No, Facebook doesn't owe you money

No, Facebook doesn't owe you money

Summary: Facebook may make money from your content but that doesn't mean the company owes you a dime. The social network is free, but if that's not enough for you, then just quit.

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The New York Times today published an article titled "Disruptions: Facebook Users Ask, 'Where's Our Cut?'" The main argument appears to be: since Facebook makes money primarily from advertising centered on user content, the company therefore owes each and every one of its 845 million users a cut of its profits. Here's the introduction:

By my calculation, Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's founder and chief executive, owes me about $50.

Without me, and the other 844,999,999 people poking, liking and sharing on the site, Facebook would look like a scene from the postapocalyptic movie "The Day After Tomorrow": bleak, desolate and really quite sad. (Or MySpace, if that is easier to imagine.) Facebook surely would never be valued at anything close to $100 billion, which it very well could be in its coming initial public offering.

In the company's S-1 filing, submitted to the Securities and Exchange Commission this week, Facebook boasts about its statistics: annually, people "like" one trillion things; 91 billion photos are uploaded; half a billion people use Facebook on mobile phones; and hundreds of millions are annoyingly “poked.”

So all this leaves me with a question: Where's my cut? I helped build this thing, too. Facebook laid the foundation of the house and put in the plumbing, but we put up the walls, picked out the furniture, painted and hung photos, and invited everyone over for dinner parties.

Facebook is the biggest private-turning-public company where content is created by its users. As such, the argument is that the company should pay you, in return for making money from its ads based on you, or charge you and not make any money from your content. It's a nice idea because, hey… who doesn't want to get a cheque from Facebook?

Sorry, but that's not how Facebook's business works. While the above Jimmy Kimmel Live video is quite amusing, it also summarizes my counter point quite succinctly: Facebook does not force you to use its service.

You don't have to sign up, you don't have to friend anyone, and you don't have to share content on the site. If you want to, you can do so, but that's your choice. Furthermore, as long as there are ads on Facebook, it will remain free.

It's understood that when you hand over data to Facebook, the company will use it to serve up ads to you. In return, you get to keep using Facebook without paying anything. Facebook is attractive as a free service. Users find the social network amazing, amusing, alienating, addictive, annoying, and so on. In short, they keep coming back because they gain from it more than they lose… it's social.

I understand the advantage of having a premium version of Facebook, much like LinkedIn does. It would be nice to completely opt-out of Facebook ads and cookie tracking, although I'm not sure how many would do that for a price. Either way, you can't do that right now.

If you don't like that, quit Facebook. You're allowed to leave. Just remember that even if you do, Facebook is here to stay.

See also:

Topic: Social Enterprise

Emil Protalinski

About Emil Protalinski

Emil is a freelance journalist writing for CNET and ZDNet. Over the years,
he has covered the tech industry for multiple publications, including Ars
Technica, Neowin, and TechSpot.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

18 comments
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  • RE: No, Facebook doesn't owe you money

    "if that???s not enough for you, then just quit"

    Did that last week. Good advice.
    txscott
  • They'll be superceded

    ...by the company that does give you money. I've no intention of joining Facebook.<br><br>In any case as far as Facebook is concerned the user is a product. The customers are the advertisers. <br><br>The user has the same relationship to Facebook as a vegetable has to a fruit and vegetable store, or maybe a lamb to the slaughterhouse.<br><br>Maybe we should rename if Sheepbook?
    jorwell
    • RE: No, Facebook doesn't owe you money

      @jorwell How very arrogant of you!
      great-ish-soul
      • Believe me, if I'm not a member...

        @great-ish-soul

        ...Facebook is not cool ;-)
        jorwell
      • RE: No, Facebook doesn't owe you money

        @great-ish-soul
        Sorry to say but jorwell is correct. Facebook is not cool. Because I use real fake info they have threaten to remove my account (same applies to Google+). My reply to them was "go ahead and I'll just create another via mobile device which ip changes cities every time I use it." Those threats stopped but I really don't use it anyway anymore because its silly. "people boasting about their lives/events when in reality it's not like how they make it seems on their profiles"

        @jorwell
        GREAT ONE!... Sheepbook! that's gonna be a classic one for me.
        Free Webapps
      • RE: No, Facebook doesn't owe you money

        @great-ish-soul
        It is very far from "cool" and just proves how dumb the mass population around the world is. FB is nothing more than a avenue for those stuck in the high school I am cooler than you, look at this mentality. BaaaaBaaaaaaaaaaaaaa. Or I was not cool enough in High School and now need to prove to everyone how great I am.

        But hey without FB and people willing giving away so much info for free, social attacks would take actual skill ;)

        I hope more people wake up, delete their account and make FB the biggest IPO flop in history.
        vw-slowda
  • RE: No, Facebook doesn't owe you money

    If a user is going to make the argument that Facebook owes them money because they "sell" the users to their advertisers, then couldn't you make the same argument for Google?
    eak2000
    • RE: No, Facebook doesn't owe you money

      @eak2000 I think you have it backwards. As mentioned by others, by using Facebook you choose to have your information made public. Google (at least GMail) will take the information included in my private emails and make it available to advertisers. If I were to generate my emails in GMail, that would be OK--but if I create a message in Outlook Express or anyother email program and send it to a GMail account then it becomes fair game for advertisers. In Facebook, both the sender and recipient have signed on to the Facebook rules. In GMail, only the recipient has agreed to the terms. And this is what, in my opinion, makes Google Dead Wrong.
      OpinionsCount
      • Not to defend Google ... but Google does not sell your emails

        @OpinionsCount That is BS. Google displays ads on based on key words auto-scanned when DISPLAYING the email via the web interface. They don't sell the emails to anybody. That is a fact very well explained in the TOC ... even the new crappy one.
        wackoae
  • RE: No, Facebook doesn't owe you money

    It's here to stay for a while. It too shall pass, just like The Edge of Night, Diet-Rite Cola and Windows. It won't happen too soon for me.
    IrreduciblyComplex
  • RE: No, Facebook doesn't owe you money

    Typical gen-Y entitlement! Bunch of spoiled kids...
    jmwells21
  • RE: No, Facebook doesn't owe you money

    People always cry like bitches when a person truly demonstrates how much they can achieve through their own research, development and consistent efforts to improve upon something that appeals to ALL people if they can get over themselves, be honest, use the service for something other than socializing with people...etc...The wealthy are going to be targets of those who can't accept their own need to make excuses for themselves.
    great-ish-soul
    • RE: No, Facebook doesn't owe you money

      @great-ish-soul
      I think you need to smoke more and couch lock yourself, or stop smoking and wake the F up. You make for a great joke read!
      vw-slowda
  • RE: No, Facebook doesn't owe you money

    Facebook has turned itself into the equivalent of "private air".

    Facebook has taken the public square where people used to talk using the public air, put it online, made their online public square essential (unavoidable, frankly), and now they want to profit off this shared experience, without giving the actual content and data providers our cut? This is bad behavior by any person.

    The good news is that this won't stand for long. The trick is that Facebook doesn't actually provide a service, at least not to its users. So, Facebook will be the next MySpace. In a decade, we will come full circle and host our own portion of WhateverComesNextBook on our home computers, because we'll either serve the internet to ourselves, or upstream data cap will be high enough to support the demand.
    rgcustomer@...
  • No problem

    Facebook will mail you the $4 per year it makes off of you. Along with a bill for data storage for your pictures, posts, email and game data.

    Or how about we just call it even?
    Marc Jellinek
    • RE: No, Facebook doesn't owe you money

      Well said! That's a killer deal.
      foremski
  • RE: No, Facebook doesn't owe you money

    With Firefox and AdBlock Plus, I never see any ads on Facebook. So I suppose I'm not owed any money!
    adrobertson@...
    • RE: No, Facebook doesn't owe you money

      @adrobertson@... No adds here either, I love FF with AddBlock Plus!
      j-mccurdy@...