Yesterday Facebook filed the preliminary prospectus for its long-awaited initial public offering (IPO). The company is seeking to raise a whopping $5 billion. That is pretty massive and one of the greatest IPO filings ever. Facebook is so valuable because it has 850 million active users, of which half returns every day.
As part of this significant event, Mark Zuckerberg came up with an interesting letter to potential shareholders. According to Zuckerberg, Facebook “was built to accomplish a social mission” and said the company was inspired by technologies such as the printing press and television, which “make the world more open and connected”. He also stressed that “we don’t build services to make money; we make money to build better services.”
Mashable says that “this makes Facebook sound like it’s set out to deliver presents and free education to underprivileged children” and that it “isn’t the whole picture — Facebook brought in $1 billion in profits last year”. Truth be told, there is some hypocrisy there. It’s rightly put into perspective and therefore a very valid critic. Still, it might be reassuring investors to see Facebook is pursuing a mission. How can a company be profitable otherwise?
So Zuckerberg’s letter seems to suggest that Facebook wasn’t originally built to be a company, but to pursue a social mission.
Now the thing is, Nicholas Carr has a post on that letter – I am an avid reader of his blog. I have always looked up to Carr in fact, because he wrote the famous Harvard Business Review article “IT doesn’t matter” in which he states that the strategic importance of information technology in business has diminished and that it has become a commodity. That generated a lot of buzz in the tech world. In later years and more recently, Carr has been a notorious critic of technological utopianism and in particular the populist claims made for online social production.
So I have been following Carr closely as a pundit, but when I read his latest Saint Zuck I was completely stunned. Apparently he was able to get his hands on some IM transcripts in which the 19-year-old Zuckerberg decided to build Facebook. He reveals that Facebook was not Zuckerberg’s main priority at the time: an IM conversation between Mark Zuckerberg and a confidant —about who will foot legal bills in the event that Facebook were ever to be sued – points that out. And from the conversation Zuckerberg had with his high school friend named Adam D’Angelo, he suggests that Zuckerberg is an utter greedy dick: how he naturally obsesses about ways to “fuck over” his competitors, how he fantasizes to pour investors’ money into “advertising and stuff,” and “win.”
Carr just completely discredits Mark Zuckerberg here. I mean seriously, has Zuckerberg done anything evil, gruesome or unethical? Did he harm you, Carr, to actually make a social networking site succeed? It was most likely a team of public relations professionals anyway who wrote the letter. Zuckerberg doesn’t want to pretend that he’s an altruist, for the record. And I really don’t care that these instant messages were preserved because of a lawsuit or two from the Winklevii.
This is just playing dirty, low-sense and scanty BS in my opinion. Who cares really?
I think our old-media-dog just lost some credibility, bashing the person of Mark Zuckerberg like that.
Very exclusive news Carr. You really got your momentum.