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How Google Could Have Killed 50% Of Facebook's Revenue Overnight

I've written before about the earlier days of Facebook's Ads Products. "Ship it, see if it sticks" wasn't a mantra, but it well could have been. Every day was a test and learn day. Fun, but scary.

I forgot how scary some of it was until I read this excellent post by Shane O'Sullivan - one of the early engineers on the Power Editor team.

Back in 2012 and 2013, a lot of the Ads Ecosystem around Facebook solved one particular problem: Facebook's own ad interfaces were buggy, unusable, and often useless for larger advertisers and agencies. There wasn't much "powerful" about Power Editor - it was a buggy Chrome plugin.

Which is where Google comes in. In Shane's own words:

"I looked into the code base, and was shocked to find that the entire application depended on a technology called WebSQL. It only ran on Chrome, and Google had deprecated WebSQL over a year earlier. I kind of flopped back in my chair, dragged my manager to a room, and told him that Google could shut off 25% of Facebook’s revenue, and lose us all our large accounts, by turning off WebSQL in Chrome, and it could happen any time."

By the time Power Editor was "fixed" - which took three years - over 50% of Facebook's entire revenue was spent through it. Just 13 engineers worked on the project. But that's typical Facebook... engineers could pretty tangibly connect what they worked on to real impact. Huge, huge numbers.

Reading Shane's story was a fun trip down memory lane for me - I sat a few pods away from Shane during his trips to Dublin. His story is well worth the 3 minute read.