Facebook recently created its New Product Experimentation Team in mid-July this year and was tasked to launch consumer and business-facing experimental apps for various platforms including Android, iOS and the web too.
The team similar to Microsoft’s Garage group has been silent and now we know what they are working on or have been exploring in recent months. It is expected that many of the apps created will fail or shut down and join Facebook’s product graveyard.
NPE is an official team, unlike Creative Labs which Facebook shut down in 2015 and we didn’t know what they were working on. Their secret efforts have now been revealed.
Facebook has gotten itself in a rut in its main turf as a social media giant even starting to have its own apps clone each other. Through the New Product Experimentation team, Facebook has begun to look into new products such as apps and programs for newsletter tools, travel, workplace services and podcasts in its bid to remain relevant 15 years after launching.
Facebook doesn’t just want to be a social media app, it wants to become an indispensable part of people’s digital lives and hopes the experimental team will use Facebook’s vast resources especially the ton of social connections and user data to create products, features and experiences on a smaller scale and if successful, some of them could be ported into Facebook’s apps and get used by the billions of people already on the platform.
Podcasts have become popular in recent years with streaming giants like Spotify heavily investing in them by acquiring important companies such as Gimlet and Anchor and they have already started reaping the benefits with their podcast audience doubling over since the year began and has grown by over 50 per cent since the last quarter.
Locally, PortableVoices, a Kenyan media company and podcast network also entered into a new podcast and distribution partnership with Afripods. Facebook through the NPE team led by Ime Archibong, a longtime Facebook executive sees potential in this industry that is still ripe for disruption.
One potential they could go into is turning the Facebook news feed and personalizing it as a listening experience.
According to the New York Times, Facebook could also get into the workplace by offering software products aimed at improving meetings, automatic transcription service and a PowerPoint-style service rethought in a kind of Instagram Stories format.
In terms of newsletter tools, Facebook could join the industry that has the likes of Substack, Revue and Mailchimp.
For travel, the NPE team could introduce features that sync itineraries, things to do plus combine travel activities with the most “Instagrammable” locations – I’d actually love this.
It is worth noting that Facebook has given the NPE team freedom to find the next big feature or product without thinking about generating revenue first. Failure is accepted as long as the team gains lessons and insights for the next thing.