Rory Cellan-Jones

Facebook - buy or sell?

  • Rory Cellan-Jones
  • 15 Jan 08, 12:42 GMT

Darren’s entry about those impressive social networking numbers got me thinking about my own relationship with Facebook – and what that said about its prospects. It’s been pretty intense, indeed obsessive according to some friends and relatives, but I have noticed in recent weeks that annoying applications (vampires, virtual fish, hugs – just leave me alone) and worries about privacy are dulling my enthusiasm and that of some friends. Perhaps it’s not for the more mature networker after all – but I’m reluctant to head for the SagaZone and leave Facebook to its core audience of twenty-somethings.

Mind you, its twenty-something founder Mark Zuckerberg is betting an awful lot on the growth continuing. This week he insisted there would be no IPO in 2008. Mark – take some advice from someone who watched the last dot com bubble inflate and then burst. Sell up now – you’re never going to beat that $15 billion valuation which Microsoft put on the business when it bought a small stake last autumn.

I explored some of these issues in a report for Radio 4’s Today programme. Unfortunately it was broadcast at 0623 on New Year’s Day, so you might just have missed Toby Young (author of How to Lose Friends and Alienate People) revealing just how superficial friendship can be on Facebook. Click here to listen again.


  • 1.
  • At 06:28 PM on 15 Jan 2008,
  • Jonathan wrote:

I'm with Rory - I am a 30 something who used to be infatuated with facebook. For several weeks it was constant - checking on my mobile phone, logging in at work, in the morning, in the evening. Then I realised how much time I was spending - and wasting - on the site. Vampires, pirates, car races... Yes it was a good way to keep in contact with friends, but then I remembered about calling, meeting, even good old fashioned emailing. One day my wife and I logged off facebook for good, and we haven't missed it since. And the amount of time we have for living in the real world now is incredible!

  • 2.
  • At 08:02 PM on 15 Jan 2008,
  • Kan wrote:

Facebook make it difficult to delete your account. Not too long ago Investment banks created new pricing models for internet stocks to justify their non existent valuations. The same goes for Facebook - where is the money coming from? Advertising revenue will only go so far - where are the other revenue streams?

  • 3.
  • At 10:19 PM on 15 Jan 2008,
  • James wrote:

Perhaps somewhat ashamedly, I have to confess to using Facebook quite regularly, although I have never once considered it to be the greatest social networking site ever made and am quite conscious of its many flaws. The reason it has been such a big hit for me is quite simple - most people I know seem to have signed up to it in the last six months; that for me makes it quite unique.

If the same could be said for other social networking sites, I would very likely transfer to whichever had the interface and features I liked the most.

This lucky position of popularity Facebook has found itself in - and I do consider it luck more than innovation - is probably underestimated, and I think will keep it going longer than the more pessimistic pundits might imagine. Afterall, a social networking site is nothing without a social network to go with it and unless your 'friends' all move to the same place, you're stuck with it.

  • 4.
  • At 10:45 PM on 15 Jan 2008,
  • Mike wrote:

Where are the other revenue streams? Who knows, but I wouldn't bet against Zuckerberg and Microsoft putting a lot of effort into figuring that out. After all, many millions of dollars buys you a significant development and management team capable of creating any revenue streams they can think of.
Google started out as a search engine, now look at them!
That said, 15billion is a crazy valuation and he'd do well to pocket some of that ...which I'm sure he has so he's set for life anyway and probably just wants the challenge.

  • 5.
  • At 05:33 AM on 16 Jan 2008,
  • Nelson wrote:

My biggest problems with facebook at the moment is the pornographic forwards that keep appearing on funwalls.

I don't want to see that and I certainly don't want my kids seeing it.

It is a great tool for keeping in touch but the application bubble has well and truly burst now.

The core features are by far the best.

Like others, my appreciation of Facebook is declining. Now I have to remember to check for updates.

I see that my younger friends still regularly use the site.

With every month there seems to be a new issue effecting Facebook and taking up column inches - maintaining user interest:
Advertising(adds not wanting to endorse content or having no control over content they are positioned next to)
Valuation (the two recent purchases -Microsoft and the chinese investor)
Statistics (the change in net statistics showing higher volume in social media site visits than mail visits)
Porn (lack of control over content)
Applications (the lack of quality control)

All these indicate that Facebook is bubbling away ...

  • 7.
  • At 01:10 PM on 16 Jan 2008,
  • Becky Collins wrote:

The pornographic content is the most irritating feature for me - I hate it. It's unnecessary and, for me, it spoils a perfectly good idea. One does not want to appear prudish to younger friends by asking them not to post, but similarly does not want to over-educate others! And of course, I do hope it's prevalence is a reflection on my choice of acquaintance rather than on me...

Duplication of Groups on the same topic annoys me - why can't people check if a topic is already running before starting another group? There must be a simple method of preventing this... but I wonder if that's just one of my bugbears?

I love the gmail style of messaging, and would far rather use that to communicate with friends whilst at work than my atrocious home webmail (Virginmedia!!) - I try and keep my work email personal-free.

I admit I'm still addicted, but as many more of my friends are having the site banned at work, I think this will eventually defeat facebook. If there could be a more streamlined version, cutting out infantile zombie/pirate activity, and concentrating on pictures, messaging and groups, and IT departments were motivated enough to allow lunchtime-use only, it would probably keep my interest longer than what appears to be developing into the biggest spam-scam ever! How DO I remove my details?

  • 8.
  • At 03:09 PM on 16 Jan 2008,
  • Angela Gilroy wrote:

Facebook keeps me in touch with relatives, former colleagues, and an assortment of strangers in a fun and friendly way. Advertising slogan-style explanations apart, it's a bright spot in an unemployed 56-year-old's day, making me feel part of the exciting world of ideas and technology.

It also has 'Scrabulous', and the hilarious 'Just Three Words' game. Where else could I help create stories about Oggabogga, the Fragarguloid leader, or a Second Lifer travelling "from one end of the Galaxy to the supermarket". Put all that somewhere else and I'd probably follow.

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