bret-interview
Social Networks

Bret Taylor: The Future of Social Media & Law Enforcement

“Traditional enterprise companies are very driven by sales,” says Bret Taylor, over the phone from San Francisco, “[by that I] mean a sales person from an enterprise company will talk to an IT person at a very large company and convince them to buy the software. We chose to take a slightly different approach.”

Taylor is a veteran of the tech scene and especially social media. He previously worked at Google, launched FriendFeed, then went on to become CTO of Facebook, and most famously introduced the “like” button in 2007. He is now talking about his latest venture, Quip, an app which blends social chat functions and documents, into a single product.

“100% of the companies that use Quip now started off with a single employee who just downloaded it from the app store,” he says. “They liked the product and spread it round the company. As a consequence our sales process is very driven by the individuals that use it.”

The overall aim is to create something which provides a simple consumer experience, but is translatable to the enterprise magazine. “If you look at consumer messaging,” he suggests “broadly speaking, things have shifted fairly dramatically from email to short form messaging - whether it is texting, WhatsApp or Facebook. I do think that trend is happening [although] maybe not so fast, in the work context as well.”

“My own interpretation is that for a long time there was no way of delivering messages between two people except email.” Now the growth of smartphones means any application “can send push notifications and buzz in your pocket” this means there is room for all kinds of innovation in this area.

In the enterprise he believes that communication will be extremely influenced by social media. “Obviously I am biased,” he continues “but what I have observed is that personal messaging has transformed from [email] to being [all about] texting and short form messaging. And because the trend is so strong on the consumer side, it bleeds over into the enterprise space very quickly.”

“I think there is a historical precedent,” he adds “a long time ago, BlackBerry Messenger was very popular because it had a lot of those qualities. [However] it never really took off because BlackBerry has struggled.”

Many companies do, of course, use instant messaging in the workplace, but there are many problems with this. Most annoying is the fact that messages are easily lost and instant forms of communication can really interrupt workflow.

“There are very real problems with using that form of communication at work,” Taylor agrees, “but I do think the compelling part of short form messaging is how well it works on your phone, and how the real-time communication changes the way you work in a meaningful way. I’m confident companies will address those issues, so they are not as big an issue as they are today.”

In the consumer space, aside from WhatsApp, Taylor is especially interested in the rise of Snapchat: “Facebook is a friends’ model, Twitter is a broadcasting model and Snapchat is totally ephemeral, and really about privacy and intimacy.”

“My guess is that more companies like Snapchat, which recognise there are some things we don’t want to live forever, will spring up,” he continues. “Despite the popularity of Facebook and Twitter there is room for products like Snapchat - I think this reflects the fact there are still a lot more ways to innovate in social networking that we haven’t seen yet.”

Taylor also recently added a completely new string to his bow, as this month it was announced he joined the board of directors for Taser, the company behind the eponymous stun gun. The latest Taser initiative, and the one Taylor is concerned with, surrounds a drive for wearable cameras for the police.

“These cameras increase transparency, because all the interactions between the law enforcement and the communities they service are videotaped. [This means] if something goes wrong there is a record of exactly who did what and when,” he explains.  

“Around the world this has been associated with greatly improving people’s civil rights because, it makes both the officer’s and everyone else’s, behaviour better,” he continued. “There have been a lot of instances in the US where communities and law enforcement don’t have the best relationship. I personally believe that the advent of these cameras is probably one of the best things we can do to make law enforcement more effective and improve the relationship with communities.”

The UK trial started recently and there has been quite a bit of debate around privacy, but Taylor counteracts this. “If they’re being arrested there are privacy issues,” he says. “But it serves the person being arrested better if the police officer is wearing a camera because it keeps the police officer’s behaviour in check as well. That is the promise, in this particular context, if officers are doing their job and enforcing the law, the transparency has so much value.”

“Around the world this could be hugely impactful,” he concludes “I don’t serve on a lot of boards but I personally believe in this. I think it has a greater promise to reduce corruption and have benefits for civil liberties than anything I have seen for the last few decades.”

 

Kathryn Cave is Editor at IDG Connect

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