Facebook’s secret plan is paranoia
To understand Facebook, you need to know that Mark Zuckerberg is “one of the most paranoid leaders in Silicon Valley history,” said Casey Newton. To outsiders, Facebook is “a monolith that steamrolls entire industries and nation-states.” But for Zuckerberg and his fellow Facebook execs, it’s “never more than a few bad breaks away from oblivion.” A long-running lawsuit between Facebook and the founder of the defunct company Six4Three provides insight into Zuckerberg’s state of mind. Six4Three made an “atrocious” app called Pikinis that “found photos of your Facebook friends in their swimsuits.” However unsympathetic Pikinis might be, the lawsuit has exposed thousands of pages of documents that show Facebook’s dread of potential rivals. Facebook would cut off access to its data for outside apps when they grew too popular and posed a threat to a business—such as messaging or dating—that Facebook was involved in. Then Facebook would “publicly frame these moves as a way to protect user privacy.” Executives even had a name for the strategy of talking about privacy while knocking out competitors: the Switcharoo Plan. Switcharoo didn’t come out of a master plan to hijack and monetize your data. Of course, it did that. But it was born, like most Facebook initiatives, “out of mortal fear” of competition.