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Facebook’s last roll of the dice?

May 27, 2009

Facebook has sold a $200m stake to a private Russian investment group. This is its last chance to succeed by going down a road nobody else has tried.

Is that alarmist? I don’t think so. Zuckerburg and his team should be complimented for their attempts to do things differently – after all the biggest prize often goes to the innovation that leaves the competition behind. Just look at Apple and the success of iPod, which eight years after its launch, still easily leads the portable music device market.

But the problem with rolling the dice is that you need to show the audience at some point that you have a knack of winning, otherwise you look like you are gambling.

Look at Ev Williams – there’s a guy with a knack of winning. Having founded both Blogger and Twitter, he epitomises not only Silicon Valley entrepreneurial success, but business success.

But Zuckerburg is still dining out after his first success – the launch of Facebook. Since then, he has overseen the launch of the Facebook Platform, had to quell – and then acknowledge – rumours about a Facebook payment platform, and totally redesigned Facebook to resemble a twitter hybrid.

The problem is that none of these has had the effect of changing the game. In fact, the latest design changes to Facebook to some extent diminished the impact of third-party apps (i.e. I can’t find them any more), and repeated customer service failures (see here and here) mean some people are beginning to think Zuckerburg and his team don’t have a game plan – or winner’s luck.

Whatever Facebook does with this $200m had better rewrite the rules, or there will be a very unhappy group of Russian investors wondering where their money has gone.

Facebook *has* to become more than this (though it is very funny):

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