Technologizer

Facebook’s Stock Price Is the Least Important Thing About Facebook

Facebook's disappointing IPO and sluggish stock price don't tell us a thing about the company's signficance -- or even its long-term potential to please investors.

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Emmanuel Dunand / Getty Images

An electric sign outside NASDAQ headquarters announces Facebook's IPO on May 18, 2012

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is fond of telling his cohorts that their journey is only one percent finished. Even if you quibble about the exact percentage, he’s right that his company’s vision is boundless and that the service, in its current incarnation, is nowhere near done exploring its potential. The man is nothing if not both ambitious and patient.

Wall Street, unlike Zuck, is famously bad at taking the long view of things. When Facebook went public, a year ago today, shares were snapped up by speculators hoping to make an insta-windfall from a pop in its stock price. At the end of the first day of trading — bedeviled by NASDAQ technical gremlins — the stock flatlined rather than popping. In the year since, as my colleague Sam Gustin reports, it’s bumped around without ever returning to the initial offering price of $38. Some people are still brooding about it.

If you’ve lost money on Facebook stock, I feel for ya. Really. But the fact that it didn’t turn out to be a convenient way to turn a quick buck doesn’t have much bearing on the company’s importance to the world. It doesn’t even say much about the its long-term prospects to do well by investors.

Plenty of tech companies have had happier IPOs than Facebook did, but a happy IPO has never been a reliable sign of a bright future. Consider Netscape, the browser pioneer which went public in 1995, in what may remain the most iconic tech-company IPO of them all. In 2003. Jim Cramer, now the host of CNBC’s Mad Money, wrote a wistful remembrance of it for TIME:

We didn’t know what it was. We had never opened a browser. We had never gone on the Net. But we had heard that the deal would be hot, so we at Cramer & Co., my $250 million hedge fund, dutifully put in our share of stock in the initial public offering of Netscape. We got several thousand shares. And we, along with most everyone who got some, made an absolute killing. The stock, which we thought was going to be priced at $12 a share, came in at $28 and then opened at $71. (It peaked at $97.62 on March 17, 1999) We were giddy. We had never made money that quickly in our lives. We thought it was going to be a one-time event, never to be repeated.

The Netscape IPO was fabulous if you got in on it, but it was also Netscape’s last great moment of unbridled glory. After doing more than anybody else to popularize the web, the company got distracted by side projects such as business software at the same time that Microsoft began bundling the increasingly formidable Internet Explorer with Windows. In 1998, when AOL agreed to buy Netscape for $4.2 billion, it already felt like it was buying damaged goods. It never did much with its new toy, and killed the browser altogether in 2007.

Facebook is already at least as important to the web as Netscape was in its day, or almost any other company (hello, Google!) has been since. Making that case feels redundant, but let’s recap a few basic numbers anyhow: 1.11 billion monthly active members (751 million of whom use Facebook on mobile devices), 300 million photos uploaded a day, 16 million events created a month. Through features such as Facebook Connect (which lets you use a Facebook account to log into other sites) and those omnipresent Like buttons, the service also provides essential connective tissue to millions of other sites.

If you went through an It’s a Wonderful Life-like exercise of imagining what the web would look like in 2013 if Facebook had never been born, you’d envision a significantly different place. That’s true whether you see it as a positive force or a privacy-invading scourge. And while it’s fashionable to speculate that Facebook’s original audience, young people, no longer think it’s cool, that too is a sign of its dominance of social networking: It’s tough to stay cool when you’re as popular with grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles around the world as you are with teens and tweens.

Facebook’s impact on society makes it fascinating, but it doesn’t, of course, make it a successful business or a sound investment. Not automatically, anyhow. Especially since part of the 99 percent of Facebook’s journey that remains unfinished is finding a business model which is as transformative as the service it provides to consumers.

Most Facebook members have never paid it a nickel directly. The methods it does have to extract cash from them — it keeps suggesting that I give Starbucks gift cards as birthday presents — are unlikely to ever add up to enormous sums. Therefore, it’s marketing messages of one sort or another which will bring in most of the money, and while the company made almost $1.5 billion in revenue last quarter, it has the potential to do far better.

Facebook skeptics may be worried about the amount of information the company has on its users, but anyone who uses Facebook and pays attention to the ads can tell that the company hasn’t yet cracked the code of turning all that information into highly-targeted advertising of the sort that advertisers crave. Earlier this week, for instance, I pulled up my Facebook page and found ads for the Mormon Church’s newsroom, a dating service, a technical-certification school and a contest involving uploading photos of oneself flossing. None of them were a match for my interests, and the dating ad was particularly discordant considering that Facebook knows I’m married. If the service knows too much about me, it’s sure failing to do much with that knowledge.

It’s worth noting that Google established a powerfully effective business model before it went public in 2004: text ads next to search results, auctioned off to the highest bidder. If Facebook ever comes up with anything remotely as potent, people will stop writing articles saying that there’s no way it can turn a meaningful profit.

Over time, Facebook could become a cash cow; it could struggle to satisfy investors; it could grow even more dominant; it could lose ground to some shiny new thing that hasn’t been invented yet. But decades from now, when people look back and argue about Mark Zuckerberg’s legacy — and they will — I’ll be astonished if anyone remembers him principally as that guy whose IPO didn’t live up to expectations. This first anniversary seems as good a time as any to stop obsessing over it.

38 comments
MyNetkiosk
MyNetkiosk

Some of the biggest names in history are remembered for what they did for humanity not for how rich they where.

If humans had evolved the Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and now Mark Zuckerberg way. 

We'd still be living in Caves on beds of US$
And we'd die from a headache as none of these geniuses had invented Aspirin.

Can you name the richest person in the world for these years in human history

Besides the other not so well know people from these periods

384 BC  : Aristotle

1642 : Galileo

1606: Rembrand

And I can go on for a few years!

The proof is that Bill Gates with his 90 Billion!!!!!! can not come up with 1 single solution to benefit mankind.

And before you start harping on he did NOT invent the PC, or the Internet, or Software.

Like Mark Zuckerberg he simply sold a brilliant idea thought of by SOMEONE ELSE

They are no doubt brilliant sales people and brilliant business men who could sell sand to Arabs.

But that is all. They are not rich for no reason. 

But that is all they are RICH














MyNetkiosk
MyNetkiosk

 CEO is fond of telling his cohorts that their journey is only one percent finished

That is so TRUE.  The other 99 percent are DOWNHILL

jay.yoon314
jay.yoon314

What I find questionable about Facebook is not its potential to build a business model around Facebook that extends beyond advertising - its enormous user base will be here to stay. It is that this potential should already have been realized by now, having been a year since the IPO and almost a decade since its founding. The issue is that the questions that skeptics of Facebook have always put forth have still gone unaddressed by the company, and it almost feels like the same articles, expressing the same opinions, have been written for several years now, talking about Facebook's potential.

How about this perspective? Facebook is an old dog, and you can't teach it new tricks. Netscape was truly innovative. It lost the war because of Microsoft's tremendous resources. Facebook doesn't even have a legitimate competitor in its market niche - social networking. Look at what Netscape did: they invented an in-house scripting language that has become the standard for essentially all web browsers. Netscape is no more, but its legacy is everywhere. Netscape is a company that did so much with so little. It was the underdog the whole time, and had to fight a struggle for its very existence. Facebook is a company that does surprisingly little when it has so much.

Kristy55
Kristy55

[Face Book = FB] In addition FB polices people who are conservatives by suspending them for sending friend requests to people FB claims that they don't know. If one refuses a friend request for any reason then FB will file a complaint on the person who was denied the friendship. FB also labels content as abusive that is Christian and inspirational in nature and then claims that someone else on FB complained about it.  There are those of us who are becoming so frustrated with FB that we have been quietly compiling each other's regular email addresses for the day when FB will dump us because we are conservative. I wonder which muslim in the White House told FB to do this.

luscusrex
luscusrex

What I don't get is the myriad of opinion wishing FB to go under???  Is it the fact that you are all tired of the old, and need something new every 2 years? I don't know but having 1/6 of the worlds population as a member (and remember that 1.5 billion do not have access to the internet, and an estimated 9% of the worlds population owns a computer out of 6.6 billion humans) So that 1.1 billion is an impressive amount of people all logging in to the same place. 

I personally use it very little and despite that don't wish it to disappear, to me it's a internet tool, much like any other web page I use off and on. I'm sure something else will come around, but I am not holding my breath dfor it, or dumping on this tool.

alansky
alansky

I am very happy to see a reference to "Facebook's legacy" because it gives me hope that someday Facebook will simply go away. Yes, many people love it. But many people also love sugar, which acts as a poison in the body. The amount of time that is collectively spent talking about absolutely nothing on Facebook is staggering!

lauriedtmann
lauriedtmann

When you buy stocks, you're going to win on some and lose on some. That's the nature of the game no matter how well you research a stock's potential.   I bought Facebook and I'll hold it for a while and will probably sell it at a loss to help lower the gains I made selling other stocks.  BFD.

GeorgeOrwell
GeorgeOrwell

facebook was for morons, and now they are leaving to the next fad. 

its a big messy database. The advertisers tried it out and are unsure as to its results. It is only useful for game manufacturers to have free download buttons on the pages. The kids only use free software so they use this. 

That is a market. but its a teeny weeney bopper of a market. In other words its stock price shoudl be about 3 dollars. 

IntangibleGuy
IntangibleGuy

Sorry but this article is not particularly enlightening. What exactly does the author intend to convey ?

FB has more potential ... ? Yeah, sure it does, ... theoretically. But honestly even Google is scolded and condemned quite hard for being the most nosy company. Imagine what would happen if FB manages to 100% accurately target users penchants ? What an outcry, what an outrage, hell would brake loose. Would anybody be happy that his teenage daughter gets tons of salacious and raunchy ads just because she does a bit sexting with her boyfriend ?

To me, FB has already hit the ceiling of its potential success. And I'm perfectly fine with that. Seeing FB becoming the entry portal for every web transaction arouses claustrophobic feelings in me. Apart from that FB is as easy replaceable as was Netscape. Therefore FB is extremely susceptible to shifts in consumers mindset as is every company with a purely consumer oriented product. Nokia has learned that lesson the hard way ... and will probably never again fully recover. 

Upshot of my rant : FB will stay profitable and lucrative for quite a lot of years but Google and a couple of smaller companies will impede progress and restrain FB from further growing.

SmailBuzzby
SmailBuzzby

You have been smoking too much McCracken.  There is so much wrong with this article that it is easier to comment on what  is right about it...which is nothing.

The least important thing about Facebook is Facebook.

emiller
emiller

Hello again Facebook friends. Checking in again to report that my bowel movement went smoothly. I'll be sure and keep you tuned into all the other events in my life, as I know you'll be so interested.  Got to go now and report to my Twitter friends.

ChikuMisra
ChikuMisra

Facebook is on its way out. I doubt it will even exist three years from now. It will pull a complete aol.

John
John

Let us hope that Facebook's demise is soon for the good of the world.

djalmasaraivafilho
djalmasaraivafilho

When talking on facebook, it is noted in its administrative weakness because of lack communication. Are fragile, as it is accessed worldwide. Directors if they will not see their quotes of their shares on the stock to go down the drain, there is much still to do something, especially a course in public relations and human! Lack of dialogue and way to make new friends, are not Americans! Who does not communicate if trumbica!

djalmasaraivafilho
djalmasaraivafilho

When talking on facebook, it is noted in its administrative weakness because of lack comunicação.São fragile, as it is accessed worldwide. Directors if they will not see their quotes of their shares on the stock to go down the drain, there is much still to do something, especially a course in public relations and human! Lack of dialogue and way to make new friends, are not Americans! Who does not communicate if trumbica!

Subprimemortgag
Subprimemortgag

Facebook will be remembered and considered as innovative as MySpace and that is not a compliment.  Something better will come after it that will make Facebook look for what it really is, a monopoly.  Facebook users is not the same as satisfied customers, many Facebook users, like me, are locked into using Facebook.  Facebook is still the biggest social network because users cannot migrate their networks to other places such as Google +, as soon as that changes, Facebook will collapse.  For me and many others, Facebook is like having one channel on the TV.

 Check out  "theknowledgestock.blogspot.mx"



PeterFriedman
PeterFriedman

Very well said. The best situation would be if more companies focused on building long term value for their customers, employees and shareholders.  This would do well by each of them as well as our economy and society overall.  Alas too many companies, especially those in the Internet and social media space, are focused on a short term, quick turn gain. Most don't even intend to last as companies.  It's just a numbers game to build a valuation for acquisition or a one day flip in an IPO.  Facebook sets a better example with it's long term view.  I wrote more on this in my October 2012 Huffington Post article,"A Different View: Why Facebook Is Worth More & Wall Street Is Wrong"   (  http://huff.to/Vu8WLN  )

- Peter Friedman, Chairman & CEO, LiveWorld (www.liveworld.com,    @peterfriedman )    LiveWorld is the longest in business social media business having been founded in 1996 and one of the few with a track record of profits and positive cash flow from operations.

JohnBailo
JohnBailo

Wait..so you are saying the stock is unfairly undervalued?

Is Time Magazine ready to go on record and guarantee investors a price increase?  Over which time period?

emiller
emiller

Hi all you Facebook fans. I'm just sitting here taking a crap while reading this article. I know you're all very interested. I'll keep you posted! 

kessler49
kessler49

The reason FB is interesting is that 1.11 users can't be wrong. That surprised Zuck as much as it surprised anyone -- he's a long way now from his original "hot" list, and I bet he's still trying to figure out what made the difference. But to an investor the difference doesn't matter: it's the ad-space -- the customer is king.

kessler49
kessler49

It's a good article, exactly corresponds to the history as I've lived it too. It ignores the psychology of day-trading, which does set stock price for some people, but day-trading isn't investing it's gambling: with anything less than a 5-year perspective you have a better chance in Reno!

jjjjmonkey
jjjjmonkey

What are you babbling about?  FB is just not that interesting.

AazobaYuzuki
AazobaYuzuki

FB stock price is more important than this article !!!

pudwhistle
pudwhistle

@alansky Right on! Most users don't utilize the potential for meaningful communication and rational sharing of views which is there. Rather, they dwell on self-referential trivia, converse in silly shorthand and generally engage in solipsism.

MyNetkiosk
MyNetkiosk

@lauriedtmann 

Win some or loose Some BIG TIME

The nature of the games is. If you fool enough people you will always get rich.

I guess you where one of the people Mark Fooled. And you still have not woken up!

ggSolutions123
ggSolutions123

@IntangibleGuy I agree the article is not enlightening. If there was no BBS or message boards or MySpace, I sincerely doubt there'd be a FB. And yes, we likely won't talk about Zuckerberg's meteoric IPO as the main retrospective point in the future- On the contrary- Chances are, we will talk about how FB has such potential and didn't live up to it. Totally opposite of what I feel this article is trying to say. If it's saying anything at all.

lauriedtmann
lauriedtmann

@John I think the base audience of Facebook - people who want an easy way to stay in touch with others - won't go away any time soon.  I think Facebook will never be as big as Zuckerberg thinks it will be, but I stay on Facebook to stay in touch with friends and relatives who find much of the Web too hard to use.

ChikuMisra
ChikuMisra

That is actually good though, since tv is a bunch of garbage. If you just throw your tv in the dumpster, you might find it introduces a measure of peace and serenity into your life. And if you don't like it you can always go back, no questions asked and with a full refund. And there is no cost anyway except possibly the cost of buying a new tv, but I can almost guarantee anybody who goes without it for a few wks will see the benefits.

harrymccracken
harrymccracken moderator

Heck, no, I didn't say it. I'm not a stock picker. Just saying that the fact that Facebook's stock hasn't lived up to expectations over its first year doesn't mean people should conclude the company will never be a good investment (as many have).

emiller
emiller

@kessler49   "1.11 users can't be wrong"  BS,  Lots of people voted for Bush Jr. the second time too!  Large amounts of people CAN be wrong, especially large numbers of media addicted, superficial, gadget nerds. They are fickle and will turn on a dime!

AazobaYuzuki
AazobaYuzuki

people put money in stock to speculate in stock price appreciation, I mean why buy a stock if it will be stuck around $28 for 10 years ..(it's better to buy option spread if the stock stays at that price for life)

MyNetkiosk
MyNetkiosk

@lauriedtmann @John 

People who want an easy way to stay in touch with other ?

So I guess the mobile phone (or cell phone as you call it in the USA) won't go away any time soon either.
Neither will EMAIL or the Humble telephone, and the PUB (or BAR) 

Al people using the above have not find it hard to use so far.

And then we'll always have the post man. 

Or if the world runs into some major crisis and all mobile and phone networks will be shut down including all e-mails servers.

Well, then we have no choice as to use Facebook. 

MyNetkiosk
MyNetkiosk

@harrymccrackenAt 1 cent per share earnings it sure is not a good investment yet.

My 9 year old son can figure that one out and you don't want to know what his answer would be.
But the term rip off he uses a lot.

From some simple calculations if you wait a few hundred years then this might well be a good investment.

As you guys are so clever at TIME

Please take some spare time to calculate the following.

Countries on Planet earth
Countries with Internet access on Planet Earth.
Population in each of those countries most likely to have access to this Internet on a regular basis.
Taking into account that not all people in those countries will be Facebook members.

Clue and some help:  Take away babies, over 70 and every single child on plant earth under the age of  10!
And I am being very moderate here. 

In your calculation you are NOT allowed to include: Goldfish, Dogs, Cats, Hamsters, or cartoon characters.
I am NOT Joking!

You will end up with a number (as you always do.)

Then divide 1 Billion users (Facebooks apparent user base) into the answer found, and see if it still makes sense.

In this case 1+1 really should be one.

(Or for the Einsteins amongst you your answer should be 1 Billion......... AT LEAST! 

If 1+1 is NOT 2 then should we still believe the share price and the rest also?

In case you made a mistake try and tray again and again and again as your answer will need to be > 1 Billion 

According to Facebook 1 in 7 of the entire population of Planet earth regularly use Facebook.
Present population of planet earth being 7 Billion humans! 

I have tried to add this calculation to other sites in the past but for some mysterious reason it always get deleted.

Lets give it TIME and see what happens here................................




ChikuMisra
ChikuMisra

Exactly. You say one user can't be wrong. In 00 and 04, bush jr received 100 million votes combined. That is a lot of wrong, and extremely dumb people.