Wow. We believed all those groups that claimed “Facebook Is Watching You,” but this is just … wow.
Two weeks ago, we started a Facebook profile for IvyGate. Sure, we tiptoed around some of the FB bylaws (our last name isn’t actually “Blog”; we’re not the spitting image of Kaavya Viswanathan), but for the most part, we were legit. We quietly amassed a pile of friends, we started a group; it was a good life. Then we tried to log on, and found this:
We’ve tasted the bitter fruit of rejection before. But from you? Is this really the time to be driving people away from Facebook?
See, the problem, Mark, is that you know the power of exclusivity. It’s what made you. Without Harvard, you’d be Friendster. But you played it right. You slowly eased the reins, letting in first the other Ivies, then the New England colleges, then the rest, until every student in America recognized your eerie, silkscreened mug peering out from atop their browsers. Now that you’ve invited everyone into the hot tub, forgive us for saying your inclusivity feels a little … calculated.
So no, we’re not breaking up. We won’t let you. We’ll be back. And by God, you’re the first person we’re friending.
P.S. The Wall Street Journal stippleportraitist thinks you’re getting fat.
Party’s over, kids. The lights are up; the DJ’s playing “Closing Time”; you’re going home alone again.
With word circulating that Facebook is expanding to the great unwashed, Mark Zuckerberg greets users today with yet another open letter. “Honestly, it shouldn’t change much for you,” he pleads. (Do you think Mark lies awake at night in his Silicon Valley bachelor pad, composing these in his head? Or does he just play a lot of HALO?)
Maybe it will, maybe it won’t; the point is that Facebook as we know it is dead or dying. We’ve no doubt that the corporation will actually get bigger and more profitable by expanding — but it’ll feel like a different site. The first (only?) generation of users is already souring, and we, for one, will be humming “Send in the Clowns” as our personal use of the place eventually wanes to zero.
Goodbye, sweet Facebook. You were too beautiful for this world.
EARLIER: Read more of IvyGate’s wall-to-wall coverage of Facebookgate
Whatever you may think of him, new Cornell President David J. Skorton has one hell of a PR team. Aww, he’s living in a freshman dorm! Gee, he sure can wail on the sax! Golly, he’s even got his own ice cream flavor! We were just getting ready to consummate our Skorton-love, with the Right Reverend Zuckerberg presiding (i.e., friend him), when we saw this:
Now this is just weird. We know students are supposed to welcome the new boss. But to friend him beyond the Facebook-decreed limits for friendship? What happened to rebellion?
Cornell hasn’t just drunk Skorton’s Kool-Aid; it’s been doing keg-stands. Read Skorton’s inaugural speech. He squeezed the Cornell experience into some awkward dancing metaphor, concluding, “One alone, a dyad, more, many, a society of dancers are we.” Any self-respecting Cornellian, after hearing this, would have run home and filled out a transfer request. The absence of backlash, though, tells us that it may be too late. Golden Boy Skorton has officially brainwashed Cornell, one friend request at a time. IvyGate is now officially skeptical.
The escalating freakout over Facebook’s 1984-esque relaunch is so entertaining that it distracts from the larger news going on here: Mark Zuckerberg may have lost several hundred million dollars in the last 24 hours.
Howzat? In March, BusinessWeek reported in a much-noted piece that the Harvard drop-out had turned down a $750 million offer (from Viacom, it later came out), and was holding out for up to $2 billion. We heard — put however much stake in that as you want — that Zuckerberg turned down an offer later this summer for $1.5 billion. The guy was a true believer, the reasoning went; he really thinks the project he started in his dorm room could be worth much more than that, change society much more than that. And you know what? Better offers probably were coming along the pike.
Here’s the problem: social networking sites are only as valuable as the base of users that support them. Remember Friendster? The site your older siblings and friends absolutely swore by? Today Friendster is hanging out with Natalee Holloway and JonBenet’s real killer — it’s gone. And so’s its market value. By changing his site so fundamentally, Zuckerberg has alienated a huge chunk of his users. If he were to cash out now, no corporation or investor would offer anything close to $750 million.
Mark’s a smart guy. We’ve no doubt he’s doing some hard, hard thinking right now — deciding between sticking to his vision and listening to his users. He could make some compromises and keep the bulk of the audience. But his idea really only works as a monopoly, if everyone’s connected. For now, the longer Facebook v.1984 stays public, the more zeroes Mark Zuckerberg’s bank account is gonna lose.