Facebook brand, so they began acquiring category creators. and the second, they appear to have chosen culture, anthropology and insight. I remember clearly when they listed job openings for anthropologists at Facebook – and it wasn’t too long ago. I agree that I’m not sure I buy it, but to my ears all the big tech brands (amazon, google, Facebook) appear qualitatively tone deaf. Interesting that Facebook is talking the talk…..

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