NEW DELHI— Facebook Inc. is hiring a high-profile technology executive with expertise in Silicon Valley and India to help develop strategies for its Messenger app, an increasingly important platform for the social-media company.
Anand Chandrasekaran, a former senior executive at Yahoo Inc., will assume a global leadership role working on strategies and partnerships for Facebook’s billion-user-strong texting service, said people familiar with the situation.
It wasn’t immediately clear whether Mr. Chandrasekaran would be based in the U.S. or India.
An announcement could be made as soon as Tuesday, one of the people said.
A Facebook spokeswoman confirmed the hire, but didn’t add anything further.
After working at Yahoo, Mr. Chandrasekaran served as chief product officer at Bharti Airtel Ltd., India’s largest cellular company, where he launched Airtel’s mobile application and a popular music-streaming app.
Last year, he joined New Delhi-based Snapdeal, one of India’s major e-commerce startups, as chief product officer. He departed the company in recent months.
With global users increasingly flocking to messaging platforms such as Facebook’s own WhatsApp and Chinese internet company Tencent Holdings Ltd.’s WeChat, the Menlo Park, Calif., company is eager to transform Messenger into a hub for activities such as e-commerce.
In April, Facebook emphasized its focus on the app at its annual F8 conference in San Francisco, showing developers how to create so-called chatbots for the service. These automated services can interact with consumers in real time to answer questions about the prices of goods, for example.
Twitter Inc. is now bigger than its rival Facebook — in Japan, at least.
A week after quarterly earnings fueled investors’ concerns that Twitter’s user growth has stalled, the company for the first time Thursday broke out its user numbers for a country outside the U.S., saying it had 35 million monthly active users in the world’s third-largest economy as of the end of last year.
Facebook, a major competitor for advertising dollars, had 25 million monthly active users in Japan as of the end of 2015, a Facebook spokeswoman said Thursday.
Twitter’s user base has long been compared to Facebook’s, which is much larger globally. Twitter last week said 320 million users signed into the platform at least once a month in the fourth quarter, the same as in the previous three months. Facebook, by comparison, said it had 1.59 billion monthly active users as of the end of last year, up 3% from the previous three months.
It was the first time Twitter’s closely watched user growth flatlined from the previous three-month period. More troubling: the number of users in the U.S. fell to 65 million from 66 million.
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A colleague and I reported earlier this week that Facebook’s looking at Asia to launch its Instant Articles advertising platform.
Facebook Inc. is laying the groundwork to expand its Instant Articles service in Asia, underscoring the extent to which it considers populous emerging markets as it implements new features.
The world’s largest social network has in recent weeks advertised job openings via its Asia-Pacific headquarters in Singapore for contractors who will work with “new publishers to begin developing Instant Articles” and “provide direct support to publishers” who use the service. The jobs call for candidates who can speak Thai or Vietnamese.
Instant Articles allow media companies to publish material directly on Facebook, rather than as links to their sites. Facebook says these articles load ten times faster than standard articles on mobile phones. The company launched Instant Articles in the U.S. in May and in India last week.
Shut out of China, Mark Zuckerberg is training his sights on India as a source for future growth.
The Facebook Inc. founder arrived in India on Tuesday as he continues working to expand the company’s reach in a billion-person economy becoming increasingly important in the social networking giant’s quest to add new users.
It is Mr. Zuckerberg’s second visit to India in the last 12 months. During the last one he met with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and launched a free Internet initiative.
Connecting more people in the developing world has become an important goal for Mr. Zuckerberg and his firm. India’s population of more than 1.2 billion people, millions of whom speak English, will be one of the biggest targets for the company’s global growth plans, analysts say, as China doesn’t allow its citizens access to the website.
I also helped some colleagues out with a liveblog for the town hall Q&A Zuckerberg held in Delhi.
The story, which ran last week online and on the front page of The WSJ‘s global edition, begins:
When Muhammad Maiyagy Gery heard about a new mobile app from Facebook Inc. that provides free Internet access in his native Indonesia, he was excited.
But after testing it, the 24-year-old student from a mining town on the eastern edge of Borneo soon deleted the app, called Internet.org, frustrated that he was unable to access Google.com and some local Indonesian sites.
Mr. Gery said Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg is an “inspiration in the tech world,” but added that the company’s free Internet effort is “inadequate.”
Mr. Gery’s reaction illustrates the unexpected criticism Facebook has encountered to its bold initiative to bring free Internet access to the world’s four billion people who don’t have it, and to increase connectivity among those with limited access. He is one of many users who say a Facebook-led partnership is providing truncated access to websites, thwarting the principles of what is known in the U.S. as net neutrality—the view that Internet providers shouldn’t be able to dictate consumer access to websites.
Embedded above and online here is an accompanying video. (You may recognize the narrator’s voice.)
There’s also a piece called “5 Things to Know about Facebook’s Internet Initiative.”
UPDATE: Embedded above and online here: a video I recorded with WSJ Live about the story.
Global technology firms are pitching in on earthquake rescue efforts in Nepal with services such as free calls to and from the country to functions that track survivors and relay the news to worried relatives and friends overseas.
Search giant Google Inc. on Saturday launched its Person Finder service, which allows users to post and search for information about missing friends and loved ones. The feature, which Google created in response to the destructive 2010 earthquake in Haiti, showed it was tracking 5,100 records as of early Monday afternoon Asia time.
Facebook Inc. activated Safety Check, which allows users in areas affected by the earthquake to select a notification alerting friends on the social network that they are OK.
“When disasters happen, people need to know their loved ones are safe,” Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg wrote Saturday in a post on his Facebook page, referring to the feature developed last year. “It’s moments like this that being able to connect really matters.” The post was shared more than 41,000 times and received more than 263,000 likes.
It’s been a busy week or so.
Here are links to some recent stories I’ve worked on with colleagues, both here in Singapore and in India.
Myanmar Tests Foreign Telecom Entrants (March 10):
YANGON, Myanmar—When Myanmar’s first foreign telecommunications companies, Qatar’s Ooredoo QSC and Norway’s Telenor ASA, arrived last year, customers lined up for blocks to buy their inexpensive services, exhausting the supply of SIM cards within weeks and cheering their executives.
Six months later, state-owned Myanmar Posts & Telecommunications, which had for decades monopolized the market despite its generally outdated services, has added more new customers than its challengers combined.
The scenario underscores state-owned companies’ dominance here and the conflicting forces that foreign companies face as the military government tries to modernize Myanmar’s long-isolated economy and lure fresh investment while also moving to protect its interests. As Myanmar prepares to open up other sectors, including energy, real estate, tourism and manufacturing, the telecom industry is being watched as a test case.
BANGALORE, India—Google Inc. is in early stages of negotiations to buy Indian mobile ad firm InMobi, a person familiar with the matter said, as the U.S. company looks to strengthen its presence in the mobile advertising space.
“Google has expressed interest and has reached out” but there is no certainty on whether the Indian company would sell itself, this person said.
Google declined to comment.
The Economic Times first reported the news.
InMobi, one of the biggest ad networks in India, offers advertising services on mobile websites based on the profiles and behaviors of users of those sites. The company has offices across 17 countries with more than 900 employees.
NEW DELHI—Online marketplace Snapdeal.com is considering acquiring firms in India as it seeks to expand its presence in the country’s fast-growing e-commerce market, the company’s chief executive said.
Kunal Bahl said in an interview Monday that possible acquisitions would be focused on allowing Snapdeal to expand from its current mass-retail model into more specialized niches such as luxury goods.
“We’ve got to make sure that we are giving consumers very specialized experiences” in terms of the types of products they buy online, Mr. Bahl said. He cited as an example Snapdeal’s acquisition last month of Exclusively.com, an Indian luxury fashion website. The terms of the deal weren’t disclosed.
Indian authorities are increasingly asking for data on Facebook users, and Facebook is increasingly blocking content in the country.
That’s according to the U.S. social media company’s most recent report on government requests, which showed that from July to December 2014, authorities made 5,473 requests for data on users’ accounts, up from 4559 requests in the first six months of that year. Facebook provided “some data” in response to nearly 45% of those requests, the company said.
Facebook also blocked 5,832 pieces of content in the second half of 2014. That’s up from 4,960 pieces blocked from January to June last year.
I’ll continue to post links to my stories here on Newley.com, as always. But just a reminder that you can also sign up for my weekly newsletter in case you’d like my clips — and other fun stuff — delivered to your inbox, as well.
Facebook Inc. on Tuesday denied being the victim of a hacking attack and said its site and photo-sharing app Instagram had suffered an outage after it introduced a configuration change.
The disruption “was not the result of a third party attack but instead occurred after we introduced a change that affected our configuration systems,” a Facebook spokeswoman told The Wall Street Journal. “We moved quickly to fix the problem, and both services are back to 100% for everyone.”
Indonesia leads the world in terms of the percentage of its Facebook users who access the social network on their mobile devices.
That’s according to research firm eMarketer, which said Thursday that some 92.4% of Facebook users in the country — 62.6 million people — tap into the social network via their phones at least once a month. That’s up from 88.1% last year and 77.7% in 2013.
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