The Facebook phenomena is alive and clearly more than well. At the Web 2.0 Summit yesterday, CEO Mark Zuckerberg provided a corporate update:
- 45 million users
- 6,000 applications
- 100,000 developers creating third-party applications
- 300 employees with plans to have 700 by next year
(Hat tip to Dean Takahashi who put together a nice recap of Zuckerberg’s Q&A with John Battelle at the conference)
Most important, he said a financing deal is “going well. We’re almost wrapped up”. Whatever the final valuation, it’s going to be astoundingly large and likely give incite a litany of the “B” words – bubble, boom, bust, bonzo, billionaires. Either Facebook epitomizes a super-successful start-up capitalizing on the social networking bonanza, or it is the poster-child for excess and irrational exuberance.
Regardless of which side of the fence you sit, one thing is clear: it’s time for Facebook to transform itself into a mega-business. Having millions of enthusiastic users and thousands of developers is great but the end game – other than being acquired or doing an IPO – is making money, and lots of it. So how does Facebook go about turning itself into a Google-like cash machine? How valuable will advertisers find its users and what kind of tools will they and Facebook use to reach them?
In a sense, Facebook is in the same situation that Google was in five years ago when Google had a popular search engine but scrambling for a way to monetize it. Then, it borrowed Overture’s pay-per-click model, and the rest, as they say, is history. Faceook needs to the same thing, although it’s an easier task given the online advertising market is thriving and Facebook is one of the biggest properties on the Web.
Even so, Facebook faces huge strategic challenges now. The party’s over; it’s time to get down to big business.