Today, Facebook announced a New Product Experimentation (NPE) Team that will be responsible for developing new apps. The goal is to give people "entirely new experiences for building community" and to do so outside of Facebook's existing platforms. According to Facebook, it's a way to create small, focused apps and gauge users' interest. Some features may be rolled into Facebook's other products, but it's too soon to say for sure.
The NPE Team aims to be more nimble than Facebook. It says it will work quickly and won't hesitate to shut down apps if they flounder. "We expect many failures," Facebook wrote in a blog post. "We also want to minimize disruption to the billions of people who use Facebook apps every day." The NPE Team will operate as an LLC, and all apps will be released under the name "NPE Team, from Facebook." They will be available in the App Store, in the Google Play Store and on the web. Facebook promises the apps will abide by its terms of service and data policy and that the NPE Team will clearly inform people how their data is being used.
The approach is not uncommon. Alphabet spends hundreds of millions on "other bets." And this isn't the first time Facebook has encouraged experimentation. Its Creative Labs initiative pushed employees to come up with new ideas and led to the development of Slingshot, Rooms and Riff -- all of which have been shuttered. As CNET points out, outside of its main app and Messenger, Facebook has failed to develop popular apps. Instead, it's relied on acquisitions, like the purchase of Instagram and WhatsApp, and mimicry, like copying Snapchat's Stories feature. Time will tell if the NPE Team has better luck.