Monday, January 14, 2008

Is Facebook the Next Dell, Microsoft or Google?

Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg was interviewed by Leslie Stahl of CBS Television's 60 Minutes last night. I was interested in the interview because of my interest in social online networking and the tools that allow these virtual communities to exist and function.

Marky came off looking like a quirky kid who is quite smart but has no clue of what he or his company are doing now or in the future. Dressed in a Gap-looking hooded sweatshirt he did little to make Facebook appear to be anything more than a college kid's side gig that accidentally became HUGE. This was an example of a PR opportunity lost. When 60 Minutes comes calling you should at least try to look like a grown up when your company has an estimated value of $15 billion.

Personally I think Facebook is a fine tool, as are MySpace, LinkedIn, Plaxo Pulse and any number of other social networking sites. I am confident that Zuckerberg and his team are brilliant and working hard to create something amazing in the online world. But do they have legs to take this thing all the way into the future?

The problem is that having a high number of members/users does not necessarily translate into long-term sustainability for a business. Sitting down with the 60 Minutes icon to discuss the possibility of an IPO might be a bit premature. The thing nobody seems to talk about is that Facebook is currently the flavor of the month with those who live online, but this crowd is fickle and often on the look out for the next next thing. The four year old Facebook could become yesterday's news or a historic memory of an over-hyped company ahead of its time (think or WebVan...both now gone, but great ideas during the tech boom of a nearly a decade ago).

The $15 billion dollar valuation and the passed up sale for one billion dollars could make the future 40-year-old Zuckerberg look back wishing he had cashed out early. Only time will tell if he is smart as a fox or a young gun with no clue of the real world.

I am actually pulling for him, as I love to see the likes of the Michael Dell's of Dell Inc., Microsoft's Bill Gates, or the guys from Google. These are the Cinderella stories of our time, and I hope Facebook and Zuckerberg can pull it off. However, the interview with 60 Minutes left me wondering. Zuckerberg and Facebook had the chance to "wow" America. Instead, they just passed gas.

Have A Great Day.



Anonymous said...

Since you have never founded a company worth 15 billion dollars I do not think you should talk about Mark.

Aruni said...

Thom - nice post. Missed the 60 min interview. I, too, am wondering about the future of facebook. The success/failure of facebook will have an affect on the rest of us building social networks. I think some aspects are a fad and they should focus on finding their core user base. Fortunately they have tons of money to figure that out unlike the rest of us.

@Anonymous saying that if you have not started a 15 billion company that you shouldn't talk about the CEO is the same as saying if you've never played football or coached a team, then you shouldn't talk about the coach or the players. We learn from writing and talking outloud. If the company is smart they can learn from these types of comments as well.