With its Wall Street debut, Facebook, the rebel child of Generation Y, joins the establishment.
Facebook launched eight years ago with $15,000 and a collection of photos of hot college girls, created a monster connecting today 800 million people on six continents. With an estimated market valuation of $100 billion, Facebook will become one of the largest companies in the world. If Facebook was a country it would have GDP larger than Slovakia and four times bigger than Latvia. If everything goes according to plan, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, on his 28th birthday in May, will become the 23rd richest man on the planet. At least on paper.
Factory of Nothing
Facebook produces nothing but café chatter. In it we exchange photos and opinions: My dog and I. A third child of Maggie walks. Sam and Pam in Vietnam. And my little finger hurts...
When asked if this Internet noise is worth a $100 billion, Wall Street brokers scratch their heads. A street vendor on the corner of Third and Lex less diplomatically shoots it straight: hell no. He asked his friends. They think the same. He's got 360 of them. On Facebook, of course.
The power of Facebook has grown in just eight years. Being on Facebook is cool. It has become a symbol of generation Y -- children of the baby boomers who opinionate in less than 140 characters (Twitter), listen to Swedish House Mafia and alterations of generational songs created by their dads remixed now into the rhythm of techno. The generation which en masse hasn't created anything worth noting except for debts on their parents credits cards. Anything, but Facebook.
Mark Zuckerberg, the most famous representative of the Gen Y'ers, is still sporting hoodie and flip flops to work but already thinks like investment bankers from Wall Street so hated by his generation. He has treated the Facebook community to a peculiar hocus-pocus; in just eight years he has done what for decades peddlers were trying to accomplish stuffing our mailboxes with ads we don't even bother to open. Facebook has handed it all to us inside a Trojan horse. On our home computer with a picture of our child's face smeared with a birthday cake, which we have uploaded ourselves.
The Real Face of Facebook
Facebook knows everything. Who is your husband, wife or girlfriend. Knows who is your neighbor and what does he/she like ("I like" button). Knows where you live and knows that you have a five-year-old named Alice (nice shot!) and knows where you spend your vacation (greetings from the Sunshine State!). You should expect to see on your Facebook page ads for vacations in Florida and free coupons to a restaurant in Miami. Facebook swallows ads like your kids' hot chocolate. 28% of the top display ads market belongs to Facebook. Yahoo, which is second, claims 11%. Google, 3.5%.
Facebook has so far built a user database which dwarfs everything created by data-hungry phone companies and Google search engines. With uploads at a rate of 250 million pictures a day, Facebook database now surpasses Aurora and Hawkeye -- the AT&T gems so far considered the largest databases in the world, which are regularly accessed for information by the National Security Agency and the Echelon intelligence network.
Facebook not only spies on you but also allows you to spy on your friends. Downloading the application, "Who was looking at your photos?" you can see who was looking at the photos in your profile. This spying application is used by 450 thousand people every month. Facebook has only recently banned FanCheck which allowed the Facebook community to check who visited your profile. Various clones of the application still exist on the net for download. Until recently, Facebook privacy settings has been toggled back to defaults with every update. You could realize that after a series of sales calls to your phone number listed on your Facebook profile as "for you only."
Facebook wants to know about you because information is dollars. It's the source of revenues for the company. Every Facebook concept "Made by Zuckerberg" tagged "share," becomes in reality a veiled form of extracting information about you. Beacon -- see what your "friends" purchased on partnership websites (a class action lawsuit Lane v Facebook Inc.) -- or Tag Suggestions -- a facial recognition feature where you can be tagged on someone else's photos -- have both become a failure, rejected by the Facebook community.
"You Can Only Change Your birthday a Limited Number of Times"
The concept of Facebook was born on campus. But the world is not a dormitory. In real life, the more we have the more we value privacy. When that 70% of Facebook users below the age of 30 grows up, the need of sharing a photo of a dog which flushes the toilet after use with an anonymous "friend" on the other hemisphere will be as remote as your bonus check on Christmas. Mark Zuckerberg will no longer live in a modest apartment and something tells me we won't see either photos of his opulent bedroom or the Bentley parked outside or security cameras over his property's fence which will be guarding him from curiosity of his 4,999 Facebook "friends." The Occupy Wall Street movement, which connects 150,000 people on Facebook, after this social network goes public, will occupy itself.
Facebook and the billionaire Mark Zuckerberg has joined the establishment. Facebook has stopped being cool. It has become another corporate giant which cheated us, luring on a concept of global friendship which has turned out to be lined with corporate greed of a bunch of golf-playing Wall Street yahoos.
In its instructions, Facebook warns that "you can only change your birthday a limited number of times." In real life, as in the financial market place, you can only turn up once. After that, Mr. Facebook, you can only either live or die.