Last week, Facebook announced their Facebook Zero initiative which is overall pretty impressive. This of course meant seeing billboards all over Abidjan last weekend letting people know about it, such as the one you see above (plastic garbage under it is optional.) The billboards are a bit scaled down though and not the substitute-for-paint type that you see along the sides of buildings as it would appear the MTN (whom is the Facebook Zero partner in Côte d’Ivoire) is spending their money on billboards for the World Cup of which they are the official mobile sponsor.
Now at this point, Erik has written about it, Wayan has written about it, Kevin has written about it, and Steve has written about it. In this White Guy African Technology Choir, the one refrain that I didn’t find was in regards to Twitter, so this white guy would like to mention a few things about that.
It’s important to note that despite what anyone might say about privacy or quashing local development, this was an incredibly deft move by Facebook to counter Twitter’s adoption. For some reason, Facebook still sees itself as a challenger to Twitter, although I find them completely different. For one thing, I think that Facebook is near its apex in the US. It needs to expand in markets where it hardly exists such as Africa. Twitter, while used in Africa, is quite weak there as they did the end-all, be-all of dumbshit moves when they cut off SMS access to be only available from countries where they have an established shortcode provider. This meant that those of us in all of Africa only had the web or mobile web interface (which is good albeit costly) to use when really, the SMS method is vastly superior when it is the once in a blue moon that an SMS goes through properly.
It’s this lack of access that Facebook has been very clever to exploit and will easily surpass Twitter in these markets as it will be much more readily available. I think that Facebook’s drive to get everyone on the planet in their system as well as try and best Twitter is the main reason for this because really, paying to get new users is something I would say is more an act of desperation if the situation were different. Now if only I had MTN instead of Orange and Moov to give it a whirl…