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Chris Cox on Facebook’s next big focus

What is Facebook looking at next? Chris Cox, Chief Product Officer at Facebook explained the vision for the social networking giant at a recent press briefing. Mr Cox underlined a three-pronged strategy for Facebook in the next couple of years for it to ‘reach out to the next billion.’

Explaining the journey of the site since its launch, Mr Cox explains that the platform’s focus was on breaking down barriers for the next group of people to be able to use Facebook.  He adds, “Each year we look out and see what is the next group of people who are unable to use this service and deliver the right tools for them.”

Mr Cox highlights that there are about three billion people on the Internet today and that is going to double in the next five years. He opines, “We are pretty close to a world where all people have Internet access. What we are trying to do is reach out to the next billion, not just in terms of product development, but also in marketing and sales and advertising.”

How does his team plan to do this? He replies, “This aim requires empathy as we realise the next billion look less and less like us and so we need to have a completely different level of commitment and understanding on who our customers are, what they need, and why they are coming to Facebook/Instagram/WhatsApp and making sure we build what they are asking for.”

#1: Focus on performance
The first major pillar of work Mr Cox laid out was performance, especially in poor networking conditions. Explaining further, Mr Cox said, “India is about a third of the next billion people who will come on the Internet. One out of three people will be from India and it is almost entirely 2G when it comes to network connectivity. Most farmers around the world are on 2G connections, if they have Internet connections.”

This highlights the need for Facebook to understand how to deliver a better user experience in such conditions without compromising on its features. To understand this better, there needs to be a cultural change at Facebook, Mr Cox feels and so his team started the ‘2G Tuesdays’ concept for employees at Facebook. This would give employees the option to use Facebook as it would appear on a 2G connection to understand the issues that arise on low connectivity. This also involves using Android phones as well, to understand the devices that most people use.

#2: Product details
The second pillar of focus that Mr Cox highlighted was in getting the product details right. He explains that as there are many people around the world who are still everyday using Facebook for the very first time and his team has to make sure they understand the product. This involves getting the translation exactly right, or else the product fails.

He adds, “In India, many users were getting stuck at the sign up form, because their last name was in a different language. We are still doing a lot of work at translation – which does not sound like rocket science, but it actually is, when at a large scale to make sure people understand the product. For example, people using the Internet for the first time, would not understand a word like password easily. These things cannot be taken for granted.”

#3: Understanding user behaviour
The third pillar is to find new behaviour inside of the hands of people who are using the platform in new ways, Mr Cox explains. Some of the recently launched features have come out of just observing how people are using Facebook – like the feature that made it easier to buy and sell in Groups.

“A part of reaching out to the next billion is the expectation that we will find by observing how people are using it in different ways in different countries and different circumstances. We are going to find them using Facebook in different ways and we are going to commit to helping them do those things,” he concludes.

Shubhi Tandon

Shubhi Tandon is the Assistant Editor at Digital Market Asia. Fascinated by the evolving digital media industry, she has focussed on tracking developments in the Asia Pacific market since 2014.