Squeezed in between the loud headlines announcing Facebook’s impressive quarterly earnings, I noticed one from Business Insider that zeroed in on a comment Zuckerberg made during Wednesday’s earnings call: “Zuckerberg Says Photos Are Out, Messaging is In.”
This struck me as odd, especially since much of Facebook’s current success has been generated by the social media platform’s embrace of photo sharing. Absent context, I can see why the quote in question led to that headline—here’s how Business Insider quoted it:
“I’m so excited about messaging,” Zuckerberg said. “There are only so many photos you’re going to want to share with friends — there’s just a lot more people want to express.”
And here’s how it appears in the call transcript that Facebook links to from its own investor portal:
“We’re constantly looking for new opportunities to create new dynamics like that and open up new different private spaces for people where they can then feel comfortable sharing and having the freedom to express things that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to. It’s one of the reasons why I’m personally so excited about Messaging, because right now, at some level, there are only so many photos that you’re going to want to share with all of your friends.”
Zuckerberg is responding to a question about privacy. He’s talking about alternative models to broadcasting everything to large groups—including photos and text—hence his interest in the “private spaces” that messaging apps create. In fact, this quote shows his continued bullishness regarding photos: he’s exploring new ways to share them. Photos have become so valuable that they no longer constitute mere window dressing; they are, like text, a legitimate form of communication.
In fact, he praises his famous acquisition, Instagram, in the same call:
“Instagram continues to make great progress in giving people new ways to share their stories through photos and videos. Last month we made one of the biggest updates ever to Instagram app by adding new creative tools that allow people to refine exactly how their photos look and feel. This is an important part of building out Instagram’s capabilities as a platform and serving the creativity of the Instagram community.”
On top of all that, let’s remember:
- He reportedly tried to buy Snapchat, a visual messaging app, for $3 billion.
- When that didn’t work, Facebook released a similar app, Slingshot, which is also based on visual communication.
- Nearly a quarter of Instagram users are using the Instagram Direct messaging feature.
- Instagram may be iterating on the same concept again with Bolt.
To summarize, Zuckerberg didn’t say that photos are out and messaging is in. He said that broadcasting is out and messaging is in.