We all know Facebook is a precocious success developed by a precocious 22 year old who turned down a billion for a company making losses. Now its worth $150 billion and faces some serious challenges from Google Plus and other social media developments. But privacy too is a major issue for Facebook, which collects data like Donald Trump collects golf clubs.
So what will happen to all that information? It’s like the NSA’s issue in some ways – gathering data by the digital mountainload and working out – in Facebook’s case – how to turn it into revenue while at the same time retaining the users’ privacy.
Can it be done?
The Daily Telegraph’s Kathryn Rushton reported the social media company’s various challenges, noting that privacy concerns have dogged Facebook since its early days as a website for Harvard students, but those concerns have intensified.
The social network is continually embroiled in controversy about how much data it is collecting, particularly in Europe, where privacy laws are much tighter than on the US company’s home turf.
Many users have become much more careful about self-censoring, after being bombarded with advertising that transparently mines the content they post to friends. Women who announce their engagements on Facebook can rely upon advertisements for wedding dresses. Give it a year and the wedding dresses are pushed out in favour of maternity wear.
Some users find this second-guessing invasive, but from Facebook’s perspective it is doing users a favour by offering content users are likely to find interesting.
“Our goal is to reach a point where the ads are as relevant and timely as the content your friends share with you,” Zuckerberg said on a conference call with analysts last week.
The entrepreneur, who “made” $3.2bn from the surge in Facebook’s shares which followed its results last week, might appear a little sure of himself at times. So convinced is he of his own vision, Zuckerberg has even made a provision that he should be able to elect the person who will succeed him after he dies.
However, it is not in his nature to rest on his laurels. In an interview with Bloomberg last week, he admitted that he is “generally not happy with how things are, or the level of service that we’re providing for people, or the quality of the teams that we built”.
Nonetheless, he is optimistic that Facebook is set for a fresh phase of growth. Last week, he talked excitedly about its plans to keep attracting new users worldwide.
“Only one-third of the world’s population has access to the internet today, and for many of those their internet experience remains pretty weak,” he said.
“In 2014, we’re going to focus on deepening our relationships with mobile operators around the world and working to develop new models for internet access.
“Helping more people get connected is important to developing the global knowledge economy.”
Very true, and a noble cause to boot. But as Zuckerberg knows, it is also crucial to developing the Facebook economy. The company has spent the past decade confounding its critics and delivering sustained growth – the only way to continue that is to gain users.
Around 4.4bn people lack internet access. Getting them online will be a huge task, but Zuckerberg has the incentive and the iron will to do it.
See: The Telegraph