“I do not plan on being on Facebook too much anymore — seems like a waste of time & it seems my friends cannot even take a breath without me receiving notification of it. E-mail is better!” That was the note I got from one of my new friends on Facebook who had become obsessed with Facebook, found that it hurt her productivity, and then decided to ditch it for email communication. Well, not exactly ditch it: She has changed her profile photo twice since making that plan to avoid Facebook.
And so it goes. Facebook is still the talk of Silicon Valley as the great social networking site of the moment, with its open platform for developers to create mini-applications or widgets, and news feeds that let you know what all your friends and pseudo-friends are up to each and every minute. Outside of rumored projections of profitability, no one knows if or when the site will make money. Never mind that. Microsoft still paid $240 million for a 1.6% stake in Facebook that valued the startup at a heart-attack-inducing $15 billion. Can you say dot-com bubble redux?
Pundit John Dvorak ran the numbers to find that this astronomical value amounts to $300 per user, if you assume that the 50 million people who have signed up for Facebook actually use it regularly. Dvorak figures that Google suckered Microsoft into buying an inflated stake in Facebook.
“Microsoft has got to know that these social-networking schemes come and go, and that users jump around from one to the other like fleas on a hot brick,” he wrote. “I’m not seeing how this makes any sense to the company.”
Me neither. About the only explanation that makes sense for this kind of valuation is that Microsoft has billions of dollars lying around, so why should $240 million matter? But that’s tortured logic. So let me try to put the $300 value on me as a Facebook user into sharp relief for Microsoft. I’ve been a Facebook member for a few years but only last summer did I really fill out my profile and pay attention to friend requests. Here’s what I’ve accomplished in my Facebook tenure:
> Number of log-ins to Facebook per day: 1 or 2.
> iLike Music Challenge points earned: 0.
> SuperPokes in which I threw a sheep at someone: 1.
> Posts on my SuperWall: 6.
> Stripper names received: 1 (“Clint Sidesack”).
> Groups I’ve joined: 14. Groups I’ve visited: 0.
> Questions I’ve posed to friends: 3.
> Times I’ve written in my friends’ “Honesty Box”: 2. Times they’ve written in mine: 0.
> “Likeness Quiz Request” invites snubbed: 1.
> Times I’ve been bitten by zombie friends: 2. Times bitten by vampires: 2. Times bitten by werewolves: 1. Times I’ve bitten back: 0.
> Friend requests that have stumped me (i.e. um, who is that?): 29.
> Number of cause (as in: “it’s for a good cause”) invitations sheepishly avoided: 4.
> Number of pirate invitations heartily ignored: 1.
> Amount of unread Facebook email messages: 24.
> Amount of marketing Facebook email messages: 12.
[Number of friend requests received while writing this blog post: 2.]
I’m not saying that Facebook is a total waste of my time, or that I’m simply a party-pooper when it comes to playing zombie or “friending” perfectly nice strangers. What I’m trying to say is that Facebook has been an interesting social experiment, just like online gaming in its early days and Wikipedia, but that doesn’t mean that it’s going to take over the world and be the next Google — or even take over my social life. And just why am I worth $300 as a user?
What do you think? Are you addicted to Facebook or have you successfully avoided it? What do you think are its strong and/or weak points? Do you think Microsoft made a wise decision investing in Facebook? Share your thoughts in the comments below.