Facebook’s secret? Rolling with the punches

The ubiquitous social network somehow always comes out on top


Background: Sylvester Stallone raising a glove during filming for Rocky Balboa. (Isaac Brekken/AP Photo). Layer: Mark Zuckerberg. (Brian Snyder/Reuters).

If Facebook were a fictional movie character, it would have to be Rocky Balboa. Like Sylvester Stallone’s underdog boxer, Facebook routinely gets its figurative face punched in, but somehow keeps on going. Whatever you think of the social-networking service, on the eve of its initial public offering–expected to be the largest ever for a U.S. tech company–it’s hard not to admire the company’s ability to roll with the punches.

Facebook has repeatedly sparred with watchdogs and users alike over its constantly changing privacy settings. Canada actually led the way, with Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart giving the web service a good spanking back in 2009, with other countries following suit. Even before that, the company caught heavy flak for its Beacon effort, an ad platform that displayed on Facebook users’ activity on other websites.

Unsurprisingly, privacy has been the website’s biggest ongoing concern. Some observers are understandably worried that the privacy invasions could get worse once Facebook is a public company that is under constant pressure to deliver increasing profits to shareholders.

The violations and missteps have made a good chunk of users wary, with some even organizing a “quit Facebook day” back in 2010. Only an estimated 35,000 or so actually deleted their profiles on the given day, but the damage to its image was done. As PC World put it at the time, Facebook has established itself as the service that users love to hate. The constant redesigns don’t help either.

It’s therefore not surprising that many believe Facebook to be a passing fad, much like MySpace and some of the other social networks of yore. In a study released earlier this week, nearly half of Americans said so. Investors may partially agree, with many saying that the amount the company is seeking in its IPO is way too much.

Yet another controversy broke out this week with the news that General Motors is pulling its ads from Facebook on the grounds that they don’t work. Having one of the biggest advertisers in the U.S. pull such a move just days before the IPO is surely one of the year’s “oh, snap!” moments. It’s one thing for GM to quietly pull its advertising, but the timing seems like it’s meant to deliberately deliver some poop onto Facebook’s doorstep.

My personal gripe with the service touches on the familiar walled garden criticism, that Facebook has created its own little fortress that doesn’t play well with the rest of the internet. My blogging tool does a good job of telling me exactly where all my traffic comes from, except when it comes to Facebook. I get a decent amount of traffic from the site, but who is posting my stuff and what are they posting? I’ll never know. I suspect Facebook has a mechanism wherein I could pay to find out such information, but the thought of doing so is abhorrent given the way the rest of the web works.

Add in to all of this a movie that made founder and wunderkind Mark Zuckerberg look like a giant ass and it’s clear that Facebook is at least the most controversial Internet company ever, if not the most hated. Come to think of it, maybe Rocky Balboa isn’t a good comparison. He was, after all, a character that everyone wanted to see succeed. Maybe the proper analogy for Facebook is in fact the Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Networkit’s succeeding in spite of everyone else.


Facebook’s secret? Rolling with the punches

  1. I thought Zuck came off well in the Social Network. Certainly the movie seemed to imply that neither the Winklevoss twins nor Eduardo Saverin could have built facebook into what it is (ie. the Winklevii were essentially building a dating network, while Saverin wanted to monetize way too soon).

  2. I have committed Facebook suicide twice now, though I suspect that if I ever logged in again with my old username and password, all the old postings would still be there, just like last time. So that’s what I posted 2 years ago?

    I have a hard time understanding what anyone would have a Google gmail account. Your emails are being read, analyzed and stored. Maybe Vic Toews will pass a law that makes everyone switch to Google gmail right after he awards a 25 BILLION contract to Google and Facebook to improve Canada’s public safety (and keep away those child pornographers).

  3. It all comes down to Rocky! Even facebook has found their Rocky Spirit! That’s the Rocky Spirit! http://www.rockyspirit.org

  4. Zuckerberg is a spoiled, ignorant brat who hasn’t invented anything. His “invention” was the sweat and labour of dozens of computer wiz kids hired by this small mind to make him a fortune. This fortune should belong to everyone who uses his boring, useless and anachronistic site…Why should this spoiled kid be allowed to become a billionaire? Why are the laws there to make mini-mind marketing wizes like Him billionaires?
    Tax him and leave him a a million chump change. these guys don’t deserve the billions whille people are starving! Change our laws accordingly. And bring back Inheritance taxes in Canada that Chretien’s buddies abolished by whispering in his ears….in ’92. This money is blood-money and others have worked hard so a spoiled brat like the Zuke could get to own the GDP of Ireland! The law’s an as* and so are our “sold” politicians.
    The internet should be free and everyone who uses the Facebook should receive a fraction of Zuke’s BILLIONS!

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