June 17th, 2011
11:51 AM GMT
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(CNN) – We in the media are mad about Facebook. Why do we write about it so much? It's a no-brainer: over 600 million members, and lots of them Facebook for hours every day. Want to report on something that will interest people? This seems to fit the bill.

Look at some of the things the media has said about it this week:

Facebook could be worth $100 billion when it goes public – that's according to CNBC (it later wheeled out an analyst to say, in effect "Yeah right," but still).

Facebook use has peaked in many of the countries where most of its users live – according to umpteen media outlets.

Hold on, what's that? Facebook has peaked? Well yes – the number of users in the U.S, Britain and elsewhere is going down, a research company says. But wait – it's worth $100 billion – and its popularity is falling? How can both of these be true? As most professional investors will tell you, the only reason to buy shares in a company with such an astronomical valuation, would be that you're convinced its profits will grow fast. Very, very fast in fact.

So which is it? Is Facebook set to go on pumping up in the style of Dr Bruce Banner turning into the Incredible Hulk? Or are we already getting tired of Mark Zuckerberg's brainchild?

I think I know the answer – and it stems from my own habits. I've come to realise they are an indicator to many kinds of trends – a negative indicator, that is. For I am a recent convert to Facebook. The global phenomenon that long ago counted just about everybody as a user – I joined it this year. Nobody ever accused me of being an early adopter. So why is this a sign of impending decline for Facebook? It's just me – where trends are concerned, I'm bad news. You really wouldn't want me on the team. It's happened before – I latch on to something, and somewhere in the distance is heard the death-rattle of whatever once was cool.

It's not just tech trends. In my teens, it was music. Too young to appreciate the early stirrings of the punk rock explosion, I caught up with the second wave of do-it-yourself bands too late: two years after the fury of the Sex Pistols, I was raving about the Buzzcocks, Stiff Little Fingers and the Undertones. Already, in the music press, letter-writers to the New Musical Express were claiming "Punk's not dead" – they were wrong, it was.

Later in life I started missing the boat with techie things. You remember the first dot.com bubble? I chose a crucial point to pitch my money in: the flotation of travel website Lastminute.com. "Flotation" is an interesting word here – subscribing for shares was the financial equivalent of showing up at the dock begging for a ticket just as they were about to pull up the gangplank on the Titanic. Lastminute went public at 380p a share in March 2000. Within six month, the shares were at 75 pence, a victim of the bursting of the bubble (and the fact that it never made any money).

At about the same time, I was involved – though I wouldn't claim a pivotal role – in a piece of mistiming of epic proportions. I'd been employed by CNN for mere weeks, when parent company Time Warner agreed to merge with AOL – the hottest name in internet back at the back end of the 1990s. At well over $100 billion, it remains one of the biggest corporate deals ever, and everyone said it was worth every penny, because charging customers for an internet browser was clearly going to be huge in the 21st century. It didn't work out that way of course (my current bosses won't mind me saying so – they're not the guys who got the company into it!) Share-price wise, it was an underwhelming time for Time Warner investors for the next, ooh, ten years or so.

So what does that tell us about Facebook? Probably, that if I'm on board, decline, shame and financial turmoil aren't far behind. You wouldn't call it scientific – but if economists and stockpickers only followed empirical evidence, why have we heard of the Skyscraper Index and the Hemline Theory? So, sorry Mr Zuckerberg – but all the same, good luck on selling up a wodge of stock at a $100 billion valuation! As a consolation, here are a couple of other tips for free, based on my evolving relationship with the world of technology: I recently started Skyping (yes, Steve Ballmer, I probably should have emailed you before that $8.5 billion you paid for it last month) .. and I'm thinking of getting an iPad2. Does anyone have a number for Steve Jobs?

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soundoff (61 Responses)
  1. haha

    This was actually a funny and well written article. Facebook wont last long, it is another fad that blows up and pops.

    June 17, 2011 at 2:28 pm |
  2. Oliver

    Even as an Op Ed article this is utter tripe. Shame on CNN for even publishing an article whose main premise is based on an individual's perception of their 'jinxes'. It's not even humorous, although filing it in the business 360 section of the site is.

    June 17, 2011 at 2:28 pm |
  3. Justin

    sssooooo...

    Why is this on the front page of CNN? o.O

    I'm switching to a different site for my news.

    June 17, 2011 at 2:36 pm |
  4. keisha4

    Wow... Dude, what a JINX you are.... so unlucky. Hmmmm..... let me know when you're joining more of the other "in" stuff so that I could check if I'm in it too.... AND GET OUT RIGHT AWAY.

    June 17, 2011 at 2:42 pm |
  5. igor

    Don't get the point of this article. Yes trends come and go, but I don't see any usefull information.

    June 17, 2011 at 2:44 pm |
  6. Josh

    Funny article. I see some people taking it too serious, as if it was a stock analysis.
    The fact is, everything dies down given enough time (some just take longer than others): Hi5, MSN, World of Warcraft, iPods, the Roman Empire.

    The later you get on board the train, the more chances of you getting the "I'm a bad omen" syndrome.

    June 17, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
  7. Fact check

    Facebook is not, in fact, losing users in the US. The blog that posted that first report (which everyone else re-reported – no on else did any research) backtracked in a follow-up article after numerous other sources contradicted them: http://www.insidefacebook.com/2011/06/13/available-data-shows-facebook-user-numbers-growing-quickly-or-slowly-or-falling/

    June 17, 2011 at 2:51 pm |
  8. Matt

    Facebook is a Ponzi scheme, just like Twitter, Groupon and all such sites. They won't last. My kids will look at "Facebook" the same way I look at an 8-track recorder: what is that thing??

    June 17, 2011 at 2:54 pm |
  9. Told you so

    At least he's not twittering. Oh, fuuuuuuu...

    June 17, 2011 at 3:04 pm |
  10. Eric Polin

    Excellent article! I am convinced that some individuals have some extreme prudence that lets them arrive systematically among the last 10% of the adopters of anything that is conceptually new, and have a sincere respect for them: they certainly have the right to do so, and guess they are most often right, as they bypass many, many things that never make it in the end.
    In that case, indeed, Facebook, by nature, looks more like Yahoo than Google, with more hype than potential. YHOO's market cap currently is under 20 GUSD...

    June 17, 2011 at 3:08 pm |
  11. Carol Adams

    Fantastic article – as good a barometer as many financial projections I have seen lately! KUDOS to you AND to CNN!! Give us a little levity – or a lot more! Good on you Josh for calling it right!

    June 17, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
  12. Ah Nertz!

    That was a cute article. And very much the story of my life. I always feel like every life-changing move I make – I'm a day late and a dollar short. I feel some of the decline of facebook. Some of my friends' interest has peaked (farmville, etc) and they no longer log on as much as they used to. I do hope it does NOT go away soon. I have reconnected with SOOO many people from my past who I thought I would never find again. Don't want that kind of magic to end....

    June 17, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
  13. matt

    So, the author just joined facebook this year (7 years after its introduction) and is complaining that its in decline? That study about facebook use declining has already been debunked.

    Another baby-boomer technophobe whining about technology. I bet in the 1960s this author would have also said color tv was just a fad. Technology doesn't reverse – ever. This article is garbage.

    June 17, 2011 at 4:19 pm |
  14. glob289

    This article is ill advised. You are not the center of the world, my dear, sir... whoever you are. One word: MEGALOMANIA.

    June 17, 2011 at 4:44 pm |
  15. Jonnno

    And .....? Front page of CNN... why?

    June 17, 2011 at 4:45 pm |
  16. Allen Cote

    you spelled realize wrong in the seventh paragraph, no biggie, but you get paid to write, it's got to be difficult teaching young children to write grammatically correct when they read journalists writing incorrectly

    June 17, 2011 at 5:40 pm |
  17. Linda

    I am again amazed at the level of seriousness people take articles like this. I found it hunorous because I have the same syndrome in life–if I go into a shop for the first time that's been there forever it will fold shortly. But all that aside, yes igor you are right, but does everything in life have to be useful? And what is wrong Justin, with having this on the 'front page'? I go along with Josh.

    June 17, 2011 at 5:53 pm |
  18. ashok pai

    good riddance to facebook. the most vile corporate entity that's lasted. yes, worse than microsoft!
    facebook has got to be akin to a truly worldwide accepted just-short of a criminal company. the company which has broken the trust of so many people, so many times, repeatedly, without a care and a wanton approach to privacy issues.
    I hope in the not so distant future, we would see a tottering facebook and zuckerberg down and out like myspace.

    social networking should have standards like email and IM and probably people should be able to connect without a network belonging to someone else, or at least the data being safe on the user's side.

    June 17, 2011 at 6:18 pm |
  19. Kynt

    LOL, yes, I'm also one of those beware-when-I-join-it's-over-soon types. And I also recently got my Facebook account. xD

    June 17, 2011 at 6:44 pm |
  20. Nick

    The ONLY people who'll make $$ off a Facebook IPO are: Goldman Sachs + Zuckerberg. Nobody else will make a dime. There's no way in HELL it's worth $100bn.....that's just what they want you to believe.

    June 17, 2011 at 7:01 pm |
  21. marianne

    CNN will publish anything these days, I guess..

    June 17, 2011 at 7:36 pm |
  22. gringation

    Hilarious article! I think Facebook has a few more years left in it, but I don't think it will last forever, at least not in its current form.

    June 17, 2011 at 9:11 pm |
  23. GREAT ARTICLE

    Every time I hear the words "Facebook" or "Twitter" it makes me want to vomit.
    As if things somehow gained importance because some fukkhead "posted it on Facebook".
    Neither Facebook or Twitter is anything other than the equivalent of an online sewing-club
    with no more significance than what people utter to each other standing in line at Macdonalds.

    June 18, 2011 at 12:07 am |
  24. steve

    i think any institution that dosnt meet up with the trend of time will fade off!!!! the article is true only if facebook dosnt upgrade in IDEAS!!

    June 18, 2011 at 12:14 am |
  25. Maria

    I just got tired of Facebook couple of months ago. I saw the decline coming too!

    June 18, 2011 at 12:26 am |
  26. Leonard

    The reason the media hype facebook is not because it has 600 million users. It's because the media literally built facebook, by hyping it. The mainstream media was instructed to do this by the entities that are behind facebook - certain pockets of the world government (who also own the media, by the way). Cute article, but it is very misleading. And Adrian, if you have not been instructed to write this article to play down the significance of facebook in this technological prison that's being built around us, then I'd have to say you're very naive. I wonder if this comment will be approved? Hmmm..

    June 18, 2011 at 2:45 am |
  27. Tim

    Someone please fire this illiterate, egotistical, low-rate excuse for a journalist.

    June 18, 2011 at 5:03 am |
  28. turner

    so how much did they pay u?

    June 18, 2011 at 5:54 am |
  29. Shred Pillai

    Adrian's experience seems to back Murphy's Law and one can get stuck with it when it comes to personal fortune unless you are willing to take risks and be an early bird. I would say good warning about taking valuations with a pinch of salt!

    June 18, 2011 at 6:19 am |
  30. MESTEL

    FACEBOOK IS A HUMAN GARBAGE DUMP -

    June 18, 2011 at 10:21 am |
  31. robert Landes

    I like the article. I sold my internet start up in 2001. the valuation was 120 million. The following year it was 4 million. Watch out world wall street has figured out another way to rip of the public. Then it was I balls now its something else to distract people from focusing on sound business practice. Called making a profit.

    June 18, 2011 at 11:41 pm |
  32. Linda Pharis

    Think not of your personal failing. These are tumultuous times, and you are analogous to Magellan at the bow of the ship.
    My husband and I thought we were very clever to buy $5K of Sony stock in advance of the Christmas when everybody was thinking about HDTVf. It was $50 a share then, and has never rebounded. *sigh*

    June 18, 2011 at 11:45 pm |
  33. l'aura

    collecting and selling personal data is obviously quite profitable. and we continue to make it oh so easy for the predators. maybe it's time to pull our heads out of our facebook asses long enough to see who is in line to buy all of our info. governments, banks, big biz, aliens... we are just one huge crop ready to be harvested. it's still not too late to wake up and smell the coffee... of course if this leads you to use facebook to organize a revolution, well that is another thing entirely, but if you are one of the average 600 million lusers, then it is time to cancel your facebook account... of course cancellation is not instantaneous and takes about 2 weeks... 2 weeks during which your information continues to be marketed to the pond scum...

    June 19, 2011 at 5:08 am |
  34. Jim

    Allen Cote-What are you on? I highly suggest you buy a dictionary. Also: incorrect spelling; when it okers- is not inkoreckt grammer,...although, from what you wrote, you seem to be the victim of a great american edduhcation.

    June 20, 2011 at 5:39 am |
  35. Ed

    Funny but with some reasonable points. Facebook has hit the top of the first climb on the roller coaster. It will go up and down a bit from here but its days are numbered. Facebook even admits that only half of its users log on every day and estimates are that 20% or so are either duplicate accounts, accounts for pets or simply spammers. Facebook pops up unexpectedly with your personal info on webpages like internet herpes...I didn't ask it to and I don't like my internet habits to be sold by them to god knows who.

    June 20, 2011 at 5:49 am |
  36. Remford

    Whether or not Facebook is a fad, what matters most to its valuation isn't the number of members or its growth potential, it's Facebook's ability to monetize participation which has ALWAYS relied upon a disproportionately few number of members.

    June 20, 2011 at 6:26 am |
  37. nepawoods

    Facebook is doomed ... file this with the Judgement Day predictions. What rubbish. But it mentions Facebook, so publish it.

    June 20, 2011 at 8:31 am |
  38. Frodo

    The article was pretty pointless..Everyone knows trends come and go..When facebook came on the scene it was such a new and exciting thing to connect with friends and families and of course, over time as with most new things, they tend to slow down in interest or fade away. Facebook isn't going anywhere as long as people can continue to connect with friends and family. And if it does go away...well guess what there will be something new and different to take it's place and we will start this whole cycle over again!

    June 20, 2011 at 6:08 pm |
  39. Veruvia

    @Allen Cote
    "Realise" is the British spelling, and no, I'm not British. However, I do know how to use commas, and I suggest you learn how before criticizing a writer's (actually correct) spelling.

    June 21, 2011 at 7:46 am |
  40. GwT

    I'm unplugging as well to find real friends that actually like to spend tie with other people in their lives instead of spending all of their time in front of a computer. Oh, and this bit actually made me laugh: "two years after the fury of the Sex Pistols, I was raving about the Buzzcocks, Stiff Little Fingers and the Undertones."

    How I remember that time well. However, Malcolm Mc Laren was a prime example of pumping up overblown hype to cash in on a manufactured phenomenon to make a quick buck. Remember "Rock and Roll Swindle"? ;)

    June 21, 2011 at 8:31 am |
  41. Don

    For the people complaining about the depth and lack thereof of useful information in this article, I have to ask 'What were you expecting to get out of this article?' It's called 'Bad News for Facebook, I'm a recent convert'. Were you expecting the secret to life? It's obviously intended to be a humorous article. And it was kind of funny. Cut the guy some slack.

    June 21, 2011 at 5:26 pm |
  42. K

    Spell check – paragraph 7, line 1. Although this is a minor mistake, you'll fit in perfectly with some of the people on FB – obnoxiously incorrect grammar and slang. What happened to proper speech and text?

    June 21, 2011 at 6:27 pm |
  43. G

    Enjoyed the article, thank you Adrian. Personally, I've never believed Facebook was all that great, the UI is not all that user friendly. I think Facebook will do ok, right now they're probably making most of their money from Zynga games kickbacks, but once they do their IPO they'll be able to expand faster, explore new areas. Adrian, maybe it's time you played safe... go buy the Golf.

    June 22, 2011 at 10:17 pm |
  44. unfibebic

    Je n'ai pas compris que vous avez en vue ?

    June 26, 2011 at 11:07 pm |
  45. Jeremy

    Can you PLEASE start using nothing but Microsoft products, eat at McDonalds, Burger King, Wendy's, and also while you are at it... start listening to Justin Bieber.

    June 30, 2011 at 12:56 pm |
  46. jon

    "Lots of them Facebook for hours a day". This might have been the first time I've actually seen "Facebook" used as a verb.

    July 1, 2011 at 4:14 pm |
  47. Bill Wood

    Facebook does not have 600 million users. It has 600 million account profiles. The Media is too quick to buy into Facebook's marketing hype. An account profiles is not the same as a unique users. Many individual users have more than 1 profile (I have 3), and most people I know on Facebook have separate accounts for personal and for business. It's probably safe to take whatever number Facebook puts out and divide in half to get actual unique users.

    July 4, 2011 at 5:17 pm |
  48. Me

    I yearn for a day when journalists write articles not based on the idea that "Hey, a lot of people like my subject and hence will read my work", but "Hey, the message I have is of substance and informative and important". Leave entertainment to E.

    July 5, 2011 at 5:28 pm |
  49. DW

    LOL hours a day?! Try no hours a day for me. I could care less what Facebook does or doesn't do!

    July 5, 2011 at 8:30 pm |
  50. erky

    Facebook is another ponzi scheme that will implode. Even if it continues to add new users, I'm not convinced it is going to be able to translate that into profits. Personally I've never clicked on a targeted advertisement on Facebook, let alone made a purchase. On the other hand, Google has been very valuable in helping me find products I was looking for. When advertisers start to figure out that money spent on Facebook advertising is not leading to the sales they were expecting, Facebook's revenues will take a hit. If Facebook makes the stupid mistake of charging its members – that will be game over.

    July 8, 2011 at 4:59 pm |
  51. Wild Bum

    Google Plus+ will replace Facebook.

    July 12, 2011 at 6:44 am |
  52. jim550@yahoo.com

    I myself dont know how you can make money through facebook..I dont think it is possible..Google can ..And you tube can..But facebook...is not compulsorY..Dont really see and growth in it....Google might just incorporate facebooks features..they have already and thats it..Now let me know how you will make money throough it..

    July 12, 2011 at 12:14 pm |
  53. Shara

    I bet google paid him to write this article. Another advert for Google Plus. But hey, I was interested anyways. I hate facebooks new always on chat that blocks my scroll bar. Not to mention, starting over is an easy way to weed out the friends list ;-)

    July 12, 2011 at 3:05 pm |
  54. hoot

    I deleted my fb months ago, just got tired of all the stupid bs. When I first signed up at least 10 of my new "friends" turned out to be sociopaths. Add FBs disregard for my personal data (not that I used any real data in the first place),and it sealed it for me. Also I highly advise you google yourself, go ahead type your exact name. Chances are if you are on fb u will be the first result! I don't want to be found that easily by people I don't know.

    July 13, 2011 at 5:09 am |
  55. Joe

    Ummm what?

    Stiff Little Fingers and the Buzzcocks are AWESOME.

    July 13, 2011 at 6:20 am |
  56. UselessArticleCNN

    Totally useless info. The editor goes from talking about Facebook, to talking about his childhood and teenage years. Not to the point at all. CNN is an epic fail.

    July 15, 2011 at 11:36 am |
  57. rukky

    Just another Facebook topic.

    July 16, 2011 at 6:14 am |
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