Ulanoff: Facebook Is Not Worth $15 Billion

We've all been talking in the office about the new, astounding valuation of Facebook. $15 billion dollars.

Say it with me — Fifteen. Billion. Dollars. Wow.

The figure is being reported in connection with the news that Microsoft is buying a little minority stake — investing a piddling $240 million — in Facebook.

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I've been a Facebook user for the better part of a year and have had a steady stream of friend requests in the last six months.

Co-workers, friends, distant family, old college and high-school buddies have all tracked me down and joined my Facebook friends list.

We join groups together, write on each others' "walls" and trade quick messages.

My Profile and News Feed pages are filled with random notes about what's happening among my network of friends, along with the inevitable Facebook zombie invitations, birthday reminders, gifts I can give to others for $1, photos and "pokes."

"Pokes" may be the most comical of all, because I have no idea why they exist.

On occasion I'll see that a friend has "poked" me. So I poke him back.

This goes on and on and back and forth for a while, but what's the point?

Did someone poke me to try and get me to write back? Did they just want to annoy me? Were they trying to tell me that they were thinking of me? That's nice, I guess.

But it feels more like we're two kids in the back seat of our parents' car, poking each other and yelling, "Hey! Quit it!"

Is all this worth $15 billion?

My big problem with Facebook is that I haven't had a "eureka moment" –— a moment of realization in which I say (preferably out loud), "Wow, I am so glad I have Facebook! Without it I couldn't have..."

That hasn't happened. I wonder if it ever will.

Bravo, Microsoft

Microsoft obviously believes in the platform. The company sees it as another way to capture yet more eyeballs for its new plan of ruling the online advertising world. Bravo, Microsoft. Read Dvorak to find out why you're so misguided.

Microsoft did not invest similarly in "Second Life," which may seem odd since "Second Life" was the online thing six months ago. Now it isn't.

So the Microsoft millions went to the new "thing of the moment," Facebook.

Of course, it could just as easily have been the Google millions, or even the Yahoo! billion that was reportedly offered, and refused, a year ago.

Some people I've spoken to think Facebook has gone off the rails, veering far and wide from its roots as a digital representation of the actual "facebook" some universities hand out to college sophomores. That could be true.

But before Facebook opened its doors to the washed and out-of-school masses, I couldn't even get on it. Plus, I have to admit that I've reconnected with people I haven't talked to in years.

But does that make Facebook unique? Does finding old friends make it a $15 billion killer app?

When I was planning my 20-year high school reunion, I reconnected with hundreds of old classmates through Classmates.com. Then, after the party, I rarely checked back in.

Facebook uses dozens of tricks and e-mail notifications to keep me interested, but the only reason I come back is to accept new invitations.

I'm too lazy to even go through the step of verifying how I know certain people, because that, too, has to be verified again, by them (who wants to get caught in a circle of never-ending verifications?).

I don't have time for that, not unless I can see some real value coming out of it. I don't.

On the other hand, Microsoft and the people who decided on Facebook's valuation see at least $15 billion worth of value.

Makes me think that I ought to try and come up with the next Facebook.

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