Mobile Adwords, it’s happening.
Yahoo is paying a ton of money for the Zimbra collaboration/email service: $350mm, to be exact. That’s $39 bucks a mailbox, if you divide Zimbra’s 9mm mailboxes by the acquisition price. Yow. I bet that is one hell of a multiple on revenues or profits, as Zimbra, which was featured in the Web 2 Launchpad in 2005 (scroll to bottom), probably isn’t making money yet, and if it is, most likely is not making profits anywhere close to the traditional multiples software companies receive in buyouts. But this is not about traditional multiples, is it? It’s about 3D future chess. And Yahoo clearly must see some leverage here. And/or, it’s buying its way to the table in a market Microsoft owns (Exchange) and Google is moving into (collaboration suites). Benchmark, Accel, and Redpoint be happy investors, me think. And congrats to Satish and his team!
BB pal Cory Doctorow has published a short story on the theme of Google as evildoer. The opening scene imagines Google services used by the Department of Homeland Security.
The interrogator in the secondary screening room was an older man, so skinny he looked like he’d been carved out of wood. His questions went a lot deeper than shrooms.
“Tell me about your hobbies. Are you into model rocketry?”
“No,” Greg said, “No, I’m not.” He sensed where this was going.
The man made a note, did some clicking. “You see, I ask because I see a heavy spike in ads for rocketry supplies showing up alongside your search results and Google mail.”
Greg felt a spasm in his guts. “You’re looking at my searches and e-mail?” He hadn’t touched a keyboard in a month, but he knew what he put into that search bar was likely more revealing than what he told his shrink.
“Sir, calm down, please. No, I’m not looking at your searches,” the man said in a mocking whine. “That would be unconstitutional. We see only the ads that show up when you read your mail and do your searching. I have a brochure explaining it. I’ll give it to you when we’re through here.”
“But the ads don’t mean anything,” Greg sputtered. “I get ads for Ann Coulter ring tones whenever I get e-mail from my friend in Coulter, Iowa!”
The man nodded. “I understand, sir. And that’s just why I’m here talking to you. Why do you suppose model rocket ads show up so frequently?”
It gets far richer from there…
I’ll dig more into this as the day evolves…from AFP:
AOL unveiled Monday a global advertising platform it said marked another step in a restructuring for the once-dominant Internet firm that has been losing ground in recent years.
AOL, media titan Time Warner’s Internet subsidiary, announced a series of changes aimed at positioning the company “as the world’s largest and most effective advertising network.”
The company said the realignment of its businesses, building on its Advertising.com network and recent acquisitions, marked the final stage in its transition from an access business to a global, ad-supported Web company.
As part of my preparation for Web 2, I am going to think out loud and ask for all of your help. This year’s program for Web 2 includes an amazing array of leaders, and it’ll be my job, along with my co-producer Tim O’Reilly, to engage these folks in conversation worthy of the audience’s time.
So as I have in the past, I’ll use this space as a sketch pad of sorts.
First up is Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook (stats). I’ll be interviewing him in the opening slot of the show. It’s not by accident. Last year the opening slot was Eric Schmidt, and this year it’s clear that Facebook has diverted the Valley’s short attention span from Google, at least for now.
The press is always looking for the “next (insert current fascination here)”, and there is no question that Mark and Facebook are getting the Google circa 2004 treatment. Once again, a young entrepreneur has dropped out of a top school (Harvard this time) and nurtured a simple but powerful idea – harnessing the The Force of Many (that’d be us) – into a billion dollar business. (And Facebook has scale – 60 million uniques and counting according to the new conversational media report from Comscore.)
There are significant differences between Google and Facebook, of course, and as something of a historian in this field, I can’t help but note them. One thing I’ve noticed is voice – Google tried from the very beginning to have a certain voice – quirky, fun, smart, non confrontational. Facebook’s voice, such as it is, is neutral, nearly non existent. The voice is its users, not the service itself.
I’m looking forward to talking with Mark, and framing the Facebook phenomenon in the context of the Web2 world and beyond. Here are the questions/issues/ideas that come to mind as I think out loud about our conversation. Please, add your own in comments, and help me make the conversation we have worth everyone’s time.
- Facebook’s recent success has created many imitators – the latest being Yahoo Mash and certain, er, upgrades at Orkut and Myspace. How do you handicap the competition, and what will keep Facebook on its current growth trajectory?
- The lactation incident (among many others, including the Islam food fight) brings Facebook into the world Google has been in for some time – as arbiter of acceptable speech. How do you plan to play in this world?
- As long as it’s been brought up, may as well ask: Folks have for some time been looking for the next Google. Increasingly, Facebook is being held up as a prime candidate. Your promulgation of the social graph – not unlike the Web graph which led to PageRank – only heightens the comparison. Are you comfortable with that role?
- Can you imagine Facebook as a broader search or portal company?
- Facebook aquired Parakey in July. Why? Is this the start of a trend? Will business plans be launched with the exit of “flipping it to Facebook?”
- On that subject (the Facebook economy), Facebook Platform has certainly been a hit, but some questions do arise. As an entrepreneur, I might see leveraging Facebook as a bit dangerous – the point of view of a developer or investor, what insurance do I have that Facebook won’t change its policies at some point, and my dependance on the platform becomes a liability?
- What is your companies Big Hairy Audacious Goal? Do you wish for Facebook to become “the identity platform for the Internet“?
- You are in your twenties. Do you feel a need to get a “grownup” to run the company, or at least bring in a partner, as Larry and Sergey did with Eric?
- Let’s talk Facebook’s business model. Many of your developers are making money via Google ads, which means Google is making money off Facebook. But you are not. Thoughts on that?
- Clearly you are already in the ad business – reportedly half your revenue is from ads you sell yourself, and the other half comes from your Microsoft deal. But how might you go deeper? Do you want to get into the ad operating system business – the domain of Yahoo, Microsoft, AOL, and Google? How might you do that?
- Facebook seems prime territory for a test of sell side advertising. Thoughts?
- How is the deal with Microsoft going? No, really, how is it going?
- Speaking of the ad business, what did you and Walmart learn from this incident? From the new Flyer business model?
- You recently decided to leverage search by making profiles public. Let’s discuss.
- What is your approach to the public markets – Peter Theil says not for 18 months – and the future financing of the company? Will you go on a hiring/new product/international tear? For example, Google has internationalized quickly. Will you? What do you make of the knockoffs?
- Did you really say no to $1billion from Semel?!
- Let’s talk about the privacy issue. You have a ton of data on your users. Some are concerned about using that data for advertising, but it goes well beyond that – now you are in the world of, er, Google again. Would Facebook ever proclaim or endorse this statement: Don’t Be Evil?
Whew. That’s a lot. No wonder Facebook is our current fascination.
What did I miss? Looking forward to your input.
Joe Duck has had some serious issues posting comments here. Have you?
Rex Hammock calls for folks to rally around “conversational media” as a term for all that social media/user generated content/word of mouth marketing/etc. and I’m honored by his suggestion (my writings on the topic are here and here and here). He also offers a critique of the first ever Conversational Marketing Summit, noting that it was not very well covered by the Web 2 crowd (nary a mention on Techmeme). He aptly notes that perhaps the folks who attended were not, well, part of that world, and to that insight I can only concur: Most marketers are not entrepreneurs obsessed with the Valley, they are business people obsesssed with succeeding at their jobs. The CM Summit, from the feedback we’ve gotten so far, really helped them in that pursuit.
Now, about that URL – conversationalmedia.com – that you own….