Why Facebook should get bailout money

As the car companies ask for $50 billion, shouldn't the social network use the same government route for extra funding? About 125 million people now rely on Facebook.

We should all be very concerned that the Detroit motor car manufacturers are asking the U.S. government for $50 billion of bailout funding.

No, not because these are companies that may have deliberately held back the production of cars that might have wrecked our planet just a little less over the last, say, 30 or 40 years. No, no. These are companies on whom millions of people rely, many of them living in Michigan. A mass exodus from Michigan might not be a good thing for the rest of America.

It strikes me, and perhaps it has struck you too, that another question to ponder in these circumstances is whether there would ever be funds available for tech companies that encountered difficult commercial times.

Tech companies may not be investment banks. Their employees may not reside in New York's Westchester County and Connecticut. But surely, they represent the future of American profitability even more than do those organizations that make paper money or four- and six-wheelers.

Tech companies might find ways to make cars fly, for example, a far greater advance than anything the motor industry has marketed to the last few generations. So it is surely worth looking around to see whether there might be Silicon Valley companies that the new administration could begin to support now.

Surely it's time to stop negative bailout thinking. CC Jake Rome

I know some feel that Yahoo is not in the finest of shape. But I have been recently moved to consider whether Facebook might not be an ideal candidate for government support.

There are whisperings, some surely motivated by the greenest of envies, that Facebook is not making an enormous amount of money. TechCrunch's Michael Arrington raised the alarm in a most cogent way very recently, suggesting that advertising revenues were not all they might be.

And Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg was alarmingly (or laconically, depending on your perspective) unisyllabic on the subject when interviewed by John Battelle last week.

But why should a brand as vital to world psychology as Facebook have to rely on something so ephemeral as advertising? About 125 million people now rely on Facebook. How many single brands can claim that 125 million people rely on them every day?

It may be true that Facebook users rely on it principally for their self-worth. But what are we if we are not able to clutch at our self-worth every day to stay afloat? Indeed, there are those who are convinced that Mark Zuckerberg's (and Microsoft's) fine company has improved the mental well-being of the nation (and, increasingly, the French- and Spanish-speaking worlds).

The more friends you have, the better you feel and the more confident you are of making more friends. A virtuous circle that can only bring us all closer together in these tortured times.

Much was made in the recently concluded election about such phrases as "spreading the wealth" and "socialism". Surely, Facebook is a brand that can happily offer both to so many people.

If the new U.S. government could offer Mr. Zuckerberg a few billion dollars to concentrate on bringing people together on an even more expansive basis, his employees would be able to take their time to work out whether any kind of advertising will ever bring the company large profits. Or whether it even needs to.

Naturally, the government could give the money with some conditions. It might ask for a little more openness, perhaps. You know, the ability to to move your profile over to other socially conscious areas, like OpenSocial. And I'm sure Facebook would be willing to give way on such a small issue.

In the times of the outgoing administration, the word "bailout" had such a negative connotation. One of keeping sinking ships above the waterline. Surely, in our new, more hopeful future, we must think about positive bailouts. Our money can be used to solve problems of a far more elevated and all-embracing nature.

After all, aren't you always being told that the most important thing in business is relationships?

 

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