Facebook Getting a Little Too Much Facetime?
I worry that that nice boy Mark Zuckerberg–I swear I’m not being mean to you here, Mark–is perhaps getting a little too much attention of late.
Sure, I write a lot about the social-networking site that is all the rage all of a sudden. But, as a blogger (the beast must be fed!), I can now obsess daily on the same subject and Mark’s story is one of my favorite of Silicon Valley’s fairy tales.
Cue Marc Andreessen, Jerry Yang, Jeff Bezos and those interchangeable twins from Google and YouTube: The journey of a young geek into billionaire manhood.
But the mainstream media, which suddenly has seemed to discover the service, is pouring a lot of breathless real and digital ink all over Facebook, mostly due to the fact that they have signed on and suddenly been “friended” by legions of folks.
And they load pictures. And videos! And recommend movies! And push causes! And tell you their status! Wow!
While a lot of what is on Facebook is a better amalgam of what AOL, Yahoo, Amazon and other Web pioneers introduced long ago, with a nice dash of connection and really identified community, this kind of thing is not a new idea.
And the recent focus on it, made worse by the multibillion dollar offers the company has refused (a bit of hubris that might make this another digital tragedy someday if it all does not work out), is just the kind of overblown and trendy attention that is dangerous to a young company.
Why? For one, it confuses its recent surge in popularity (29 million unique monthly visitors), with the kind of block-and-tackle work that needs to be done to really show it can make big bucks as a business.
Case in point: Just this weekend, a story in Ad Age claimed that the 23-year-old Zuckerberg “has Google sweating.”
Um, despite how badly Google has fumbled with Orkut, no it isn’t.
In fact, the article offered up no proof of the perspiration from the search giant that currently mints mountains of ad dollars.
Worst of all, it made zero mention of Facebook’s critical need to get its own ad business up to full speed beyond its sweetheart deal with Microsoft (which was signed in reaction to Google’s with the much-bigger MySpace). And this key point is sorely lacking in a publication called Ad Age.
While I am not saying Facebook cannot be a wonderland for marketers, I am still waiting to see the proof of it, and so should every reporter.
That is not to say the service, which I am using increasingly, is not hugely useful, becoming an interesting kind of universal address book for me and those I might want to stay in touch with.
But I am not paying Facebook anything for its excellent interface and software and they are not asking me to look at any advertising thus far.
Even in its heyday, the ever-rapacious AOL–which really is the Ur-version of Facebook with its instant messaging, Buddy Lists, email, discussion groups and intense member interaction–always got its monthly vig from me and also held up a variety of advertisers for even more dough.
So excuse me for not being a little more sanguine about declaring victory for Mark, as much as I admire his well-done service.
Nonetheless, if you need more Facebook, here is an interesting discussion of the growing popularity of on CNN’s Reliable Sources conducted by Howie Kurtz and featuring Time.com’s Ana Marie Cox and BuzzMachine’s Jeff Jarvis.
You can ignore Cox’s typical ruminations on Facebook being voyeuristic and elitist (of course and who cares). But Jarvis makes an excellent point about the importance of “real identity” on Facebook.
That quality is a winning one, of course. But, I hate to be the skunk at a garden party, when I wonder exactly how much Facebook can get for that.