Let's get real. Somewhere out there, in a college dorm room littered with pizza boxes and Red Bull cans, is a brash college freshman writing lines of code that will eventually disrupt the current social-networking paradigm to such a degree that Facebook
That is why I think Facebook's ballyhooed and overhyped IPO will turn out to be the "emperor's clothes" of initial stock offerings. Yes, Facebook's "moat" is supposed to be its 900 million registered users, which include me. But I strongly suspect that several hundred million other subscribers, like me, only use their accounts sporadically, paying no attention at all to the ads, nor buying cows and such on Farmville (whatever that is).
The only ones making out from this offering will be the young man in the hoodie, some employees, and Zuckerberg's well-heeled celebrity cronies, like Bono of U2, who could afford to do a little venture capitalizing on a lark. They lucked out. I doubt the small investors, starstruck by the media's constant Facebook IPO bombardment, will profit much, if at all.
Facebook is no Google -- not by a long shot. That company has been able to parlay its advanced search-engine technology into a significant advertising revenue stream. It has also produced Google Earth, Google Maps, Google Docs, Google Calendar, Gmail, and on and on. Yes, some of Google's ventures have not succeeded, but the company keeps on pushing the Web envelope.
Nor is Facebook another Apple
And just between me, you, and The New York Times, Facebook is reported to be working on a smartphone. Challenging Apple's iPhone and the Android phones hasn't worked out well for Nokia
But I digress. Facebook has yet to show more than a trickle of revenue coming from its inventory of users: only $1.21 per user per quarter. For comparison, Verizon pulls in $444 per FiOS subscriber per quarter. OK, that may be an apples-to-oranges comparison, so here's one that's more fair: LinkedIn
Yes, Facebook has had quite an effect -- mostly good, I think -- on bringing the world closer together. And yes, the Facebook phenomenon and its remarkable growth were quite breathtaking. But, as with many other companies that have grown large, its own size may be its undoing.
Can a company currently valued at $58 billion -- one now saddled with a public company's responsibility to its shareholders -- be as nimble as that lone-wolf hacker, furiously coding what will become the Next Big Thing on the Internet and eclipse the latest darling (or bane, according to some) of Wall Street?
Nothing is forever -- especially not a social network.
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Fool contributor Dan Radovsky has no financial interest in any of the above-mentioned companies. The Motley Fool owns shares of Facebook, Apple, and LinkedIn. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of LinkedIn and Apple. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended creating a bull call spread position in Apple. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.