Back in April of this year, CEO of Facebook (Mark Zuckerberg) unveiled his grand ten-year roadmap, where he showed the company’s trajectory from now straight through to 2026.
A world where everybody is connected to the internet, where we talk to artificially intelligent computers as if they were human, and boldest of all where virtual reality goggles are as standard as our smartphones. This will allow us to connect with people all around the world as intimately as if they were in the same room.
Facebook moved this marker on this ambitious roadmap a slight bit forward this week with more details on how the social network will operate, in this ideal virtual reality future. In a demo, Zuckerberg showed off “Social VR,” using a combination of the Oculus Rift headset and a 360-degree camera to mash together virtual reality and the real world like we’ve never seen before.
In the vision Facebook has of 2016, the social network plays a bigger role in most if not all of the interactions we have with other fellow humans. It’s a little creepy, given how much Facebook already permeates our personal lives, but it provides a fascinating glimpse of the radical changes coming to the technology we use.
Just last week, Google had their big event.
And while the presentation Google had was ostensible to introduce new hardware, it also gave us a glimpse of how Google is thinking about it’s own future, and the ways in which Facebook’s ten-year strategy overlap with Google’s.
Naturally, their core business couldn’t be more different: Facebook’s efforts to break into search haven’t yielded many results. The same can be said for Google’s attempts to become a social network, as it’s pretty much Silicon Valley punch lines at this point.
Yet, in many big and important ways, Facebook and Google are already going punch-for-punch in a fight that won’t be over anytime soon. Unless one of them releases a next generation tech or software that gives either party a kick start.
The most visible part of their fight: Google’s YouTube is the number 1 ruler for web videos. But Facebook has been working hard at undermining YouTube’s supremacy by attracting more media brands, and advertisers to it’s video offers.
But the most interesting part of their battle, is in the futuristic and far-reaching technology being developed by each tech giant.
Last week, Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai said that the company is using artificial intelligence to “build a personal Google for each and every user.” Facebook, however, is investing heavily in AI to personalize it’s news feed too.
Facebook’s Oculus subsidiary may have sparked the sudden gold rush towards virtual reality, but Google isn’t far behind with its Daydream View headset, also announced last week. With VR movies projected to be big business, Google doesn’t want to let Facebook steal YouTube’s lead in video advertising.
Google’s parent company Alphabet and Facebook are both making very significant investments in “connecting” the world. Facebook is using self-piloting laser drones, and Google is using balloons, but both share a self-given mission of connecting underserved populations to the internet.
All things considered, these are future-looking businesses. AI is a very young field, and virtual reality is far away from hitting the consumer mainstream. Even those efforts to connect the globe have regular hurdles to overcome in many different countries.
These might just be side-lines to both businesses, but with a long enough time span of let’s say, ten years, there are going to be winners and losers in each field. This is why each side is stockpiling as much engineering talent as it can to make sure that they’re the ones who walk away from this.
Everything comes down to growth and great technological change.
Google and Facebook, both born in the weird period between the bursting bubble of the first dot-com and Silicon Valley’s current start-up boom, successfully navigated the transition from PC to the Smartphone.
Google managed that change, thanks to Android: A Smartphone operating system that had Google search and services baked in at every possible level, while also available on a broad range of low- and high-end phones for every possible demographic. Now, Android is the most popular operating system in the world, and Google profits.
Facebook was slow transitioning from PC to the Smartphone path, but quickly caught up and now sees the majority of its users and ad revenue on mobile.
But with the Smartphone boom now grinding to a halt, the established businesses of the past decade are due for a shakeup, and the hunt is on for the next big thing. Whatever it might be, virtual reality, AI- powered assistance, or the like – Google and Facebook are both yet to repeat the next Android trick and become indispensable to the next phase of technology.
This battle will not be won with one product release, one new web design, or a new app. It’s a war that will be fought in fits and spurts in the years to come.
The winner, however, will control the future.