About a year ago, I wrote a post titled “Here’s Why Google and Facebook Might Completely Disappear In The Next 5 Years.
To be honest, I’m not sure I’d write it again today.
It had a catchy title and some good substance to my arguments, so it ended up generating a lot of page views. It also came out at a time when the hype over the upcoming Facebook FB +1.4% IPO was at a fever pitch. Back then, people were saying that Facebook would be the next Google GOOG +1.75% and would certainly surpass $100 billion in market value as soon as it IPO’ed. We don’t seem to recall now but many predicted that Facebook’s stock would go to $60 – 75/share immediately post-IPO.
In reality, it hit the mid-$40s and then dropped like a stone until bottoming out at $17 and now being around $23.
The biggest problem I have with my old post is that I tried to articulate why both Google and Facebook “might” disappear in 5 years. That’s too much for one post. I should have split them up. So, today, I just want to revisit this year-old post and only focus on Facebook. I’ll try to do Google in the next few weeks if I have time (but – long story short – I don’t think Google’s going away any time soon).
The other problem with the post was the use of “disappear” in the headline. Many readers took this to mean that I thought both were going bankrupt. That’s not going to happen clearly. I said in the post that I meant that they would “disappear” in the sense that Yahoo YHOO +3.21% has disappeared. By that I mean that Yahoo is a shadow of its former self in terms of its perceived importance by many.
Anyone who reads my stuff knows that I’m long Yahoo and love the company and new CEO Marissa Mayer. I think they can do great things still. But one of the reasons I got so bullish on them is that public market investors completely lost interest in the company and totally discounted the stock over the last 4 years compared to its underlying fundamentals or to its cooler rivals like Facebook.
Think about this, Facebook has a billion global users and Yahoo — post-Tumblr acquisition — has 1.1 billion users. Yahoo had $5 billion in revenues in the last year and about $1.5 billion in EBITDA. Facebook had $5.5 billion in revenues last year and $1.3 billion in EBITDA.
Yet, Facebook has a market cap of $55 billion while Yahoo’s market cap for its core business and its cash on its balance sheet is about $10 billion (I’m taking out the valuation of its stakes in Alibaba and Yahoo Japan). That’s still a huge gap.
It tells you that the market thinks Facebook can still generate a ton of future profits from its users while not believing that Yahoo can.
Facebook is still the bright shiny new thing. Yahoo is seen as yesterday’s news.
The main point of my post from a year ago was that I thought it was very possible that Facebook could be headed for the same place to where Yahoo finds itself today (or maybe 18 months ago pre-Marissa). A year ago — 3 weeks before the IPO — this seemed like heresy. However, that’s exactly why I wanted to write the post in the midst of that mania. And the title was a little sensationalistic, but I wanted to play contrarian.
So, a year later, what I’d say is that I’m much more respectful of the quality of management at both Google and Facebook. Google’s a really amazing company and has really showed the world that in the last year. I’ve met a bunch of Google people this past year and I’m just always blown away by the intellect and drive of these people. (However, I still think Google has some big risks facing it in the new mobile world we live in. Their future success isn’t assured and I’ll write about their risks more in the future.)
Facebook really has some great quality people too. I’m not a big Facebook user or fan of it either, but I have great respect for them as I continue to see them perform quarter after quarter trying to best leverage their billion users. (I also think they’ve become a much better company facing their future risks since IPO’ing compared to beforehand.)