On Tuesday, the Silicon Valley social networking giant announced that it has formed a new internal group — NPE Team of Facebook, standing for “New Product Experiences” — that plans to launch a bunch of new consumer-focused apps and services, starting “in the coming weeks.”
In a blog post announcing the news, Facebook wrote that the experimental new products the team launches “will be aligned with Facebook’s mission of giving people the power to build community but will focus on shipping entirely new experiences,” which may “change very rapidly and will be shut down if we learn that they’re not useful to people.”
It’s a notable strategic move for Facebook, and it comes after the company’s core social network’s reputation has been battered by two years of solid scandals. Facebook is already diversifying its business, relying ever-more heavily on apps it acquired and built into powerhouses like Instagram and WhatsApp.
NPE Team gives it away to quickly experiment with new products and ideas in a way that keeps them relatively insulated from Facebook while allowing the company to reap the benefits if they do succeed (either by incorporating them into its existing products or letting them run and run).
The company is trying to pre-emptively manage expectations about the products and apps that NPE Team releases: “NPE Team apps will change very rapidly and will be shut down if we learn that they’re not useful to people. We expect many failures, the company’s blog post wrote. “We also want to minimize disruption to the billions of people who use Facebook apps every day.”
Facebook has experimented with alternative consumer apps in the past, many of which have subsequently flamed out. There was Paper, a news-reading app it launched in 2014 and shuttered two years later. And in late 2017 it acquired teen-focused app tbh, only to shut it down eight months later. At the end of 2018, it launched Lasso, a video app very similar to the red-hot app TikTok, which is still running.
There’s no word yet on what exactly the first apps put out by NPE Team will focus on.