How ugly was the breakup between Facebook Inc. FB -0.18% and the two founders of WhatsApp, its biggest acquisition? The creators of the popular messaging service are walking away leaving about $1.3 billion on the table.
The expensive exit caps a long-simmering dispute about how to wring more revenue out of WhatsApp, according to people familiar with the matter. Facebook has remained committed to its ad-based business model amid criticism, even as Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg has had to defend the company before American and European lawmakers.
The WhatsApp duo of Jan Koum and Brian Acton had persistent disagreements in recent years with Mr. Zuckerberg and Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, who grew impatient for a greater return on the company’s 2014 blockbuster $22 billion purchase of the messaging app, according to the people.
.. Many of the disputes with Facebook involved how to manage data privacy while also making money from WhatsApp’s large user base, including through the targeted ads that WhatsApp’s founders had long opposed.
.. Messrs. Acton and Koum are true believers on privacy issues and have shown disdain for the potential commercial applications of the service.
.. Mr. Zuckerberg and Ms. Sandberg have touted how an advertising-supported product makes it free for consumers and helps bridge the digital divide.
.. When Facebook bought WhatsApp, it never publicly addressed how the divergent philosophies would coexist. But Mr. Zuckerberg told stock analysts that he and Mr. Koum agreed that advertising wasn’t the right way to make money from messaging apps. Mr. Zuckerberg also said he promised the co-founders the autonomy to build their own products. The sale to Facebook made the app founders both multibillionaires.
.. Small cultural disagreements between the two staffs also popped up, involving issues such as noise around the office and the size of WhatsApp’s desks and bathrooms, that took on greater significance as the split between the parent company and its acquisition persisted.
.. During the height of the Cambridge Analytica controversy, in which the research firm was accused of misusing Facebook user data to aid the Trump campaign, Mr. Acton posted that he planned to delete his Facebook account.
.. David Marcus, an executive who ran Facebook’s other chat app, Messenger, confronted his former colleague. “That was low class,” Mr. Marcus said
.. When Mr. Acton departed Facebook, he forfeited about $900 million in potential stock awards
.. Mr. Koum is expected to officially depart in mid-August, in which case he would leave behind more than two million unvested shares worth about $400 million at Facebook’s current stock price. Both men would have received all their remaining shares had they stayed until this November, when their contracts end.
.. It is also the antithesis of what WhatsApp professed to stand for. Mr. Koum, a San Jose State University dropout, grew up in Soviet-era Ukraine, where the government could track communication, and talked frequently about his commitment to privacy.
.. Mr. Koum, 42, and Mr. Acton, 46, became friends while working as engineers at Yahoo Inc
.. WhatsApp, which launched in 2009, was designed to be simple and secure. Messages were immediately deleted from its servers once sent. It charged some users 99 cents annually after one free year and carried no ads.
.. Mr. Zuckerberg assured Messrs. Koum and Acton at the time that he wouldn’t place advertising in the messaging service, according to a person familiar with the matter. Messrs. Koum and Acton also negotiated an unusual clause in their contracts that said if Facebook insisted on making any “additional monetization initiatives” such as advertising in the app, it could give the executives “good reason” to leave and cause an acceleration of stock awards that hadn’t vested
.. Mr. Acton initiated the clause in his contract allowing for early vesting of his shares. But Facebook’s legal team threatened a fight, so Mr. Acton, already worth more than $3 billion, left it alone
.. said the WhatsApp founders are “pretty naive” for believing that Facebook wouldn’t ultimately find some way to make money from the deal, such as with advertising. “Facebook is a business, not a charity,”
.. At the time of the sale, WhatsApp was profitable with fee revenue, although it is unclear by how much.
.. Facebook told investors it would stop increasing the number of ads in Facebook’s news feed, resulting in slower advertising-revenue growth. This put pressure on Facebook’s other properties—including WhatsApp—to make money.
.. That August, WhatsApp announced it would start sharing phone numbers and other user data with Facebook, straying from its earlier promise to be built “around the goal of knowing as little about you as possible.”
.. Some of the employees were turned off by Facebook’s campus, a bustling collection of restaurants, ice cream shops and services built to mirror Disneyland.
.. After WhatsApp employees hung up posters over the walls instructing hallway passersby to “please keep noise to a minimum,” some Facebook employees mocked them with chants of “Welcome to WhatsApp—Shut up!”
.. “These little ticky-tacky things add up in a company that prides itself on egalitarianism,” said one Facebook employee.
.. Messrs. Koum and Acton proposed several ideas to bring in more revenue. One, known as “re-engagement messaging,” would let advertisers contact only users who had already been their customers.
.. None of the proposals were as lucrative as Facebook’s ad-based model. “Well, that doesn’t scale,” Ms. Sandberg told the WhatsApp executives of their proposals
.. Ms. Sandberg wanted the WhatsApp leadership to pursue advertising alongside other revenue models, another person familiar with her thinking said.
.. Ms. Sandberg, 48, and Mr. Zuckerberg, 34, frequently brought up their purchase of the photo-streaming app Instagram as a way to persuade Messrs. Koum and Acton to allow advertising into WhatsApp.
.. “It worked for Instagram,” Ms. Sandberg told the WhatsApp executives on at least one occasion
.. Mr. Zuckerberg wanted WhatsApp executives to add more “special features” to the app, whereas Messrs. Koum and Acton liked its original simplicity.
.. Mr. Zuckerberg and Ms. Sandberg also wanted Messrs. Koum and Acton to loosen their stance on encryption to allow more “business flexibility,”
.. Mr. Acton—described by one former WhatsApp employee as the “moral compass” of the team—decided to leave as the discussions to place ads in Status picked up.
What the past tells us as the GOP enacts a historic tax overhaul
After taxes were cut in 1981 and 2001, the Congressional Budget Office crunched the numbers some years later to see what had happened.
.. In 1985, they went back and looked at how much revenue the government actually collected. They sought to separate the effect of economic changes, such as the 1982 recession, from the effect of tax changes implemented under President Ronald Reagan. They figured that economic and technical changes caused revenue in 1985 to be about $187 billion lower than it was in the baseline projection, made in 1981 — a shortfall of about 18%.
People in tech and media have been saying that ‘content is king’ for a long time – perhaps since the VHS/Betamax battle of the early 1980s, and perhaps longer. Content and access to content was a strategic lever for technology. I’m not sure how much this is true anymore. Music and books don’t matter much to tech anymore, and TV probably won’t matter much either.
Most obviously, subscription streaming has more or less ended the strategic importance of music to tech companies. In the past, any music you bought for your iPod had DRM and could only be played on Apple device
.. Even if you’d just encoded your own CDs (or downloaded pirated tracks, but in either case without DRM), physically transferring them to a different device with different software was a barrier. Your music library kept you on a device. With streaming these issues mostly go away. All the major services are cross-device (even Apple’s), and if you do switch to a different service you’re not giving up tracks you’ve paid money for, just a list of your favourites. Switching became easy.
.. Since music no longer stops people from switching between platforms, it’s gone from being a moat
.. Ebooks, like music, do not seem to create any moat for any broader platform strategy.
.. whenever I talk to music people or book people, very quickly the conversation becomes a music industry conversation or a book industry conversation. What matters for music are artists and touring and labels and so on, and what matters for books are writers and publishers and rights and Amazon’s bargaining power in books and so on. These aren’t tech conversations. The big tech platform companies rolled into these industries and changed everything, but then moved on to bigger things.
.. Tech needed content to make their devices viable, but having got the content (by any means necessary), and with it of course completely resetting the dynamics of the industry, tech outgrew music and books and moved on to bigger opportunities.
.. the shows that are watched mainly because they’re broadcast at 8pm on Saturday will suffer, and so will the channels that are watched because they’re high up on the program guide.
.. Amazon clearly is using content for platform leverage – as something else to speed up the Prime flywheel. Prime has become a third pillar to Amazon’s business, next to logistics and the ecommerce platform, and Amazon is always looking for ways to add more perceived value to it, preferably with no marginal cost – TV content that it owns outright is exactly that.
.. Unlike a Taylor Swift or Kanye West exclusive, this is more than just marketing – it’s something you lose altogether if you give up something else that’s not directed related. Cancel the subscription delivery service and you lose access to all Amazon TV shows.
.. For Google and Facebook, there’s no subscription to cancel – there’s no binary (renew/don’t renew, cancel/don’t cancel) decision you might take that would cut off your access to that great TV show. You don’t close your Facebook account – you just go there less. You might stop paying for the Youtube TV service, but that won’t cut off your access to any other part of Google
.. Buy an Android instead and you lose access to the (hypothetical) great Apple television service. This is why people argue that Apple should buy Netflix.
.. Part of ‘content is king’ was the idea that (at least in theory) content companies can withhold access to their libraries entirely, and in the past one might have presumed that that meant they had the power to kill any new service at birth. In reality, rights-holders have always had too strong a need for short-term revenue to forgo broad distribution, and few of them individually had a strong enough brand to extract a fee that was high enough to justify exclusivity
.. The reason Apple TV, Chromecast, FireTV and everything else feel so anti-climactic is that getting onto the TV was a red herring – the device is the phone and the network is the internet. The smartphone is the sun and everything else orbits it. Internet advertising will be bigger than TV advertising this year, and Apple’s revenue is larger than the entire global pay TV industry.
.. This is also why tech companies are even thinking about commissioning their own premium shows today – they are now so big that the budgets involved in buying or creating TV look a lot less daunting than they once did.
Steven Mnuchin said at an event Friday that he will push Congress to enact comprehensive tax reform by its August recess, though he acknowledged that the timetable might slip.
.. Reworking the health-care law as the House envisioned would have also cut roughly $1 trillion in revenue. That would have made it simpler for Republicans to pass a future overhaul of the tax code because they wouldn’t have needed to find additional revenue to offset new tax cuts.
.. Grover Norquist said the bloc of hard line Republicans who helped stymie the health-care overhaul were guilty of “ripping the lungs out of tax reform.”
.. “they didn’t shoot and wound health-care reform, they shot and killed permanent tax reform.”
.. widen the deficit by anywhere from $2.6 trillion to $7 trillion over 10 years
.. Many Republicans have long vowed that an overhaul of the tax code must be “revenue neutral,” which means they need to find new revenue to offset the reduction in rates.
.. Ryan has proposed a border-adjustment tax that would essentially create new taxes on items imported into the United States as a way to raise close to $1 trillion in new revenue
.. the Republican agenda is also undercut by “a president who’s out of his league and doesn’t know how to legislate.”
.. Newt Gingrich, who was a close adviser to Trump during the campaign, said the White House should postpone what is expected to be a messy battle over the tax code and instead pivot toward trying to build a large infrastructure package.
.. A principal reason changing the tax code is so difficult is because interest groups flood Washington looking for tax cuts but fight vigorously against any measure that would increase their bills.
.. there are very different views within the Republican Party.
.. holdouts can kill it. That empowers the holdouts.”
.. Congress must also reach an agreement to raise or suspend the debt ceiling by August or September