Facebook shouldn't pay its users. Its users should pay to own Facebook.
“Facebook was not originally created to be a company,” founder Mark Zuckerberg wrote in his letter to investors announcing the IPO of his already hugely successful and profitable company. “It was built to accomplish a social mission — to make the world more open and connected.”
Facebook has succeeded wildly, despite internal admonitions that its “journey” is only 1 percent finished. Journalists have latched onto Zuckerberg’s statement that Facebook wants to “rewire” the way the world works. In a world of thousands of self-anointed “social media experts,” only Zuckerberg can claim to have basically invented what the world thinks of as social media. He has etched himself into the timeline of human innovation.
Pity then, that Zuckerberg hasn’t turned his talents or attention toward Facebook’s financial underpinnings. After all, an IPO? How ho-hum can he get? If Mark really wants to accomplish his social mission with Facebook, he should share the company’s ownership with the people who helped him create it. Not just his Harvard contemporaries. Not just the programmers. Not even just the venture capitalists.
I’m talking about us. All of us. The users. Facebook should be a user-owned, user-managed company, run for the benefit of users. For the Facebook, by the Facebook. The company should be a cooperative.
Before I explain further, let me lay out the case in four simple points:
1. Facebook won’t necessarily get rich as a public company. LinkedIn, the grown-up social network, IPO’d last year, but is now down from its initial price after having had a big pop on its first days of trading. Zynga and Groupon, meanwhile, lost ground on their IPO prices as soon as they hit the markets. Tech journalism might work itself into a froth over a company’s earnings potential, but the broader market is still confused as to how to price these companies.