“This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill — the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill — you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.”
Morpheus, The Matrix
Even though we may not realize it, we live in the matrix today. Often, it is easier to date someone who lives across the globe through text messaging and Skype than it is to sit across the table from him or her having dinner. We have the red pill — the world before mobile — and then the wonderful blue pill that takes us to exotic places through our iPhones, Galaxies, and Droids via a rapidly growing and powerful mobile applications ecosystem. With these, we can instantly be transported to many places at the same time — our friend’s adventure in Egypt on Instagram, a heavily tweeted TED conference in San Diego, or a real-time fashion party joined by thousands of women across the country — all the while having a glass of wine at the Press Club in San Francisco.
This mobile revolution is reshaping entire industries and perhaps more interestingly, shifting power from traditional search to new ways of discovery. Over the last six months, while the public has pondered its mobile strategy, Facebook has quietly emerged as the superpower of application discovery, and is progressively playing a powerful role in reshaping e-commerce, media and advertising on mobile platforms. Facebook’s new products — ranging from open graph and timeline to mobile installs — are reshaping how brands, companies and app developers can connect with their audiences and facilitate discovery in a crowded app world.
In the early days of the Web, portals, pop-ups and other advertising and discovery systems ruled the ways consumers connected with websites. The advertising engines and portals were very fragmented. Yahoo’s home page provided one of the most powerful discovery tools for the consumer. Then Google’s entry into search and the arrival of its advertising platform, Adwords, reshaped how e-commerce, brands and services connected with that same consumer. This repositioned the power of the Web ecosystem and put Google front and center in this new world. In response, advertisers and websites from e-commerce to media shifted their strategies to optimizing for discovery on Google. Whole new classes of advertising agencies were created, and new epicenters of commerce and media were developed to focus on Search Engine Optimization and Paid Search.
As we spend more time under the influence of the magical blue pill, increasing attention and spending is shifting to mobile. Mobile’s inherent advantage in being able to connect offline and online behavior will have massive ramifications on all industries as compared to the Web. Mobile is changing the paradigm of online interactions from searching for content with keywords to pressing a single button and being delighted with new content on our home screens. Collections of blue links are being replaced by visual feeds, keywords with button press, and search by discovery as the dominant method of information consumption. As the mobile infrastructure evolves, Facebook has increasingly positioned itself as the Sun in this new solar system. Last year’s acquisition of Instagram gives Facebook tremendous headroom as it slowly but surely rolls out its mobile products for brands and app developers. Increasing dollars and optimization energies are shifting toward Facebook’s mobile ecosystem and changing the shape of every mobile advertising network and mobile media platform. This seismic shift is akin to what happened in 2000 when Google arrived on the landscape with Adwords, and is positioning Facebook to do to mobile what Google did to search.
If the red pill is the world before mobile, do we even have the option of turning back to a world without navigation apps, instant access to email and photography filters? As we spend more of our time glued to our phones 24/7, we should take a moment to contemplate what is real. As Morpheus says, “If real is what you can feel, smell, taste and see, then ‘real’ is simply electrical signals interpreted by your brain.”