If you take one thing away from wading through 250 pages of Facebook documents, it is this: Here is a company that is totally ruthless about growth.
This shouldn't be a surprise, of course. You don't get to 2.3 billion users and revenues of $40 billion by playing nice all the time. But rarely do we see the inner workings of a company out to make money laid bare in such detail.
The documents, seized by British parliamentarians and published in a redacted form on Wednesday, don't contain a catastrophic bombshell, but they do call to mind a barb slung at Facebook earlier this year.
Turning to American author and journalist Matt Taibbi's 2009 attack on Goldman Sachs in Rolling Stone, Farrelly read the article's opening gambit:
"The first thing you need to know about Goldman Sachs is that it's everywhere. The world's most powerful investment bank is a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money."
The Facebook documents offer a patchy and incomplete picture of internal discussions, sometimes bereft of context. At the centre of some illuminating moments is Mark Zuckerberg, a far cry from the gawky product guy who created Facebook from his dorm room. He cuts a thoughtful figure, who is across the detail of Facebook's revenue-generating endeavours. "The Godfather," as Bloomberg's Shira Ovide refers to him in the Fully Charged newsletter.
The papers don't contain a smoking gun about Facebook selling the data of its billions of users. Indeed, Facebook has repeatedly said that it has "never sold people's data."
All the ways Facebook is ruthless
But the papers, which date as far back as 2012, provide evidence that Facebook cut deals that fell just short of selling data. Notably, it signed off on preferential "whitelisting agreements" with firms including Netflix and Airbnb, giving these firms great access to data.
And it wasn't just exploiting its own data that Facebook discussed and actioned. It was also ruthless about hoovering up data, the papers show. Emails show Facebook collected Android call and SMS data to improve its algorithms and "People You May Know" feature -- despite being aware that it would generate bad press.
Another feature of the documents is Facebook's willingness to stamp on rivals. This manifested itself in two ways: Restricting their access to Facebook information, and obsessively tracking competitors to see if they could make potential acquisition targets.