I am currently reading “Chaos Monkeys”, the story of a physics PhD graduate who worked for Goldman Sachs in New York, then founded a YC startup and sold it to twitter, before joining Facebook pre IPO as one of the handful product managers on the ads team. There is a lot to talk about in this book, but that’s for another post.
One of the surprising stories is that pre Facebook’s IPO, they were trying to increase revenues in any way possible, one idea was placing ads on the logout page, calling it the logout experience “LOX”.
The growth team was against this, arguing it would threaten user growth, here is why.
In emerging markets at that time (2011), users didn’t own smartphones nor PCs, their way to access Facebook was to go to internet cafes, once they finish, they logout, leaving the PC with Facebook’s logout screen, the next user came, saw the page, and would sign up for Facebook, driving user growth.
Placing an ad on this page would threaten user growth by distracting those new entrants to the social media world. The two teams ended up agreeing to launch LOX for saturated Facebook markets such as the US, and not show it for yet to be blue (maximum Facebook penetration) countries such as Brazil and India.
I am not new to emerging market behaviors, I wrote earlier about Snapchat vs Instagram stories on slow internet connections, and more recently, one of the examples of developed markets taking decisions harming emerging ones is Uber’s recent redesign.
Uber now forces users to put the destination address before requesting the ride. A country like Egypt has no addresses on the maps, no postal codes, and no building numbers. Add to this, people writing street names in different ways in Arabic (Mostafa vs Mustafa) results in different results, even with Uber using Google maps as the primary search database, even Google can’t map Egypt properly.
This results in many problems, it is hard to request a ride without typing something so users end up writing the city name like San Francisco, when the driver starts the ride he/she is confused by the address on the app, and one specific problem a driver told me is something called “the golden trip”. Uber allows the driver to put a destination and the app would only send rides to the driver if the user’s destination is on the driver’s way (drivers use this ride when they are going home). With the current mess, multiple drivers told me they had to cancel rides after accepting them because they discover the address the user entered isn’t correct and they are going somewhere different from the driver’s destination.