[Full disclosure: I have never worked at Facebook, and own no Facebook stock, but I do know and respect many people who work there.]
The sharp declines in Facebook’s stock price since their IPO have lead to a frenzy of alarmed comment, some going as far to declare the company in a state of emergency. I’m not sure I agree.
First, the facts: Facebook has been around for only 8 years, has a mere 4000 employees, and yet has over half a billion daily active users almost a billion monthly active users.
Think about that. 500,000,000 people interact with Facebook every day. And these aren’t involuntary corporate connections, like when it turns out that your entire country’s water supply is owned by Bechtel. Facebook users choose, daily, to have an intimate, personal and emotional relationship with the brand. A brand that, it bears repeating, didn’t exist eight years ago. And all this is as true at $40B as it was at $80B. True, Silicon Valley is known for successes of this scale, but that doesn’t make it any less remarkable.
Entire companies piggyback off Facebook’s success. The site has spawned a completely new way for businesses to connect with their customers. On the technology side, Facebook has created innovative systems to reliably handle their phenomenal amounts of very rich data, and has made many contributions to the open source community. Facebook is absolutely huge, a success story so rapid, radical and planet-changing that it inspired an award-winning Hollywood movie.
So about that stock price? That seems to me like a Wall Street issue, not a Silicon Valley issue. Sure, Facebook has monetization challenges to overcome. And the company would do well to sort out their developer relations and ensure a stable and cooperative environment, so that 3rd parties can add value to the Facebook platform. But they have incredibly smart and capable people who will surely figure all this out. But just because analysts’ pre-IPO valuation guesses may have been off by a factor of two doesn’t mean Facebook is anything less than a phenomenal success, one that I am confident can be monetized successfully.
And anyway, since when do we turn our noses up at $40B companies? That’s more than the market cap of the entire US airline industry combined, I believe. And was achieved with one hundredth the number of employees.
As long as Facebook makes enough money to keep operating successfully, and there’s no indication that they won’t, we in the tech industry should look at Facebook as a product, not a ticker symbol. Will the stock price hurt retention? Maybe. But it’s no less likely, then, to help with new hiring. So while it is, of course, relevant to report on it, let’s not overly focus on short-term stock performance. Leave that to the stock market blogs. We’re supposed to be in this business not because we love money but because we love technology and its transformative power, and Facebook has both in spades.