A seemingly absurd plan to rain Internet down on the earth with drones and lasers took a big step toward reality this week, when Facebook unveiled its first unmanned aerial vehicle. Facebook’s solar-powered drone, which weighs 880 pounds, is now ready for in-flight testing, the company said. Working with a former NASA laser scientist, Facebook has also found a way to transmit data at tens of gigabits per second, which is 10 times faster than existing technology. The goal is to bring internet access to the four billion or so people who don’t have it today, and who might live far away from communications infrastructure. Facebook is presenting the project as something of a humanitarian effort, and not as a way to ensure that absolutely everybody in the world signs up for a Facebook account. On that front, though, the company is steadily making progress. Daily active users grew 17% year-over-year to 968 million people, according to Facebook’s second-quarter results, also released this week. Mark Zuckerberg couldn’t resist trumpeting this success in a Facebook post. “One day our community will connect everyone,” he wrote, which totally doesn’t sound creepy coming from a man assembling a laser-firing drone army in the sky. “Thank you for being a part of our mission and our community.”
Beginning of the end for the most anti-social network
The search giant announced this week there is no longer any reason to sign up for a Google+ account. Google phrased things a bit differently, to be fair, saying you’re not required to have a Google+ account to log in to the company’s other services. Previously, you even needed a Google+ account to upload videos and comment on YouTube. That decision, made in 2013, rankled many people, including one of YouTube’s co-founders. It was a transparent attempt to boost interest in the social network, and Google’s change of heart now proves that forcing people to use an inferior product is not much of a business strategy. Google+ launched in 2011, when Facebook was already ubiquitous. The differentiator was that Google+ allowed users to organize contacts in groups, but Facebook did something similar shortly afterward. Google’s decision to decouple its social network from other services is a tacit admission that its attempt to rival Facebook has failed. However, Google+ will live on as a place for Google+ employees to talk about Google+ and send their plaintive updates out into the vast digital nothingness.