Meta and its AI Initiatives: Dominating the Tech Sphere to Serve with Efficiency

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AI

Meta is dominating the AI sphere to keep its customers happy and satisfied

Meta, previously known as Facebook is a social networking site founded by Mark Zuckerberg when he was studying psychology at Harvard University.  ‘Facebook,’ the name was taken from the sheets of paper distributed to freshmen, profiling students and staff. This online social networking service enables its users to connect with friends and family and make new connections as well. Within 24 hours since its launch, approx. 1,200 Harvard students had signed up, and after one month, over half of the undergraduate population had a profile.

Scaling New Horizons

As its popularity grew, Friendster attempted to acquire the company for US$10 million in mid-2004. Meta turned down the offer and subsequently received US$12.7 million in funding from Accel Partners at a valuation of around US$100 million. The next spring, Meta received US$25 million in funding from GreylockPartners and Meritech Capital as well as previous investors Accel Partners and Peter Thiel. The pre-money valuation for this deal was about US$525 million.

Soon the company began expanding its offerings through AI, VR, ad marketing, and other social services. Zuckerberg had expressed his wish to leverage AI to detect harmful content and actors and strengthen its cybersecurity measures. Meta emphasizes that its focus on security investments goes beyond elections and includes efforts to combat hate speech, bullying, and fake news. Through AI chatbot services, Meta provides automated subscription content like weather and traffic to customized communication like receipts, shipping notifications, and live automated messages on Messenger. Further, AI uses computer vision for identifying fake accounts created for malicious purposes and shuts them down instantly. Meta’s AI uses machine learning to prevent suicides too. It flags key phrases in posts and concerned comments from friends or family members to help identify users who may be at risk. Besides, coupling satellite imagery with AI is also helping Meta map Population density around the world, especially in the African continent. Unfortunately, the Cambridge Analytica scandal and numerous privacy concerns have put the company on a hot seat, despite prioritizing user privacy.

Meta has also been investing heavily in improving the user experience of its products. These products include Instagram, WhatsApp, and Messenger. Instagram undoubtedly churns big money for Meta. Apart from that, advertising technology has been receiving huge investments as it impacts its advertising business. The company’s investments in Atlas and other ad tools and programs such as Audience Network and Custom Audiences are some of the initiatives intended to strengthen Meta’s advertising business.

With the purchase of Oculus VR, Meta entered the VR niche, investing a US$3 billion investment for initial projects. The social networking giant aims to win in VR / AR and accelerate its arrival. Meta is also working on image segmentation, a concept that helps it allows them to recognize individual objects in the image and understand their relation. Using image segmentation will build more immersive experiences for the visually impaired with “talking images” one can read at fingertips, building more powerful ways to search images. Recently, it started collaborating with Carnegie Mellon University through Facebook AI Research (FAIR) team to work on building robots that can navigate around by recognizing familiar objects using semantic navigation.

Mergers & Acquisitions

Strategic acquisitions have been important to the growth of Meta. The tech giant has expanded far beyond its original social networking platform since its founding sixteen years ago. The potential intention behind constant obtaining is to buy rivals before they can get too big. In the process, Meta has sometimes paid exponential costs for some deals.

Meta has so far procured approximately 100 companies since its founding. The majority of the companies acquired by Meta are based in the United States. Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg has stated once that most of the company’s acquisitions have been ‘talent acquisitions.’ Meta purchases a company for the excellent people in it.

2016

Meta has acquired Masquerade Technologies Inc., a start-up that features selfie-altering tools. The Minsk, Belarus-based company was bought to bring its virtual effects software to Meta’s users. The purchase amount was not disclosed.

Meta has bought the virtual reality audio company, Two Big Ears. Meta is using its platform to promote high-quality VR audio. By the acquisition, Meta is rereleasing Two Big Ears’ ‘Spatial Workstation’ software like the Facebook 360 Spatial Workstation.

Meta has procured Nascent Objects, a small California start-up founded in 2014 that focuses on creating a modular electronics system that consumers could use to build their gadgets, using reconfigurable components including batteries, cameras, sensors, and more. The start-up worked with design firm Ammunition (also responsible for the design of Beats products pre-Apple acquisition) to create its original products before being picked up by Meta.

The tech giant has obtained CrowdTangle, a tool publisher that tracks how content spreads around the web, for an undisclosed sum. Meta has also acquired FacioMetrics, a start-up company that uses an app called interface to detect seven different emotions in people’s faces, and Zurich Eye, a computer vision company that enables machines to navigate in any space independently.

2017

In 2017, Meta had gone ahead and purchased Charles Jolley’s conversational AI start-up Ozlo. The company launched in 2016 is based in Palo Alto, California. Ozlo describes itself as ‘an index of knowledge about the real world.’

Meta has also acquired a German company called Fayteq that builds software add-ons for video editing that can remove and add whole objects from captured video using computer vision. In the same year, Meta has procured a positivity-focused polling start-up, tbh.

2018

Meta acquired a video software company called ‘Vidpresso’ in 2018, for an undisclosed amount and Redkix, a messaging app, for over US$100 million. Back then, the company was planning to unify its messaging platforms like Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger, and Instagram DM on one platform.

One of the notable procurements was confirm.io, a government-issued id verification platform based in Boston. Another acquirement was Bloomsbury AI which has built natural language processing (NLP) technology to help machines answer questions based on information gleaned from documents. Bloomsbury AI was bought for US$3 million in July.

2019

In 2019, Meta purchased CTRL-Labs in a deal estimated at US$500 million to US$1 billion. CTRL-Labs is building interfaces that would allow users to control a computer using their thoughts. The acquisition dovetails with Meta’s efforts to develop augmented reality applications that use a brain-computer interface.

Meta made its first blockchain acquisition in the year by procuring Chainspace, a blockchain start-up developing a decentralized smart contract platform. Meta also bought Friend.ly, the social question and answer company.

Meta has acquired visual search and AI start-up GrokStyle, a company that previously worked with retailers to make computer vision that helps people shop.

2020

Scape Technologies, the London-based computer vision start-up working on location accuracy beyond the capabilities of GPS, has been procured by Meta. The price could be about US$40 million. Facebook has also bought Giphy, the web-based animated gif search engine, and platform provider, in a deal worth around US$400 million. Other acquisitions were Sanzaru Games, Mapillary, and Ready at Dawn.

New Product Developments:

Meta is a global social networking website and offers extensive use of its research and developments along with new products and services such as Facebook Messenger, Facebook Watch, and Facebook Portal.

After acquiring Instagram, WhatsApp, Oculus VR, Giphy, and Mapillary, and removing Messenger from the main app, the company made a big product announcement named Portal. Video communication devices, Portal, and the Portal+ allowed people to make video calls and were designed considering home use. As Facebook was not using end-to-end encryption, it raised privacy concerns, opening authorities’ possibility of accessing calls. Its target was to collect data through Portal that could be used to target ads. Even after the setbacks, the devices have been on the market.

Research & Developments

In June 2016, Meta changed its algorithm, which would hit publishers’ and the company’s organic traffic from the website. Then it changed another algorithm in August. It would present stories on the platform based on the content and its information and people’s interests. It must have been frustrating for those producing high-quality journalism because the news was still getting so much traction.

Amidst this, Meta launched a new platform called Workplace, aimed at organizations. This platform essentially acted as an internal social platform for organizations to communicate with each other effectively.

The first major announcement of 2017 by the company was the launch of the Facebook Journalism Project. The company aimed to establish stronger ties between Meta and the news industry. The platform would offer new formats for storytelling, encourage local news, offer journalism training, and teach people how to fact-check.

Meta, in September 2017, declared they would provide Congress, which was investing in alleged Russian interference in the US elections of 2016, with ads linked to the Internet Research Agency (which ran 3,000 ads between 2015 and 2017). They covered a vast range of subjects covering race issues to gun rights, which were watched by a total of10 a million US citizens.

In December 2017, Meta released new tools to deal with harassment to make the process more proactive in preventing unwanted contact. The tool allowed users to avoid Messenger conversations without having to block the sender. Meta initiated this feature after allegations of sexual assault against film tycoon Harvey Weinstein went public in October, and the ensuing #MeToo campaign spread all over the Internet. Another reason for taking such a measure was a survey released in 2015 that found that 57% of women had faced abuse or harassment on Facebook.

The company started the year 2018 by making a new algorithm change. The News Feed would focus more on a user’s family and friends meaning if the user ran a page, s/he was going to see his/her reach fall unless s/he started paying for ads.

Outlook

In early 2020, Meta launched Messenger Rooms, a tool that would allow ‘anyone’ to video call with up to 50 people soon. Built on top of Messenger, Meta’s flagship chat app, Messenger Rooms’ existence is pretty self-explanatory. Messenger Rooms exist because there’s a growing demand for group video calling platforms in the wake of the novel coronavirus outbreak. For Meta, Messenger Rooms are the gateway to a future where the Mark Zuckerberg-led social media giant plans to bring together three of the world’s largest messaging networks, WhatsApp, Instagram, and Messenger, to allow cross-platform chat. Meta wants users of WhatsApp, Instagram, and Messenger, to seamlessly chat with one another in the future and it is ‘actively’ working on that future as we speak.

Mark Zuckerberg has already made clear that he aims to introduce more eCommerce to the platform. He said in 2019 that users would be able to see products from businesses advertising on Facebook and Instagram, and then buy them directly through Messenger and WhatsApp.

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