How Fast Is Facebook?

We’re all generally aware that the web servers of social networking platforms like Facebook are capable of processing data very quickly. But do we really comprehend how quickly?

Until recently, I didn’t really comprehend data processing speeds at all. But then I signed up for a new Facebook account. Although I originally opened a personal account many years ago, I deleted it after becoming frustrated at the platform’s constant modifications to its privacy controls. Frankly, I didn’t see why I couldn’t simply instruct the service that “only I should be able to post items to my account pages” once and once only.

But after a colleague convinced me that the platform’s social networking capabilities might warrant a second look, I ventured onto Facebook’s home page and reviewed the sign-up instructions.

I was asked for my name, an email address, and two or three other brief items of identification. That seemed reasonable to me! I was then asked whether I wished to give Facebook access to the electronic address book that is associated with my email account, so that the social network could help me locate my friends. Thanks, but no thanks! I declined that offer.

After a brief moment’s delay, I logged into my new account. And to my astonishment, I was immediately presented with a list of people whom (according to Facebook) I might know, and whom I might wish to “friend.”

Why was I astonished? Well, most of the names on that list were recognizable to me. They ranged from good friends whom I contact often, to total strangers whom I briefly contacted for business reasons on a single occasion many years ago.

For a while, I was flummoxed. How could Facebook know so many of my past and present contacts, across such a broad range of personal and business relationships, if I declined to open my electronic address book to the service? And then the answer struck me.

Although Facebook didn’t have access to my address book, it did know my email address. And if many of Facebook’s existing users had opened their address books to Facebook when they first signed up for the social network, the algorithms could have searched through many (or perhaps even all) of those address books for my email address.

So quickly, though? During that single brief moment while I signed up for the service? Apparently, Facebook is fast. Really fast.

Of course, it might be worth pondering a couple of follow-up questions. Do most of the individuals who open their address books to Facebook when they sign up for accounts really understand how the social network plans to utilize that access? And is it really fair for Facebook to ask for access only once, and then to utilize it forever without ever asking again?

Reasonable minds may certainly differ over the answers to those questions. And yet there is one impressive fact that is not debatable at all; namely, once we permit Facebook to access our personal information, it can make very fast use of our data.

Facebook and Google: War And Peace

Facebook and Google. Google and Facebook. People tend to assume that these firms generally employ similar business strategies, featuring the aggressive application of new technologies in order to disrupt established industries.

Facebook, for instance, now owns Instagram, a leading innovator in the online photo sharing sector and a service that helped seal the demise of the traditional photography industry. And Facebook’s virtual reality technology division Oculus VR is now driving the radical evolution of the video gaming industry.

As for Google, it is currently focusing on the development of everything from self-driving cars to advanced programmable thermostats to wearable clothing technologies. By investing in these products and services, Google hopes to disrupt the long-established automobile, home construction, and fashion clothing industries.

In other words, Facebook and Google don’t simply compete against web-based communication technology firms. They frequently declare war on firms in other industry sectors — and, in fact, on other entire industries — as well.

That might be why Google has decided to challenge telecommunications giants like Verizon and AT&T. Its Voice service already offers free phone calls to any telephone number in the United States and Canada. And, just last week, Google announced that it intends to launch a wireless phone service in the United States.

Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, on the other hand, has suddenly decided to go on a “charm offensive” and woo telecommunications carriers. Last week, at the Mobile World Congress, Zuckerberg said, “Growing the Internet is expensive work. The only way to accelerate that is to help operators to grow their business.”

Is Facebook now changing its general strategy by declaring a state of peace with the telecommunications giants? And, by doing so, is the social network joining forces with the likes of Verizon and AT&T in order to wage war on Google?

It appears that the web based telecommunications industry is a sector where war compels peace, and where, in turn, peace enables war. In a turbulent environment like this one, is it any wonder why so many technology start-ups come and go in the blink of an eye?