Here’s an unusually reasonable assessment of Facebook, now that it’s all grown up and gone public.
Now, I’m not a tech investor. I’m not paid to tell you what to think about Mark Zuckerberg. I’m barely on Facebook. I’m just an unfrozen caveman Phil Hartman fan who lived through the first tech boom and bust.
First off: Mazel tov to all the people who made some bread off Facebook. And yes, it’s true, Facebook has kicked the collective ass of every other social network: Friendster, MySpace, the service from Google that shall not be named.
And my friends on Facebook are in better touch with each other than I am, which makes me a little jealous. But not jealous enough to join.
Why? I don’t want that company transforming my life into datadollars. Just blogging is public enough for me, thanks.
But that’s not relevant to the IPO discussion. What I want to say, instead, is this:
DOES ANYONE REMEMBER 2001????????????
Whatever we think we know about the recreational technology business can quickly turn into a big gaping chasm of non-knowledge and non-earnings. Quicker than the time it takes for you to send your e-trader an e-card from your iPhone.
There were many, many, many confident people in 1999 and 2000. I know because I interviewed them when I was a journalist. And they made CRAZY TALK about how the Internet was going to transform everything about everything, and they were on the crest of the wave crashing straight into heaven itself to refresh God’s tired toes. And then they lost all their money.
Facebook may surprise me and move into a scary diversified Big Data business model, the way Google has. But you know? Google already did that. Also, as Alexis Madrigal hints in the link above, there’s only so much profitability in personal data before users rebel. Facebook has to be careful about privacy if they want to be cool like Fonzie. But on the very off, off, off-chance (really, the tiniest remotest chance) that social networking will not, in fact, change everything about the way we live, love, and spend, what else does Facebook have?
And how long do we really expect social networking to last? I mean, really? And if you say as long as the Internet itself, I would rebut SAYWHATNOW? Are you serious? Where’s your evidence?? (I’m serious. I’d love to see some proof of that. Today’s numbers do not constitute proof of anything besides today. And maybe next week.)
So while this post is true as far as social networking goes, it doesn’t mean much in the big ol’ business world outside of the baby pictures we share with our bubbies and grampopses.
So Facebook, my big, big, (BIG) dumb friend, make lots of dough while you can. Try to think hard about the world outside your neighborhood. And try to anticipate a business climate in which more and more people are just tired of social networking.
You never know. Stranger things have happened.