Facebook has cooperated on internet satellite initiatives (with less-than-ideal results), but there's been precious little word of plans to make its own satellite beyond high-level promises.
Now, however, there's something tangible. Both publicly disclosed FCC emails and a direct confirmation to Wired have revealed that Facebook aims to launch an internally developed satellite, Athena, sometime in early 2019. A spokesperson didn't share details, but the shell organization Facebook used to keep filings hidden (PointView Tech LLC) talked about offering broadband to "unserved and underserved" areas with a low Earth orbit satellite on a "limited duration" mission.
This is likely just an experiment rather than a full-fledged deployment. Low Earth orbit satellite internet would require a large cloud of satellites to provide significant coverage, similar to SpaceX's planned Starlink network. However, it shows that the company isn't done building its own high-altitude hardware now that it has stopped work on its internet drone.
Whatever Athena shapes up to be, Facebook's motives likely remain the same. As with Alphabet's Loon internet balloons, there's a strong commercial incentive to connect underserved regions. Even if Facebook doesn't charge a thing for access, it could benefit by adding millions of new users who'd view ads and use services (including through Instagram and WhatsApp). It would also look good to investors, as Facebook would keep its audience growing at a time when there's seemingly no more room to grow.
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BANGKOK, THAILAND - 2018/07/20: The SnapChat application seen displayed on a Sony smartphone. (Photo by Guillaume Payen/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Snapcash ended up as a way to pay adult performers for private content over Snapchat, not just a way to split bills with friends. But Snapchat will abandon the peer-to-peer payment space on August 30th. Code buried in Snapchat's Android app includes a "Snapcash deprecation message" that displays "Snapcash will no longer be available after %s [date]". Shutting down the feature will bring an end to Snapchat's four-year partnership with Square to power the feature for sending people money.
Snapcash may have become more of a liability than a utility. With apps like Venmo, PayPal, Zelle, and Square Cash itself, there were plenty of other ways to pay back friends for drinks or Ubers, so Snapcash may have seen low legitimate usage. Meanwhile, a quick Twitter search for "Snapcash" surfaced plenty of offers of erotic content in exchange for payments through the feature. It may have been safer for Snapchat to ditch Snapcash than risk PR problems over its misuse.
TechCrunch tipster Ishan Agarwal provided the below screenshot of Snapchat's code to TechCrunch. When presented with the code and asked if Snapcash would shut down, a Snapchat spokesperson confirmed to TechCrunch that it would, explaining: "Yes, we're discontinuing the Snapcash feature as of August 30, 2018. Snapcash was our first product created in partnership with another company - Square. We're thankful for all the Snapchatters who used Snapcash for the last four years and for Square's partnership!" The spokesperson noted that users would be notified in-app and through the support site soon.
Snapcash gave Snapchat a way to get users to connect payment methods to the app. That's increasingly important as the company aims to become a commerce platforms where you can shop without leaving the app. Having payment info on file is what makes buying things through Snapchat easier than the web and draws brands to use Snapchat storefronts.
We'll see how Snapchat plans evolve its commerce strategy without this driver. Earlier this month, TechCrunch revealed that Snapchat's code contained mentions of a project codenamed "eagle" that's a camera search feature. It was designed to allow users to scan an object or barcode with their Snapchat camera and see product results in Amazon. But since our report, mentions of Amazon have disappeared from the code. It's unclear what will happen in the future, but camera search could give Snapchat new utility and monetization options.
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