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MegaUpload, Facebook Folly and Gerbils

By Gerald McGrew on March 13, 2012 in Other

We’re only a couple of months into 2012 and already the tech world is buzzing. The heaviest (insert pun here) action was the arrest of an exceedingly overweight German dotcom millionaire living in New Zealand’s most expensive house. It was not just any old arrest either, as they had to use oxy torches to cut their way into a safe room where the young kraut was cowering with a sawn-off shotgun. Was it loaded? I presume not as much as his pants were.

So why all the Kiwi kerfuffle? Said German owned a company called MegaUpload, which did no more than host other people’s files to share with each other. To his supporters the guy was practically Mother Theresa in lederhosen, helping the world freely distribute information online. Of course, this is bullshit. He had about 150 employees and turned over almost US$200m annually. While online advertising contributed a chunk to this, anyone shifting 20% of a billion dollars a year isn’t flogging Viagra and weight loss remedies. Time will tell what he’s been up to, but no one will be surprised if it involves laundering dirty underwear for the mafia, African dictators and Mitt Romney.

However, the big buzz for 2012 is the impending Facebook IPO. This is my favourite time in any tech company’s history, as every half-sucked pundit comes out of the woodwork to speculate on whether or not Facebook is really worth what the experts say. With the market guesstimating that Facebook might end up listing as a $75-100 billion company it’s no wonder everyone has an opinion – half-sucked or otherwise.

Yet one thing about an IPO is that companies have to provide a detailed prospectus that will stand scrutiny from people who genuinely know what the hell they’re doing. For example, I’ve thrown around the “over 800 million users” Facebook statistic in the past; it’s a very impressive number. Interestingly, the prospectus has revealed that about half are using mobiles and none of them are viewing Facebook ads. This is an important point, as Facebook makes money from users eyeballing their ads, some of whom presumably click on them. If 50% of their users can’t click on ads there’s a problem.

Another vital prospectus factoid is that many of these supposed 800-plus million Facebook users are people that simply ‘Like’ something on another website, without ever actually visiting Facebook. So someone hitting the Facebook ‘Like’ button on their favourite gerbil website can then happily skip to another website and be falsely counted as a Facebook user without seeing a single well-targeted ad for duct tape on Facebook – no ad, no duct tape sale, no revenue.

Still on Facebook, there’s been a bit of recent noise about old user images not being deleted. Now this is certainly an issue for any Gen Y up-and-comers who realise those deleted 2007 pics of themselves being total cockheads are still showing up in Google results. Perhaps when a prospective employer searches for their LinkedIn profile. Ouch dude – what did you take that day?

There is a lesson here. If you were born after 1990, try not to be a douche-bag when out with mates who have phone cameras. Otherwise we’ll all see you on Facebook… gerbil-boy!