Monday’s global six-hour outage at Facebook, and its associated platforms Instagram and WhatsApp, has thrown the spotlight on the important role the company plays in the day-to-day lives of its customers.
The company is best known for its messaging and content-sharing platforms, where it is the dominant player in all but a handful of markets. But Facebook (and its stable of companies) is also increasingly an enabler of online commerce, both at the B2B and B2C levels.
Tellimer’s recent online survey of 900 individuals across 14 emerging markets confirms Facebook’s dominance. Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp were the three most frequently used apps cited by respondents, while Facebook’s Messenger app ranked 8th.
Breaking down the results by market, we see the Facebook suite of products typically takes a 40% share of the most frequently used apps. It is most dominant in Mexico and has a weaker presence in Russia and China. Drilling down into its individual brands, Facebook does best in Vietnam, Instagram in Indonesia, WhatsApp in South Africa and Messenger in the Philippines.
China’s outlier status reflects its harsh restrictions on the activities of the global internet giants, as it wants to have greater control over internet content and communication channels. Though other emerging markets are unlikely to adopt such a stringent approach, we are seeing a shift towards favouring home-grown apps, to protect data sovereignty, build local talent pools and reduce exposure to global vulnerabilities.
A good example of this is Russia, which used the Facebook outage to trumpet its policy of developing its own internet infrastructure. Within our sampled countries it has the second-lowest level of Facebook penetration. Indeed, the top-ranking local social media platform, Vkontakte, saw its traffic increase by 20% during the Facebook outage.
We think Monday’s outage will give individuals and businesses pause for thought.
Some of them use Facebook’s platforms for critical tasks and may have suffered financial losses or severe disruption to their activities as a result. Regulators that have already been jittery about the key economic role being played by foreign tech giants could also use this episode to tighten oversight.
The net result is likely to be favourable for home-grown apps that have hitherto been forced to work under the large shadows cast by global tech firms.
Turning to our consumer survey, we highlight below the most frequently cited apps in each market. These firms may find a more willing audience for their products and services now that the reliability of Facebook’s platforms have been thrown into question.