Something very important happened recently at the annual developer conference (F8). Facebook firmly staked its claim on IOT. Facebook events (like the Google annual developer events) are always interesting, as they give a tantalizing view of what is coming next. Yes, it lacks the panache the Apple events have. However, just because Facebook and Google events are deeply technical, does not mean they are not momentous, or exciting.
Several interesting data points were shared, several important consumer features announcements were made. I will not repeat them here, expect perhaps point out an important point – F8 was perhaps the pivot where Facebook finally shed its web legacy and became a native mobile ecosystem player.
Russian Nested Dolls – Stack within Stack within Stack
What, however, caught my attention was something that was not consumer facing – something regarding Parse, a mobile app backend / platform-as-a-service firm that Facebook acquired 3 years ago and then seemed to have forgotten about it.
At the level of the consumer internet, it’s been clear for some time that Apple and Google won the platform war. That leaves other consumer-facing/consumer-service firms in an interesting predicament – how do they survive, and thrive, on someone else’s platform? How far can they capture attention and intent of the consumers, what other interaction models will emerge, and so on.
The smart answer is – build your own stack inside someone else stack/platform
That’s what Facebook and Amazon have been up to, for the past couple of years – moving up and down the stack simultaneously.
Moving up, these firms are building a new run-time overlaying the runtime embedded in the iOS and Android. Zuckerberg pointed out at F8 that five years ago, most content on Facebook was text. Now it’s photos, soon it will be video, and eventually it will be immersive content like virtual reality and augmented reality. If the content sharing of the future requires a headset, Facebook needed one, so it acquired Oculus.Moving down, Facebook acquired Parse.
Facebook wants to manage all interactions – between people, between people and things, and between things
We’re rushing headfirst into this era of “Internet of Things” — a time of connected coffee makers, connected fridges, connected light switches. There’s been very little done, however, in the way of standardizing how these things work (and work with each other) behind the scenes.
And that’s where Parse related announcement comes into play. Parse launched SDKs that act as the backend brains for IoT projects. It’s compatible with Arduino first, with other platforms on the way.
So, Facebook, which was basically an app (the top consumer layer) on the iOS and Android based mobile ecosystem/stack, expanded that into a full 5-layer stack. Third party consumers apps as the top layer, Occulus as the runtime/second layer, facebook itself, along with Messenger as the service/third layer (which will include payments!), Parse as the infrastructure/fourth layer.
What it means in layman terms is that Facebook could very well become the central control for Smart Home, Smart Auto, Smart Health, etc. Basically, on the day it completed the pivot from web to mobile, it also took the first step towards the next ecosystem – IOT!