Facebook is in trouble and Microsoft can solve those troubles, at least for now, by taking over the company. Yes, it is hard to believe that a company growing as rapidly as Facebook is growing should be in trouble, but it is.
No matter how Facebook tries to position itself to earn its living someday, it runs afoul of its users. Thus, Facebook is a classic example of a company that loses money on every sale, but "makes it up in volume."
The things Facebook must do to turn itself into the big moneymaker that venture capital funding demands will, I predict, turn it into just another MySpace clone--in the sense that MySpace is run for the benefit of advertisers, not its users. Which is why many adults who started on MySpace moved to Facebook in the first place.
Facebook already has credibility problems stemming from the types of advertisers it mostly attracts. How is it that every Facebook ad seems to be promoting a dubious scheme of some sort?
Microsoft does not need for Facebook the make the huge profits its current financing requires. Microsoft could buy Facebook and just run nice, low-impact Microsoft advertising and do just fine. Alternatively, it could accept advertisers very selectively and, over time, create an environment that users might actually accept.
This is a case where I trust Microsoft, in its kludgey "be all things to all people" way, to do a better job of looking after me than a bunch of Facebook folks still infected with start-up fever and expecting Googlesque returns.
If you just take the pressure off Facebook management to quickly turn the service into a big money maker, I think they will ultimately find a way to make it an even larger profit center (for Microsoft), without losing perhaps half to three-quarters of the Facebook user base in the process.
The problem with Facebook as it currently exists is that it was not designed, from the start, to be a favorable environment for advertisers. Rather the opposite. Facebook was until recently so customer-focused that it developed a wonderful user interface that left little space for advertising or other ways to earn a buck.
Changing Facebook to make it more ad-friendly is what has its customers so upset. Each of the big Facebook conflagrations has been somehow ad related: First, ad beacons; next terms of service; post recently, the new layout. I am sure the Twitterization of Facebook falls in there somewhere. Twitter on Facebook is pretty disgusting to look at.
I repeat: If I want Twitter, I already have it. I liked (in the past-tense) Facebook precisely because it wasn't Twitter.
The recent discussion on Facebook's blog about changes to the user interface does not seem to be aimed at solving these problems. To my reading, they are just dressed-up explanations of what Facebook was planning to do anyway.
It may not look like it, but even as it experiences huge growth, the Facebook many of us know and loved (past-tense, again) is in deep trouble. Microsoft can do itself and us a favor by purchasing Facebook and giving it a chance to be the user-friendly and profitable company I know it can become.
David Coursey loved (past-tense) Facebook and hopes to someday love it once more. Write him using the comment form at www.coursey.com/contact.