Facebook is going the way of Google. Instead of resting on its social media laurels, it’s diversifying its endeavors and expanding into new industries. First, it was mobile app development with the acquisition of mobile developer toolkit Parse and ad server Atlas. Then, virtual reality by buying up Oculus Rift.
Now Facebook is pondering healthcare, according to a report from Reuters. Unidentified sources said a team is exploring potential avenues, including creating discussion forums for particular illnesses and developing health apps, released separately from the [company]Facebook[/company] name.
Much as with virtual reality, it’s not clear at first why healthcare would intrigue Facebook. It doesn’t appear to be uniquely positioned to tackle this market. But the company saw a high level of success with its organ donation awareness program. In addition, Facebook noticed its users posting on the site to get advice about health issues. Lastly, Mark Zuckerberg’s wife, Priscilla Chan, is finishing medical school and Zuckerberg has said in the past their family dinner discussions often revolve around healthcare.
If Facebook does pursue healthcare, its acquisition earlier this year of pedometer app Moves makes far more sense. At the time, some reporters made predictions that this was Facebook’s way of gathering location data. But in light of the healthcare news, it appears Facebook wanted a team that could provide insight into the health space.
We may get more information on Facebook’s plans soon. Next Thursday, the company will be presenting at the m.2014 Mobile Health and Innovation Conference, put on by Digitas Health.
Whatever forays Facebook makes, it’s clear Zuckerberg is considering a multi-pronged business effort, minimizing risk by making inroads into several industries. It’s a strategy that has paid off for Google, which has an exhaustive list of projects that have little to do with search — driverless cars, Glass, robotics, Gmail and Google+ among them. It’s a big enough list that when one product struggles, like Glass, Google leans on the success of others to keep shareholders happy, maintain its brand and grow.
Facebook is nowhere near that level of project diversity, but that doesn’t mean it can’t start building its portfolio now.