This evening I was fortunate to be invited to the Facebook "Technology Tasting". Basically, it was a bunch of Facebook folks and people from around the valley eating and schmoozing. Facebook co-founders Mark Zuckerberg and Dustin Moskovitz both talked. It was an incredible event and I think you'd be hard-pressed to find a place with a higher density of IQ per square foot.
Although Facebook doesn't get a lot of buzz, I believe that it is set to be one
of the defining web properties of our generation. It is enormously useful to millions of people and is growing at a dizzying pace. Ask an 18 year old what web sites he or she regularly uses and the answer will almost invariably start with Facebook. (Google comes next. Youtube, MSN/AIM and Wikipedia often round out the list. Yahoo is almost never mentioned.) Tellingly, Facebook is one of the only
companies which consistently wins engineering talent when going
head-to-head with Google.
Anyway, I digress. Back to the event. Some interesting take-aways:
- The team there seems pretty set on a grand vision for Facebook. They do not see it as a US college social network, instead they see it as a social utility that virtually everybody will use. The data seems to back this up. Facebook is growing strongest in non-US and non-college markets. Two of the biggest areas of market growth are Canada and UK. Furthermore, facebook users who graduate from school don't see any significant drop in usage.
- Users spend an inordinate amount of time on Facebook. Over half of Facebook users use Facebook daily. With approximately 18 million users, Facebook currently accounts for about 1% of all time spent online. (!)
- Though neither Mark nor Dustin spoke much about MySpace, I spoke with some other folks at the event and there seems to be a general consensus that MySpace is waaay overcounting registered users. Many people think that perhaps 70-80% of MySpace's reported 150 million users are spam or inactive.
- Facebook is set to grow to 50 million users by the end of the year and 200 million two years from now.
- Facebook seems to have an incredibly cool and exciting culture. My impression of the company was that it is young, high-energy, hyper-smart and hard-core techie. While friendly and fun, it is definitely not a laid-back place; people are passionate about what they do and work accordingly.
When Mark opened up for questions, I asked him the following: "You articulated a compelling vision for Facebook as an independent company. Can you envision a in which Facebook would be acquired and, if so, what would that be?" I thought it was an appropriate question: who wants to be recruited by Facebook and end up working for Yahoo?
He had an interesting answer. From his perspective, while he could envision possible acquisitions, "when you have something that's growing this quickly and is providing this much value in the world, that's just not the right thing to consider." He went on to say that, unlike other web companies, Facebook is primarily a technology company. Therefore it doesn't make a lot of sense to be acquired by, say, a media company. He alluded to other options for exit, including an IPO.
OK, so I'm way over my self-imposed (and increasingly ignored) length limit, so I'm off to do my homework.