30 October 2019 by Spencer Symmons
Remember the Windows Phone? Just like its predecessors Betamax and the 8-Track, it made big waves before ultimately failing to sustain the interest and imagination of consumers, becoming consigned to the history books. But, according to Microsoft Co-Founder Bill Gates, the Windows Mobile software would have been as big, if not bigger, than its main competitor Android had it not have been for an on-going scandal, damaging trust and the reputation of the brand during Windows Mobile’ launch.
While Gates explains that this was most probably his greatest mistake, fellow tech big wig Mark Zuckerberg does not seem to have the same outlook on his current situation.
The Cambridge Analytica scandal shocked the world and sent waves through the tech industry and yet Facebook founder Zuckerberg seems mostly unfazed by the whole affair. Instead, he seems to duck and dodge questions and comments that could potentially help to prevent the company’s reputation from falling even further.
But, how much does Facebook’s reputation matter? The platform is still the biggest in social media, with 2.45 million active users every month. Is Zuckerberg’s laissez-faire attitude perhaps understandable?
While there is no way to have an exact estimate for Windows Phone’s projections, Gates states that the mistake potentially cost his company around $400 billion. Microsoft weren’t short of either innovation or investment when it came to producing the Windows Phone, so could their failure be down to reputational management?
This hasn’t rung true for the Zuck. Facebook retains its crown as the biggest social media platform in the world, suffering only a slight decrease in the number of new users. However, Zuckerberg’s digital reach does not end with social media, and the parent company, which has a portfolio of 79 other acquired companies including WhatsApp and Instagram, is thriving. Although trust in Facebook and its related businesses is at an all-time low, it hasn’t seemed to stop business growth.
The Cambridge Analytica scandal started a chain of events which eventually led to changes, not just in the way Facebook operates, but all social media businesses, as well as digital marketing companies. Still, although Facebook suffered an initial hiccup – such as a 20 per cent drop in actions on the platform leading to a 24 per cent market share drop and a huge $134 billion loss – there doesn’t seem to have been a lasting effect.
However, it appears that Facebook’s poor reputation could damage the business in other ways. When the tech firm announced the launch of new cryptocurrency, Libra, it seemed to have the backing of some of the biggest names in finance. Just a few months later, PayPal, eBay, Mastercard, Visa and payments firm Stripe all backed out, leaving Zuckerburg red-faced. The cryptocurrency was criticised by regulators and parliamentarians around the world, with the US Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs telling Libra chief David Marcus that Facebook “doesn’t deserve our trust”.
Facebook may continue to rule the world of social media, with Zuckerburg as king, but if it is to follow the success of other tech giants and break into other industries, it will need the support of the given sector’s major players. And to gain support, it must build trust.
It would be easy to think that Facebook had suffered very little – if at all – from the privacy scandals which have continued to make headlines since 2017, but the truth is that investor trust in the business has been shaken. Zuckerburg’s failure to make proper amends may not affect his Facebook friends – but it will likely burn a hole in his pocket.
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