Facebook Product Experimentation Team Open for Business

According to sources, Facebook’s new division dubbed the New Product Experimentation Team (or NPE Team) is looking into the possibility of creating apps and podcasts for travel, newsletters and workplace services. The NPE Team is tasked with “building the future of Facebook,” as chief executive Mark Zuckerberg hopes to keep the social media platform central to peoples’ daily lives. Other social networks such as Myspace and Friendster failed when they did not evolve beyond their initial offerings.

The New York Times reports that, at the same time, Facebook “faces scrutiny for privacy deficiencies and the spread of disinformation and hate speech” as well as regulators “investigating its acquisitions, including the photo-sharing site Instagram and the messaging app WhatsApp, and whether Mr. Zuckerberg engaged in anticompetitive practices.”

The current strategy “shifts away from public messaging and toward private communications,” which “could eventually affect Facebook’s ad business, in which brands target promotions based on people’s public posts.” The majority of Facebook’s $56 billion in revenue last year came from advertising.

The NPE Team, led by long-time Facebook executive Ime Archibong, is broken down into five “pods,” made up of 10 to 15 people, each focused on different projects. Among the apps that have already emerged from the NPE Team are Aux, a social music app, and Bump, a matchmaking app for students, both available on Apple’s App Store and Google Play.

Facebook stated that branding the apps as coming from the NPE Team “will help prepare people for the possibility that the apps could change drastically or shut down with little notice,” noting that it expects “many failures.” It added that “to find the next big product or feature … those on the NPE Team need to feel open and not constrained.” Also, “revenue is not a primary concern.”

Sources reported that “early ideas include breaking into the travel industry and planning itineraries and things to do, as well as combining travel activities with the most ‘Instagrammable’ locations in an area … [as well as a focus on] ‘neighborhood’ communities, tools for creating newsletters and fact-checking ‘fake news,’ and apps for vehicles … [and] audio services.”

Other ideas are aimed at enterprise customers, including “software that might improve meetings, a Facebook version of email, an automatic transcription service and a PowerPoint-style service rethought in a kind of Instagram Stories format.”