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It’s 2022. What’s Facebook worth?

You’ve probably read a lot lately about Facebook’s IPO and whether the company is really worth $100 billion. What’s Facebook worth? Better question: What will Facebook be worth in 2022?
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Let’s start this exercise by boiling Facebook down to what it is. Today Facebook is a company of people very good at running an enormous database.

This database tracks 900 million people (give or take whatever percentage of accounts are fake or duplicates).

Much of the database contains information people have voluntarily shared. Facebook knows what its users look like, their ages and sexes, where they currently are on earth, what they do for fun, and other such demographic information.

Then there’s other data, which has been collected slyly. When a Facebook user visits a site with a “Like” button or logs into a service using Facebook OAuth, a call is made to a Facebook server somewhere, which presumably logs all this behavior. Did you spend a minute and a half reading a Huffington Post article yesterday? Facebook has the means to figure this out and remember it. We can assume the Facebook database contains information about how all of Facebook’s users behave online.

Facebook also has the technology and infrastructure to make all this data instantly available to everyone.

There’s never been anything like it in history.

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To see the future, we’d have to know what this database is really good for—and that requires some imagination. Today Facebook’s only real products are a free website that keeps people in touch with family and friends, and a side business selling targeted advertising to those users.

Presumably, that’s just phase one. What can you do with a billion people’s demographics, personal photographs and Internet browsing history? Consider the potential. Do you really think little rectangular ads are the only revenue stream the Facebook team will ever come up with?

But what if Facebook follows the pattern of other “social networks” and never outgrows that label? It could be a passing fad easily overtaken by other things competing for people’s time. Facebook is a consumer sensation on the Internet, and those brands tend to burn hot and burn out. A decade from now, the Facebook database might be lingering in suspension, a wheezing old elephant being kept alive by aging caretakers.

The difference this time is Facebook has a record of innovating: changing customer expectations for how a website works, forging a new kind of corporate culture, and doing pioneering work with databases.

Whether Facebook will be thriving a decade from now depends on whether the Facebook team has the talent, imagination, risk tolerance and luck to sustain all this innovation. Will Facebook be worth substantially more in 2022 than it is in 2012? Here’s my risky prediction: Yes.

— By Daryl Lang. Filed under Social Media, Technology

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