Facebook is on a shopping spree. The company made waves during WWDC 2011 by acquiring the long-respected team at Sofa, and we’ve just learned that the folks from Push Pop Press, who made the amazing Our Choice app for iOS, are also headed to Palo Alto. There can no longer be any doubt that Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook have decided good design — and execution of good design — is important to the company’s future.
It’s encouraging to see a company as big and successful as Facebook care about this; other companies enjoying Facebook’s dominance might not care at all. Having known the Sofa guys for some time, and having seen Push Pop Press’ work up close, I am sad to see them “go”. Push Pop Press was poised to seriously shake up the publishing industry. Our Choice is gorgeous enough, but the tools behind it, which other publishers could have used to make something just as beautiful, were ridiculously awesome. A number of sub-par digital layout vendors are breathing huge sighs of relief right now.
One has to wonder what Facebook is offering. Mike and Kimon already built the first iPhone; and then in about a year, built the best digital book anyone’s ever seen. What’s Zuckerberg got? It has to be more than money, and it has to be more than a web site or iOS app.
Facebook’s moves suggest it wants to succeed here. It’s gobbling up a remarkable amount of talent — an All-Star Team, if you will. The problem with all-star rosters, of course, is that as a team they often suck. It’s an odd phenomenon, but if you put too much greatness in the same room, things don’t always turn out so… great. Each all-star may be too used to his or her way of doing things, and while all the team members might respect each other, they don’t necessarily flow together very well. They don’t communicate properly. They don’t share the ball. They just don’t work as a team.
That’s not to say you don’t go for the talent if you can; of course you go for the talent. But the work only begins there. The solution to this too-many-cooks problem is leadership. Apple has an entire stable of knockout artists and designers who would each be standout stars at any other company. But for all the work they do, whatever amount of vision they do or don’t share, however headstrong they may or may not be, the leadership at the top decides what goes. The person(s) in charge at Apple are strong leaders who care about design and “get” design.
That’s a tough combination to find. Does Facebook have it? How, with all of these talented and accomplished people under one roof, will Facebook create a clear and focused vision, execute it, and keep everyone happy along the way? And if not happy, at least proud enough to stay a while?
Mark Zuckerberg is not Steve Jobs. That’s hardly an insult: nobody is Steve Jobs. We’ll find out in the near future how close he and his lieutenants can get.