The Facebook primer

35+ pages of in-depth analysis on Facebook's evolution, company and business.

Written by product management experts.

$15 USD for lifetime access.

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Who is it for?

People who want to understand Facebook deeply - going beyond product announcements and thinking about the broader themes that define the company - but don't want to waste days reading Steven Levy's near 600 page Inside Facebook.

Read on if you are:

  • A candidate who wants to better understand the context around the role you're interviewing for
  • A product manager interested in understanding how Facebook has built its dominant social networking position
  • A curious infovore that simply wants to learn more about Facebook

If you've got a casual interest in better understanding Facebook, we recommend starting with our blog post on Facebook metrics.

What's included?

The primer covers four main sections (click for a sneak peek):

  1. Company evolution
    • The beginnings: Facemash, Facebook V1
    • Early engagement wins: launching photos, news feed and likes
    • Beyond the platform and connect
    • All about growth: the first growth team
    • Mobile crisis: HTML 5 and the pivot
    • The Stories wars: user growth and copycats
  2. Business model
    • Revenue splits: ads vs. other
    • DAU, MAU, engagement as revenue drivers
    • Ads: formats, payment models and optimization
    • Ads monetization: turning users into dollars
  3. Key acquisitions
    • Framing: a 3-part framework for thinking about key acquisitions
    • Technology: Onavo, Oculus,
    • Traction: WhatsApp, Instagram
    • Talent: FriendFeed
  4. Core challenges
    • Brand equity: shedding the copycat allegations
    • Act II: Combatting slower user growth
    • Extra! Extra! The news feed in the "fake news" era
    • Privacy and the future of social networking
  5. Downloadable data pack
    • Growth: DAU, MAU globally and by region from Q1 2010 to Q3 2019
    • Engagement: globally and by region from Q1 2010 to Q3 2019
    • Revenue breakdown: globally and by region from Q1 2010 to Q3 2019
    • ARPU: globally and by region from Q1 2010 to Q3 2019

Throughout the primer, we'll develop three key themes to help you understand Facebook:

  1. Growth first
  2. Privacy second
  3. Sincere flattery as innovation

There is no specific section dedicated to these themes - and this is intentional. Rather, we will focus on developing these themes throughout the report as they help put Facebook's entire evolution, business model, acquisition strategy and challenges into context.

Company evolution

This section highlights key moments in Facebook's evolution from the launch of early engagement drivers (e.g., photo uploading) to existential crises (e.g., the mobile pivot).

During this section, each of our key themes (growth first, privacy second, sincere flattery) are introduced within the context of their seminal moments: focus on growth, privacy struggles and copycat allegations.

The snapshot below comes from a key moment in Facebook history, the first F8 Developer Conference. It's important as a symbolic event, highlighting a moment when Facebook decided that fueling growth was more important than retaining 100% control of every experience a user has on their platform.

Business model

This section includes a detailed discussion on how Facebook monetizes its user base with ads.

Specifically, we'll touch on ad formats, ad optimization, the importance of user growth and engagement for driving the business and review metrics to understand Facebook's success.

The snapshot of the table below comes from our discussion on ads optimization and how Facebook can offer a wide variety of ad formats and payment models and still find the single best ad to serve to a user at any given moment.


This section covers Facebook's key acquisitions, from marquee ones like Instagram to relatively under the radar - yet important - ones such as

For each acquisition, we'll discuss key drivers and how they fit into Facebook's overall strategy and evolution as a company.

The snapshot below comes from our discussion on the acquisition of Instagram. While its deal value was roughly 5% of what Facebook would eventually pay for WhatsApp, the importance of the Instagram acquisition can not be overstated - it was a critical part of addressing the existential crisis Facebook faced on mobile.


This section explores the core challenges that Facebook will wrestle with in the coming decade.

Many of the core challenges will be directly related to our key themes, touching on the most important topics around growth, privacy focused social networks and building its brand.

The snapshot below comes from our final discussion on privacy. Facebook's short history has been riddled with privacy missteps and Zuckerberg's pivot toward privacy will be the ultimate clash between our first two themes: growth and privacy.

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$15 USD for lifetime access.

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