Did Facebook plan on buying Google? Zuckerberg says it was a joke
In a hearing that will have huge ramifications for the future of the tech industry in the United States, Congressional lawmakers on Wednesday grilled Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Google CEO Sundar Pichai and Apple CEO Tim Cook, over allegations that these companies were engaging in monopolistic practises and stifling their competition.
Among the pieces of evidence brought forth was an email sent by Zuckerberg to a senior Facebook engineer shortly after the company acquired Instagram for $1 billion. In the email, Zuckerberg warns that while Facebook could buy out their other competitors, it would “be a while” before they could buy out Google.
“One reason people underestimate the importance of watching Google is that we can likely always just buy any competitive startups, but it’ll be a while before we can buy Google,” Zuckerberg says in the email.
After the email was read out to Zuckerberg by the Democratic Representative from Colorado Joe Neguse, Zuckerberg said he did not recall writing the email and that he felt it “sounds like a joke”.
Neguse, however, said he did not take it as a joke. “As I review the email, it was in regards to having just closed the Instagram sale.”
Such a purchase was far-fetched even in 2012, when Google surpassed Microsoft in its market valuation to become the second-most valuable company in the US behind Apple. Google, then worth around $248 billion, was far ahead of Facebook which was valued at around $68 billion.
By 2020, the gap had lessened though the numbers are much higher: Facebook has a market cap of around $656 billion while Alphabet is worth nearly $1.5 trillion.
Interestingly, in 2019 the Wall Street Journal reported that Snap Inc, owner of Facebook rival SnapChat, had maintained a dossier titled ‘Project Voldemort’ (named after the fictional villain in the Harry Potter series) which allegedly documents Facebook’s attempts to crush their competition.
SnapChat came up during the Congressional hearing, as Rep. Pramila Jayapal asked Zuckerberg about Facebook’s imitation of SnapChat features (such as stories and disappearing messages), to which Zuckerberg acknowledged that his company had “adapted” features from other companies.
Among the allegations was the charge that Zuckerberg had sought to intimidate Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom ahead of the purchase of Instagram by saying that Facebook was developing its own camera app.