I think it’s appropriate in this new media landscape that we start off the profiles by talking about an entrepreneur that is as close to my age.
No matter how exactly Mark Zuckerberg got the idea, he has quickly established himself as the man to beat in the social networking scene.
Zuckerberg’s launch strategy was the real genius move. By allowing only college students to login to the network and securing it by requiring an .edu address, Zuckerberg was able to provide an asynchronous communication and sharing network for busy college students. Right at that time in your life where networking becomes so important and faces are thrown before you on a daily basis, Facebook made it all easy. Colleges talked up its benefits, and the networks spread like wildfire.
Only after establishing a strong and loyal user base did Zuckerberg even consider opening up to the public. By that time, he was already known as the kid who turned down $1 billion from Yahoo! when their original offer fell apart and gave him a chance to convince his board that Facebook could be bigger solo.
According to Wired, analysts think he might be the United States’ richest man under 25, and Silicon Valley loves him
As a result, Facebook is the now most buzzed-about company in Silicon Valley, and Zuckerberg is constantly compared to visionaries like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. Even some of the tech industry’s most legendary figures are genuflecting before Zuckerberg. In an entry on his blog, Netscape cofounder Marc Andreessen called Facebook’s transformation “an amazing achievement — one of the most significant milestones in the technology industry in this decade.” Says Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce.com, “I’m in awe.”
Zuckerberg emerged as a true leader after turning down the Yahoo! offer and led Facebook through a transformation that would make it the beast it is today.
I remember where I was when “News Feeds” were announced. I was in class when I was invited to a group on my laptop protesting the new feature. Students hated it because they felt it would open up their inner stalkings and flirtations to all who friended them. Being a college player could never be the same.
Luckily, Zuckerberg recovered with what made Facebook strong in the first place, privacy. New privacy settings gave users the ability to lock down everything on their profile if desired so that could keep friend A from finding out about friend B — or “hookup A” from finding out about “hookup B” in the college “hookup” culture.
Zuckerberg’s original idea was basically to make Facebook a database for your life. In his own words via TechCrunch interview:
MZ: a social graph is a model for Facebook, we’re not trying to make new connections, but mirror the real world. On platform, the idea is providing more utilities for users, part of the bigger social graph.
The public launch was a smoother success. The site continues to grow significantly with members over 35, and my guess would be that is mostly because Facebook is a far easier beast to navigate than the jumbled and flashy MySpace. With the industry looking to him, Zuckerberg now has to establish the advertising revenue of Facebook to make a business.
For all the excitement, one sobering fact remains: Facebook has yet to prove itself as a business. The site’s nearly 40 million active users generate more than a billion pageviews a day, but ad clickthrough rates are low. An estimated half of its $150 million in revenue comes from an advertising deal with Microsoft. Independent developers are drawn to Facebook because Zuckerberg lets them keep any advertising revenue their applications generate; if Facebook can’t prove itself as an advertising venue, the deluge of new applications will slow to a trickle.
Moves are being made to establish this next step for Facebook and take it officially from startup to cash cow business. With the incredible valuations coming from all corners of the tech world that some have warned against, Facebook marketed itself well enough to have Microsoft fork over $240 billion for Facebook to expand its operations.
It’s not often that a young company gets to decide between Google and Microsoft, but Facebook did and became the fifth largest Internet company behind only Google, eBay, Yahoo and Amazon. With this new money, Facebook can launch the ad network it has been talking about for some time.
Now rumors are circulating that MySpace users may soon make a mass exodus to Facebook. While this is all just rumors and speculation, there could soon be a mass migration if Facebook continues to develop above the heads of MySpace’s innovators.
The latest secret findings point towards Facebook integrating the tools of LinkedIn, the professional networking site. Allowing users to separate friends into groupings with separate privacy settings and providing resources for networking could easily bring in more users from the 35+ age group that is showing growth on Facebook and draw people away from the limited connection options of LinkedIn.
One thing is for sure, Zuckerberg is not taking the easy way out. He is now worth an estimated $3 billion and leading Facebook into its next strategic moves. Via his TechCruch interview:
Q: hypothetically, News Corp buys Facebook, LinkedIn and MySpace, how would the merge.
MZ: it will never happen (laughter).
For more on the future of Facebook and their upcoming advertising program release, check out this article from Wired.