More than half of Facebook's revenue already comes from outside the United States, and the company is paying increasing attention to how it can capture the lion's share of the 3 billion new people expected to come online in the next five years. This week the company revealed its 2G Tuesdays, when employees are asked to spend part of the day working on the sort of maddening low-bandwidth connections that they would typically only encounter at their parents' houses around Thanksgiving. Today Facebook announced Slideshow, a lightweight video ad format that will help the company monetize all the people it's bringing online with Internet.org.
We don't write much about ad technology here, but Slideshow is notable in two ways. One, it signals Facebook's growing ambitions to become the default social network of the entire world. Two, it begins answering the question of how it's going to profit from them. Earlier this month, the company described some of the ways it is optimizing for the feature phones and low-bandwidth connections that are common in the developing world. It has begun taking your bandwidth into account when deciding which stories to load, for example, and it caches stories locally on the device when you do have connectivity so that you'll still have something new to read when you don't.
Monetizing the emerging world as aggressively as it has done in America
The next logical step for the company is to monetize those people in emerging countries as aggressively as it has done in America. But feature phones usually can't display high-definition video. Slideshow is an effort to get some of the benefits of video ads without the bandwidth. Advertisers can now use a self-serve platform to upload three to seven photos, and Facebook will create a slideshow of up to 15 seconds. Facebook resizes the ads differently depending on the device it is being served to. The company has tested the ads with companies including Coca-Cola and Netflix, and says they perform better than static photo ads.
Facebook often talks about Internet.org as a humanitarian mission, and data shows that internet access can be extremely helpful in helping people rise from poverty. But Facebook intends to benefit from the people it's bringing online, too, and today we found out just a bit more about how they will do it.