Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) is the company Seeking Alpha readers love to hate for a reason.
You lose half your equity in four months from your IPO and a lot of people are going to unfriend you. This has led many to conclude that the company is hopeless, that its ad-based business model is obsolete, that it's a fad, that it's doomed.
While I don't feel safe in recommending Facebook yet -- too much stock remains locked up from buyers who got in super-cheap for my taste -- I don't share the gloomsayers' sense of doom. Unlike Oakland, there is some there, there.
In his latest interview with Business Week, sparked by the company's announcement of 1 billion users, Zuckerberg hinted at Facebook becoming the Web's registration engine (which ultimately means becoming a solution to the problem of identity), at mobile, and at taking a bigger piece of its own e-commerce action by leading consumers directly to sales, not just ads.
The company also launched its first Web ad, from Wieden and Kennedy, which is Nike's main agency. It's the first indication of how the company will push its brand going forward, and the word for that is "global." Zuckerberg recently conducted a world tour of programming hotspots, ending in Russia, where he put on a tie and met with Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.
The Russia meeting leads directly to the big shiny object in the company's path, China. Facebook has to find a way into nominally authoritarian markets like Russia and China -- it has to find ways to compromise with governments, generally -- if it's to keep growing.
Officially, Facebook has no plans to enter the China market, and China is encouraging the growth of alternatives. But some 63.5 million Chinese have gotten over the great firewall and use Facebook, says GlobalWebIndex, and the fact of the ban seems only to add to its cachet there. China's firewall is also being buffeted by the presence of 274 million microbloggers, who -- like any underground -- are great at using euphemisms to get their views out despite widespread wiretapping. Don't let policy confuse you about reality.
The bottom line is this: Facebook does have a strategy. It does have a sophisticated technology platform, built on cheap cloud technology and open source software. It does have revenues, and it does know where it needs to go in order to become what it wants to be.
Which is a lot more than you can say about a lot of American companies, like Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ). As I've said before, at some point in time and at some price to be determined, Facebook will be a buy. The date, and the price, are both getting closer.