Facebook is the biggest and most successful social network today. But, back in 2011, for a relatively newer company like Facebook, prepping to face a competitor like Google could have been worrisome. Mark Zuckerberg knew what was ahead, and decided to leave no stone unturned to crush the then upcoming Google Plus. No one knew of the fate of Google Plus or Facebook then. But, Zuckerberg made it a mission to destroy the Google’s social network no matter what the cost, reveals an ex-Facebook employee.
Yes, there’s a new tell-all book – Chaos Monkeys: Obscene Fortune and Random Failure in Silicon Valley – by an ex-Facebook employee named Antonio Garcia Martinez, giving us (via Vanity Fair) some of the inside tales of the shiny Zuckerberg empire. He said the moment GooglePlus was launched, Zuckerberg couldn’t think of anything but destroying it, and to such a great extent that the social network went into a lockdown state. “Lockdown was a state of war that dated to Facebook’s earliest days, when no one could leave the building while the company confronted some threat, either competitive or technical,” Martinez explained in his book.
Zuckerberg also gave his first ‘lockdown’ speech the day Google Plus was launched, which clearly stated Rthe phrase ‘Carthago delenda est. It meant Carthage (Google in this case) must be destroyed. Posters were put across the campus to remind employees of the mission.
By then, it was a full blown war. Google didn’t see Facebook as threat, and thought its search monopoly will help it wade through it. The company launched Google Plus! While most of us found those forceful Google Plus sign-ups annoying, Facebook saw it as one of the biggest threats, and it were. There were other factors working for Google Plus too. For instance, it had no ads. “This was the classic one-hand-washing-the-other tactic of the ruthless monopolist, like Microsoft using the revenue from Windows to crush Netscape Navigator with Explorer back in the 90s. By owning search, Google would bankroll taking over social media as well,” Martinez said.
“Zuck took it as an existential threat comparable to the Soviets’ placing nukes in Cuba in 1962. Google Plus was the great enemy’s sally into our own hemisphere, and it gripped Zuck like nothing else,” Martinez writes.
Meanwhile, the lockdown went into action with cafes opened on weekends, shuttles running between Palo Alto and San Francisco on weekends, and Facebook turned into a seven days working company with a little concession of seeing your family on weekends. “By whatever means, employees were expected to be in and on duty. In what was perceived as a kindly concession to the few employees with families, it was also announced that families were welcome to visit on weekends and eat in the cafés, allowing the children to at least see Daddy (and, yes, it was mostly Daddy) on weekend afternoons,” writes Martinez.
On the Google Plus launch day, the author noticed an Ads product manager named Paul Adams with Zuckerberg. Adams was earlier a product designer for Google Plus, and with the launch of the product, no longer tied to a non-disclosure agreement with Google. On the other hand, Google had a policy wherein it would beat any Facebook offer.
Soon Vic Gundotra, the man ‘responsible’ for Google Plus spoke about great numbers, which were taken serious earlier, but soon it was released that Google took into account any click on the Google Plus, which was mandatory tied to its other products. Gundotra never acknowledged Facebook and reportedly even said “Networks are for networking. Circles are for the right people.” Obviously referring to Google Circles.
Soon Gundotra’s exit hit headlines, and report of Google diverting Google Plus teams to Android started making news. That was a sign of relief for Facebook, and they knew they had won the war.
“I decided to do some reconnaissance. En route to work one Sunday morning, I skipped the Palo Alto exit on the 101 and got off in Mountain View instead. Down Shoreline I went and into the sprawling Google campus. I made my way there and contemplated the parking lot. It was empty. Completely empty. I got back on the 101 North and drove to Facebook. At the California Avenue building, I had to hunt for a parking spot. The lot was full. It was clear which company was fighting to the death,” writes Martinez.