Selfish Servers, Bad Idea: Bret Taylor, Facebook CTO

The implications of cloud management can be very demanding, in terms of costs and as well as comfort. Even Facebook CTO Bret Taylor admits that having bought servers was not a wise idea for the growing social network, due to the high costs of maintenance they require and issues that come up irrespective of time or place. ‘I think that was a big mistake in retrospect,” Taylor says in a BBC interview. “The reason for that is despite the fact it cost much less in terms of dollars spent to purchase our own, it meant we had to maintain them ourselves, and there were times where I’d have to wake up in the middle of the night and drive down to a data centre to fix a problem.”

This is a good test for Facebook to see if it can manage big data challenges. Social media sites are businesses that have to find creative solutions around working with big data, as we learned from an interview with Tagged, at the O’Reilly Strata Conference earlier this month.  It’s different from Facebook in the sense that it offers users the possibility to make new friends, instead of socializing with existing friends are in the middle of an accelerated development. At the moment, Tagged has 100 million registered  and 25 million unique visitors per month, making data management a central issue.

Sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Tagged and so on facilitate social activities like gathering with friends and classmates, current and former work colleagues, online dating and meeting new people.  Such sites gather, sort and analyze data based on location, gender, age, preferences, activities and interests to suggest new connections … and most often ads.

In the pursuit of advertising revenues, Meebo bought Mindset Media, the online ad measurement and targeting firm, managing over 8,000 sites and reaching 76.6 million people in the US alone.   Jim Meyer sees in big data a priceless tool and points out psychographic targeting benefits over traditional targeting: “psychographic targeting is interested in the ‘who’ people are as opposed to demographic, which is the ‘what’ people are. The problem with demo targeting is that every developed category, from tech, to autos, is crowded with too many products into a certain space. Psychographics is more about the sophisticated categories are where the big brand dollars reside.” 

OkCupid has found a way to use big data and make good money out of it, a path followed by more and more businesses: it offered newsletters on its user behaviour in the last few months, analyzing almost 776 million questions. The main benefit is the presentation of such businesses to promote themselves across social media channels, hedging data itself to communicate its brand’s maxim directly to those utilizing their services.