Credit: Ireneusz Skorupa
A buddy of mine got divorced a while back for several reasons, including the fact that his wife was a serious shopaholic. (Also: She enjoyed business trips/sleepovers with other men.) She ran up more than $25,000 in credit card debt snapping up Hermes scarves and $1,000 purses that she never took out of the shopping bag, instead hiding them around the house so that my poor friend didn't find them. I fear our good buddy, the Zuck, may suffer from a similar malady.
Consider Facebook's recent bling bundles: a $19 billion chat app a few weeks ago, a $2 billion virtual reality company the other day. What are you even going to do with VR, Mark? Do you want your employees to look even creepier than Google's?
[ Google? Evil? You have no idea | After the IPO: Facebook shops while stock drops | For a humorous take on the tech industry's shenanigans, subscribe to Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter and follow Cringely on Twitter. ]
Maybe Zuckerberg will merge Oculus with Facebook so that you can photobomb someone's selfie or lick up the gravy in the glistening high-def food photos people love to post. Let's hope it's not for games -- unless he wants us to completely lose ourselves in the wheat fields of our Farmville homesteads or suffer PTSD when gunned down in a Mafia Wars drive-by.
Another sign pointing to Zuck's shopaholic malady: Unlike Google's plan, his long-term acquisition strategy bears no obvious malevolence. He spends $15 million for Branch (more conversation technology), somewhere between $10 to $15 million for Little Eye (Android monitoring), SportStream for "sports conversation analysis," and other random purchases like speech translation, bookmarking, customer loyalty, facial recognition, the never-before-done photo sharing, maybe satellites, and the completely WTF American Farm Bureau Federation. What the hell is the overall vision here?
I get SportStream -- surely, it's the first phase in Zuck's scheme to acquire sporting facts he can then dispense among the proletariat at the local watering hole and, eventually, become a real boy. Customer loyalty, facial recognition, and satellites all sound like a way to track down Google+ users and kill them. But what's he going to get by brain-draining American farmers? Hold back our food supply until we pledge allegiance to the United Corporations of Facebook?
There's no coherence. Google's acquisitions form an obvious, linear path to world domination. By contrast, Zuckerberg's shopping sprees seem like the expenditures of a heroin-shooting monkey with ADHD. Where's the AI data mining? Where's invasive dream and thought analysis? What about gulag construction or Facebook-branded Legos?
And we're not helping. All Zuckie has to do is offer a ridiculous sum and our high-minded, long-term business values go right out the window. WhatsApp went from "building a long-term business" and "money can come later" to "Holy crap! Let's take a bath in coke and hookers." As for the poor shmucks who helped crowdfund Oculus, "ROI" now stands for "Ripped Off with Impunity." I don't think Zuck even bargains with these folks. He just takes the fair valuation, quadruples it, then tosses in a vacation to Ibiza or a Porsche -- who can resist?
Stop him before he spends again
We should. I mean, not me personally, but folks with the capacity for innovation and the will to do something with it. No one begrudges you your payday, but take a look at the zig-zag path of your predecessors. Odds are you too will end up like the pricey, pristine baubles favored by my pal's ex, hidden and useless.
Zuck is clearly acting out and testing his boundaries. He says he's going for enough frequent-flyer points, so he can get to Pluto (and buy it), but it's obvious he wants to see how far he can go before he gets in trouble. We need to stop being enablers and take away his technetium AmEx card, undoubtedly studded with diamonds and the crystallized eyeballs of Aztec kings. It's hard seeing him pout, but it's good for the industry in the long run. In the meantime, let's hope he kept the receipts.
This article, "'Hi, my name is Mark, and I'm a Silicon Valley shopaholic'," 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.