- Douglas Rushkoff says Facebook's reported plan to go public makes some wonder about future He says it may seem company expanding influence, reaching into, rescuing economy But really it would be just giving into corporate capitalism, he says: Earnings trump big dreams Rushkoff: With IPO, Zuckerberg not so much revolutionizing reality as getting with program
We all knew he'd eventually get around to it: Mark Zuckerberg is expected to finally bring Facebook public. The company is reported to be preparing to file for an IPO -- initial public offering -- through which anyone will be able to buy shares of the social networking company on an open stock exchange.
As a media theorist, I used to ignore these business shenanigans. Who cares if these companies are private or public, profitable or in the red? How many non-Wall-Street-Journal readers even knew what an IPO was back before the Internet created the likes of AOL, Netscape, and Google?
But the fact is we do now think about the stock market. Many of us are aware that Apple's market capitalization is fast approaching half a trillion dollars, making it either the largest or second-largest company in the world behind Exxon Mobil - depending on the week. So when we hear that Facebook is preparing for an IPO that will likely dwarf Google's entrance to the public markets in 2004, particularly considering that the company doesn't sell tangible
goods or services in the traditional sense, we can't help but wonder what this will mean for the future of Facebook, its users, its competitors, and the greater economy.
The way it appears at first glance - particularly for those who have been following Mr. Zuckerberg since he launched "The Facebook" from his college dorm or, better, those who have seen the movie "The Social Network" - is that the Zuckerberg juggernaut is continuing unabated.
This new form of media -- social networking -- will not only redefine the Internet, change human relationships, create a new marketing landscape, and challenge Google, but it will now rescue and alter the economy itself. Like virtual kudzu, it will infiltrate the financial markets, creating new sorts of opportunities for this peer-to-peer "social" economy to take root. We will all make our living playing Farmville, or designing new versions of it, or investing in companies that do.
In reality, however, I don't think we are witnessing Facebook's victory over the financial markets as much as its acquiescence to them. Yes, Apple challenged Microsoft for software supremacy, just as Facebook now challenges Google for Internet supremacy. But there's another operating system churning away beneath all this high tech activity, and it's called corporate capitalism. If a company is big enough -- and that means simply holding enough money -- then sooner or later that money influences the rest of the company's activities.