Facebook, You’re Bugging Me

But it’s my choice and I don’t use the subterfuge of friending someone to accomplish my commercial goals.

facebook-page.gifWhen I first plopped myself onto the Internet in 1992 it was a very different place. This was the pre-browser, pre-WWW era. If there was anything commercial on the web I didn’t see it. Besides, the web (for me) was totally text based and running to my computer at either 300 or 1,200 baud (I can’t remember at the moment).

Things have changed! The Internet is full of ads and commercialism. Some companies, Google for instance, managed to find a way to make ads more valuable by making them contextual. Few find Google’s ads objectionable (though they’re often weirdly out-of-context)

Lets talk about Facebook. It’s relationship with ads is very different.

Modeled on Harvard’s actual physical “you can hold it in your hands” Facebook, it has become the leading social networking site on the web. They claim 350 million active users over the last 30 days! I can believe it.

Running the site must be expensive, because even with all the ads there are also commercially sponsored apps. I have railed about apps and their misleading come-ons in the past.

Either I’ve clicked enough buttons to silence most of them or their number is diminishing. Maybe their days are numbered?

Still, Facebook is too ripe with customers for businesses to stay away. Three of my last four friend requests were from businesses! That’s against Facebook’s TOS, but just wrong as a matter of common decency.

One woman (recently friended and now unfriended) sent an unsolicited invitation to her company’s wine tasting. I hit ignore (I’m a non-drinker) but was still spammed this morning by her ALL CAPS Facebook email with the details.

Founded in February 2004, Facebook is a social utility that helps people communicate more efficiently with their friends, family and coworkers. The company develops technologies that facilitate the sharing of information through the social graph, the digital mapping of people’s real-world social connections. Anyone can sign up for Facebook and interact with the people they know in a trusted environment.

“[T]rusted environment.” That’s the operative phrase. That’s why I find this whole rush toward businesses wanting to be my friend smarmy. They want to take advantage of that trusted environment, which they’ve done… to the detriment of trust!

There is a place for business on Facebook. There are fan sites and other ways to communicate with customers. I am part of one. I am a member of others. But it’s my choice and I don’t use the subterfuge of friending someone to accomplish my commercial goals.

Facebook has in many ways become a pain-in-the-ass. There are many good parts. I like that I can see photos and hear stories from my friends (whether close friends or just Facebook friends). I don’t want to be hustled. We are approaching the tipping point.

If not careful Facebook will find, as MySpace has found, friendship is fleeting.

When You Don’t Know Number One

Google has announced its Zeitgeist list for 2006.

I always thought this list should be their most popular searches. It’s not. Year after year the most popular search terms are pretty much the same… and I’m sure the Google boys didn’t want to let on what people are really searching for.

No specifics, but by and large, you’re perverted!

As Google’s corporate voice explains:

We looked for those searches that were very popular in 2006 but were not as popular in 2005 — the explosive queries, the topics that everyone obsessed over. To come up with this list, we looked at several thousand of 2006’s most popular searches, and ranked them based on how much their popularity increased compared to 2005.

Indulge me a moment. There are some entries we do have to discuss. For instance, number one on Google’s master list is Bebo. Yes – the world is searching for Bebo. I have no clue what Bebo is (and until a moment ago, I was going to type ‘who it is’)!

Let’s put this in perspective – each time I type Bebo, my spell checker reminds me I’ve done something wrong!

From Wikipedia: Bebo (pronounced “Bee-boh”) is a social networking website, designed to allow friends to communicate in various ways. It has developed into an online community where users can post pictures, write blogs and send messages to one another, and is similar in format to MySpace, hi5.com, Xanga and Yahoo! 360.

Inferred in that is, I’m too old (or too married) to ‘get’ a social networking site. That’s depressing.

There are a few other interesting tidbits to be found. There was lots of buzz off the net (aka – the real world) this year for Dancing with the Stars and Project Runway. They’re both rounding errors compared to American Idol!

Likewise, the Super Bowl, World Series and Olympics paled in comparison to the World Cup – a non-event in the United States.

If you’re romantic, the Tom Cruise/Katie Holmes wedding took 4 of the top-10 spots in the marriage list. Next year, we’ll see how the breakup rates.

Finally, who are the Cheetah Girls and why do so many people want tickets? Can a huge touring act be completely under my radar? Am I that unhip?

Why All The Money?

It’s a good week to be Mark Zuckerberg. First, it’s always good to be 22 years old (or so I remember). Second, it’s nice to have a little nest egg to fall back on. In his case that’s Facebook.

If you don’t know what Facebook is, don’t worry. You’re probably not a college student and here in the 21st Century, hipness is on a need to know basis.

Briefly, Facebook is a social networking site, like MySpace. Actually, it doesn’t make any difference. It gets a lot of traffic from people advertisers want to reach. Currently, traffic = revenue.

From The New York Times:

When Viacom offered $750 million for Facebook in January, he asked for $2 billion and was rebuffed, according to a person involved in the negotiations. Now, he remains undecided about the latest offer, made in the last few weeks by Yahoo.

That latest offer is for around $900,000,000 (the numbers seem to have more impact fully written out).

I don’t get it. As with the last Internet bubble, the numbers just don’t add up.

Let’s say the software, hardware, infrastructure for Facebook is $10,000,000. Oh, what the hell – make it $50,000,000. That’s got to be way high… really, really way high, but it doesn’t make any difference.

With $900,000,000 you could set up an online competitor to Facebook and spend hundreds of millions of dollars to promote it. Give away bags of money if you want – real bags of money. Buy the user’s allegiance away from Facebook.

How can that not be cheaper than buying Facebook outright&#185?

What is the sense of buying a business that will bill under $50,000,000 this year for close to a $1,000,000,000?

Back before the Internet burst the first time, loads of companies where sold for immense sums. Broadcast.com went to Yahoo! for $5.7 billion. Click on Broadcast.com today – you just get Yahoo!

From Wikipedia:

In April 1999, Broadcast.com was acquired by Yahoo! for $5.7 billion in stock and became Yahoo! Broadcast Solutions. Over the next few years Yahoo! split the services previously offered by Broadcast.com into separate services, Yahoo! Launchcast for music and Yahoo! Platinum for video entertainment. Yahoo! Platinum has since been discontinued, its functionality being offered as part of two pay services, AT&T Yahoo! High Speed Internet and Yahoo! Plus.

As of 2006, neither broadcast.com nor broadcast.yahoo.com are distinct web addresses; both simply redirect to yahoo.com.

The Broadcast.com sale wasn’t a total loss… at least it wasn’t for Mark Cuban, now owner of the Dallas Mavericks and HDNet.

So, Yahoo!, bon chance on this one. They can’t all be overpriced bombs. Can they?

&#185 – This is by no means a rap on Facebook – a perfectly fine site. I’m kvetching about price, not content.