Remember MySpace? Tom certainly does... But very few others actually spend time on the nearly defunct alternative social media platform which was supposed to be greater than Facebook. What originally set Facebook apart from MySpace was that Facebook was started by college students and was intended to be used solely by college students; its intent was never to reach to every corner of the globe nor to include those who are "against" the very establishments which founded it. The fact that Facebook is somewhat populated by those who condemn college, technology, entire countries and are spreading propaganda is worrisome for a site which started as anything but a "business model." But that's what it has become. Our social interactions are no longer the search for the best weekend party; they have become monetized and required, mandated and moderated, obligatory and, at times, censored. Facebook was never intended to be this way, and if it had originally reflected its current state, MySpace might still be the most gluttonous social networking site.
I find it strange that octogenarians are sharing a website with kindergarteners; and the fact that they can interact and share photos and like statuses on a platform that was originally intended to "rate" the hottest girls on campus is downright confusing. How has Facebook morphed into its current state? The road has been long and trying and the future has not always been so certain. Its direction has changed multiple times and the founding family, which was immortalized in the movie The Social Network, has nearly disappeared from the site's purpose. Furthermore, its future is even more foggy. And what's the most staggering aspect of this? That Facebook is entering into the IPO market: it's going to become a global business, with capitalists injecting billions of dollars into it in hopes of achieving an even greater profit, with little care in the world as to the actual heart of Facebook. In essence, Facebook has sold out.
The very capitalization of Facebook is the scariest thought to a graduate like me who remembers when Facebook was founded. My alma mater was added to Facebook at around number 75, meaning the number of people on it could literally be counted. A scary fact that most other users cannot fathom. (It used to be fun to be on Facebook and have those who weren't in college ask what all the fun was about and be able to taunt them with your profile page. Alas, the golden days are gone...) Facebook is supposed to be about personal connection, about staying in contact with those who you have forgotten over the years or those who moved away during elementary school. Facebook is supposed to be about having a good time and reveling in the freedoms and insouciance of college. It's not for making the 1% the .5%.
To users: know that one day Facebook will lose its luster. Just like that first video game system you owned, just like the first computer you had, just like the first "post" you ever created. Each of these things is an ethereal enjoyment, and each will expire and be replaced by the next "big thing." It's hard to imagine, but Facebook will one day become as stale as MySpace and, perhaps, even go the way of websites like xoom.com and goplay.com, the original free personal webpage creator sites. Few will remember them years from now, and Facebook could also go this way.
To investors, as tomorrow is the big day and marks the official capitalization and selling-out of Facebook, I say: be weary. Facebook can swell in users and can potentially achieve small increments of growth in that respect, but its growth will be stagnated by the very fact that it must remain a truly "free" platform in order to retain users. Furthermore, it must navigate between business model and social platform, a difficult task for even the smartest Palo Alto has to offer. To value Facebook where it is is silly, and to assume that it can grow and that profits can be achieved through it is even sillier. Everything will be short-term with Facebook. It will have a meteoric and infectious rise in the first few days, punctuated by a few months of solid growth. Then it will see stagnation and either further accumulation around its profit-reporting times, or it will see a sinking stock price when investors realize that Facebook cannot return the type of profit that they want to maintain their 1% status.