Social networking software

How Much Money is Facebook Making Off of You?

Want a piece of the Facebook IPO action next week? Odds are you won't be able to muscle your way in past all the VCs and institutional investors that are going to cash out majorly when the world's biggest social network becomes the world's biggest tech public offering.

No worries. A site called GiveAshare will happily sell you one share of Facebook Preferred, framed and with a custom plaque of your choosing. I warn you, though, it's not likely to be cheap.

GiveAshare isn't listing a price for the Facebook token because Facebook itself hasn't named a price. Estimates are in the $28-to-$35 range for the initial offer, but you know it's not going to stay there for long. However, the site is required by the SEC to charge at least double what a broker would collect for a typical share. To give you some idea, a single framed share of Google was going for $1,210 at blog time. (To want a framed share of Google that badly, you'd probably have to be Google -- in which case, you have plenty of real shares to play with.) Even poor, pathetic Yahoo costs $55 in a cardboard frame -- nearly four times its trading value at this moment.

Many professional investors are calling the estimated $96 billion IPO "overvalued," despite the fact that no one has officially ascribed a value to it yet. But the real question isn't how much is Facebook worth to you; rather, you should be asking how much you're worth to Facebook. We actually have an answer to that question, courtesy of the fine folks at Abine.

The makers of the free Do Not Track Plus browser add-on have published what they call their Val-You Calculator, which asks you seven questions and then determines how much Facebook makes each year from the data you provide to the company. The questions range from where you live to how many Facebook friends you have, how often you "like" or post things, if you play those obnoxious Zynga games involving farms and/or mobsters, your income, and how likely you are to remain a Facebook user over time.

I know you're wondering, so I'll just tell you: I'm worth $66 a year to Facebook, dead or alive.

Yeah, I thought it would be more, too. After you run the calculation, Abine then encourages you to share that number on, yes, Facebook. Insert your own joke here.

Abine gets to this magic number via information supplied by Facebook's S-1 filing, independent analysts, Facebook advertisers, and its own secret machinations, says Abine spokesmodel to the stars Sarah A. Downey.

Even if you're a shameless Facebook hussy, sharing the most mundane details of your pathetic existence with 5,000 of your BFFs, the most you could be worth is $91. (The lowest amount is $2.) The biggest single factor in that equation is whether you live in the United States or Canada, says Downey. In other words, despite the fact that only about 20 percent of Facebookers reside in North America, domestic ads still account for the bulk of its revenue. The second biggest factor is your income, followed by how much money you waste on things like Zynga games and how many alleged friends you have.

Abine's real purpose in promoting these numbers is to get people to sign up for its PrivacyWatch alerts at $2 a month. For the cost of a cheeseburger, Abine will alert you when Facebook makes changes to its privacy policies and controls, and it will serve up tips on how to enjoy your life with just a little less Zuckerberg in it.

I'm not convinced people who use Facebook for free would pay $24 a year for something that essentially tells them not to use Facebook. Maybe that's just me. But even if this calculation is mostly just a gimmick, it still serves as a helpful reminder: When you use Facebook, Facebook is also using you. But only one of you is making money from it.

What's Facebook worth to you, and vice versa? Chime in below or email me: cringe@infoworld.com.

This article, "How much money is Facebook making off you?," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the crazy twists and turns of the tech industry with Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Field blog, and subscribe to Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter.

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