Thursday, 30 January 2014

Facebook Turns Ten

It's a big month for Mark Zuckerberg. Not only does Facebook turn ten but it does so very profitably.

In its early years, before Facebook was monetised, there was a lot of scepticism around how will he make money. A few initiatives went pear shaped, such as revealing too much or unplanned information about members, but eventually they figured out an advertising model that worked on desktop. Than smartphones took off, and an alarming number of people migrated to use apps and mobile sites to access their accounts. Market scepticism returned, but Mark Zuckerberg persisted, and this week Facebook 'reported profits of $523m and a 63% increase in revenue for the fourth quarter, beating expectations' (BBC). And 'he did it while saving shareholders money and hugging the planet' (NY Times).

Put aside the controversy around the founding of Facebook, the privacy debates, the trial and error of the last few years, and you have to give it to the lad. He is as ambitious as ever, reflected in a recent speech at the Open Compute Project. He wants to change the way tech companies do business, and as the organisations' name suggest (where he spoke about this), do so via open sourcing. Employing hundreds, thousands, or even hundreds of thousands people to build and better systems is surely unbeatable.

He wants to connect the world and everything in it, creating something that has been previously described as the 'internet of things'. Ambitious? Yes. Can he do it? I'd say admirably he is on the right track. And yet, Facebook's mission 'to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected' arouse some cynicism in me about the ultimate motivation of a company whose business case and in fact their survival rests on exploiting its users' data.

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