Once upon a time, Facebook had grand ambitions for becoming an end-to-end programmatic advertising platform, capable of rivaling Google. They bought Atlas; a display ad server, LiveRail; a platform for video pubs, then launched its FBX exchange, and was planning DSP capabilities.
No more. Facebook spent the better part of this year scaling down its advertising stack to 2 key areas: selling media on its O&O properties, and leveraging its "social graph" to sell third-party media.
In less than a year, Facebook has mostly exited the OpenRTB-based programmatic ecosystem to focus on selling direct instead.
First to get the boot was FBX. Facebook's exchange has been moribund for years, once it became clear that Facebook would not onboard its mobile inventory. The ax finally came in January 2016.
LiveRail video platform followed shortly. Facebook terminated its third party publishers. "Too many bots to police", the company said. Welcome to my world.
In march, Facebook abandoned plans to add DSP features to its Atlas platform, for buying media across third-party publishers, leveraging Facebook's deep targeting capabilities.
Facebook is still mulling about programmatic native and video, where supply is cleaner and yield higher. But no more challenge to Google's DoubleClick in the open market.
So Facebook Audience Network ("FAN") is what's left of the company's grandiose ambitions. The old-school network is rumored to gross $2Bn this year from 3 million advertisers, yet is no pinnacle of innovation.
Atlas will survive as an analytics and attribution platform, leveraging its social graph for better audience and cross-device insights.
Facebook will be alright. The social network controls 20% of display inventory in the internet, and the most extensive trove of user data.
It should do more with it.
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