Facebook fleeced -- er, lured by WhatsApp's promise of fresh data

Facebook is hoping there's gold in them thar data mines as it hands over $19 billion to the messaging startup

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True colors coming through
A mere eight weeks on, they sell out to Zuckerberg for $19 billion! "Those lying bastards," you might think, but do you have any idea what can happen to a CEO in eight weeks? Sorry/not sorry, your assistant can wake you from your daily afternoon desk naps because he's still sulking after you forgot to send a greeting card on Secretary's Day. The office manager can forget to buy Splenda for the kitchen again. Your office decorator could be late with your custom rosewood desk handcarved by Peruvian infants. It's stress, stress, stress.

Then some baby-faced tycoon strolls in and offers you Mars Mission money, so all you can think about is chucking the tension headaches, relocating to a tropical yacht-palace, and living out your days armpit-deep in Cristal, buckets of Cialis, and the finest foreign escorts? Yeah, you'd sell out, too. The $425 million Powerball winner? That guy can work as your valet. Hell, Roman Abramovich has a boat that costs more than that guy's going to take home.

The question isn't why Acton and Koum sold out. The question is why did Zuckerberg look up from his comic books long enough to buy anything, especially for $19 billion. It's messaging, for Pete's sake -- the smartphone's junk mail. Why is this one worth more than Brazil's credit rating? Answer: It's not the technology, it's the data mining.

Sights set on South America
Zuckerberg may know everything about us from shoe size to one of our 50 possible gender designations, but we live in the United States. Zuckerberg owns the United States -- and that's no longer enough. Bit by byte, he's shrinking here in the land of apple pie and MMA, so he needs to expand into other markets. As it happens, WhatsApp seems to own South America, where Facebook is weak.

To continue his rise to global domination and puberty, the Zuck needs to know the shoe sizes and gender designations of those folks, too. It's only logical. Sure, Acton and Koum said they were against data mining of any kind with all the conviction of an NSA apology, but remember -- it's $19 billion. Tom Cruise would drop Scientology and inappropriately young actresses for that.

It's an obvious business plan, and I could easily get off the snarky sidelines and wade in. After all, I'm an expert. I can dazzle drug-addled venture capitalists with advanced computer terms, like "keyboard" and "floppy disk." I just need to build a quick, sexy, Web-style front end, get a Russian phonephreak to code the guts, give it an annoying name like CringeChat.com, then dominate a previously untapped third-world telecom market like Mali or Louisiana. Google+ will buy that for a few billion bucks, right? Hell, Microsoft probably will; after all, Ballmer was willing to spend $7.2 billion to acquire the one underperforming division of Nokia.

I'll start out slow, make sure not too many people jump on at once so I can test it -- the Windows Store is perfect for that. Then, two weeks later, when it's good and solid, I'll deploy on Android and iPhone, translate into Creole and teen gamer slang, apologize for the inevitable security exploit, and I'm golden!

Just give me a second to bandage the Pammy-induced bruises and find my "HTML5 for Serious Dummies" book.

This article, "Facebook fleeced -- er, lured by WhatsApp's promise of fresh data," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the crazy twists and turns of the tech industry with Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Field blog, follow Cringely on Twitter, and subscribe to Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter.

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