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Letter From The Editor

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In 2010, The Social Network was on most critics' list of the best films of the year. Based on Ben Mezrich's book, The Accidental Billionaires, the movie chronicled how Mark Zuckerberg, a socially inept Harvard student, created Facebook.

The story in a nutshell: Zuckerberg got dumped by his girlfriend, went back to his dorm, got drunk, and trashed her in a blog entry. He then created a website that posted pictures of Harvard co-eds and allowed male students to "rate" them on their attractiveness. Harvard's female students were understandably outraged, and the stunt got Zuckerberg put on probation. Undeterred, and encouraged by the instant popularity of his late-night project, Zuckerberg came up with (or stole, depending on who you believe) a prototype for the social network that now, eight years later, has almost a billion users around the globe.

Last week, Facebook made big news by going public, selling $16 billion worth of stock in an IPO at $38 a share. It made Zuckerberg and his co-owners billionaires overnight. Good news for them. Not so good if you were one of those who bought stock at the IPO price. As I write this, Facebook shares are selling for around $31. In other words, if you bought 1,000 shares Friday, when the stock went public, you're down seven large today. If you're one of the three or four fund managers hired to hustle the stock to the public, your clients are collectively down several billion bucks. Rest assured they are not pressing the "like" button on this deal.

I'm on Facebook, but as far as I can tell, it doesn't make any money off of me, which, if I'm typical, is not a good sign. I can't remember ever clicking on the little ads that are presumably tailored to my interests. (One of them suggests that I might be suffering from gout, which does make me wonder what they know that I don't.) Like most people, I post stuff on my page that interests me — vacation pictures, political items, a video of Bruce Lee playing ping-pong with nunchucks. There are a couple of groups I frequent for the chat. I click the "like" button in support of clever or insightful posts. That's about it.

The big question for those who've invested in Facebook is whether it will continue to grow when, as is inevitable, more "monetization" gimmicks are put into play. It's a risky bet, I'd say, but what do I know?

I do know Yahoo was selling for $118 a share a few years back. You can buy it for around $15 now. Yahoo, indeed.

Bruce VanWyngarden
brucev@memphisflyer.com

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