Note to Mark Zuckerberg: Provoking 175 million people is a bad idea.

February 19, 2009 at 2:37 am 2 comments

Mark Zuckerberg should count himself lucky that people don’t pay to use Facebook. If they did, the company would already be in ruins. The brazenness of the digital rights grab it recently tried to effect with a new terms of service agreement was worthy of Hugo Chavez. Ham-fisted, short-sighted and stupid. 

Facebook, which has 175 million users, should consider itself blessed not to be held to the standards of a real company that generates enough revenue to justify its market valuation, which for reasons that are unclear is in the billions of dollars.* As a result, most users will probably give it a second chance.

But how many second chances will Zuckerberg get? This is not the first example of bumbling management in Facebook’s short history. The introduction of Beacon, to name one example, sparked enormous protests about privacy concerns.

All Zuckerberg needs to do is look over his shoulder at MySpace, which is hemorrhaging users, to see that the leadership position in the social network space can be evanescent. Every cock-up sends more people to Beebo, more people to Orkut, more people to dozens of other sites whose owners are breathing hard at the prospect of overtaking Facebook.

Perhaps the most significant lesson Zuckerberg can learn is contained in the very name of MySpace. It beautifully stated the purpose and promise of the site and indeed the whole social networking phenomenon. The worst mistake he can make with Facebook–and he seems intent on making it again and again–is to treat it like HisSpace.

* I don’t want to veer off into a blood-and-guts discussion of the market value of Facebook, but I am willing to bet it will wind up being a good deal less than its current investors would hope. This is largely because any monetization strategy will introduce a level of brand presence into the site that will cause users to flee for “purer” social networking alternatives.

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. aulelia  |  March 22, 2009 at 11:20 pm

    But surely users should realise that Facebook is a product just like anything else you would see in the news agent?

    Just because it is on the Internet does not mean it is free.

    I am not even on Facebook but I find its’ history and politics fascinating,

  • 2. scottj1898  |  March 22, 2009 at 11:27 pm

    Um, exactly how much are you paying to use Facebook?

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