Why Facebook Is Worth Over $10 Billion

Yahoo! have been in talks with Facebook for over a year now and apparently recently got shy at Facebook's $1 billion asking price but as I will explain here Yahoo! have missed out on an absolute bargain.
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Facebook have 18 million users, plenty. However MySpace has 100 million + and sold for a mere $580 million to News Corp's in 2005. YouTube sold to Google for a reported $1.65 billion in 2006 but it serves over 100 million video's a day and has over 25 million visitors a month. So what makes Facebook so valuable? It gets relatively huge traffic levels but not on par with YouTube or MySpace. Despite now being available to anyone it began life as an exclusive network for students (you needed an educational email to register) and this is still its primary user group.

So where's the money?
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Currently Facebook displays conventional banner advertising on users' homepages and selected pages through the site. Adverts are unobtrusive and random in so much as they're not targeted at any particular user- they're just served to the entire site on a random basis. Facebook are doing ok out of this arrangement on the basis of the number of page impressions they receive, although in reality they're keeping advertising at a minimum in order to build up the value of the site for its eventual sale which will almost certainly happen in 2007/8. Smart guys!

The power of information

Register with Facebook and quickly you can find yourself giving away huge volumes of valuable personal information. Think about it... Facebook know your name, they know how old you are (actually your D.O.B which is infinitely more valuable as I'll go on to explain), they know if you're male or female, they know your hometown, your postcode if you choose to give it away (although I doubt many users choose this), they know if you're single, in a relationship (and who with), married, divorced etc, they know your sexual orientation. Ok so you can answer all these questions as honestly, dishonestly or vaguely as you like but from what I've seen people happily give accurate information about themselves as it's their friends and potential friends who are going to see it- and no one else right?
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But what else do Facebook know? Well they know where you went to school, where you work, more sinisterly your religious and political views. From this we can start to build up a pretty valuable market profile. As I'm telling Facebook I may as well tell you I'm Male, 22 (born in August), Straight, in a relationship, conservative, atheist from Brighton, England. Went to school at Blatchington Mill Secondary, college at a place called BHASVIC, University at Bournemouth. From this information we can draw further assumptions- I live in Brighton and based on the location of my schools catchment area we could pretty accurately map places in Brighton I know about, visit, and live in (think Google maps API). I'm a straight; conservative from a reasonably wealthy area in full time employment therefore I'm probably white, middle class with a decent disposable income.

So what else? Facebook know what you look like, they probably know what you used to look like a few years ago as well. Probably most significantly they know who your friends are, they know how you know them, they know when you talk to them, what they look like and ultimately they know exactly the same information about them as they know about you- you're interests, likes and dislikes and your friends tastes as well.

They know your email address, so they know if you use Hotmail, Yahoo! Mail etc. They know your phone number so they could pretty easily work out your phone provider. They have your IP address so they could work out your ISP. They know where you've arrived at the site from so they know what search engine you use (enter Yahoo! And Google to the bidding war), what browser you're on, they know if you're visually impaired or have learning disabilities from the settings on your browser.
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Facebook know when I'm logging in and from where so they know the hours I work, if I'm using the internet at work, the pages I leave Facebook to go to or the pages I come from so they know what other sites I look at. I can set my current status and tell Facebook exactly what I'm doing or feeling right this second.