Andreessen: Facebook revenue to top $500 million in '09

The Netscape founder, a member of Facebook's board of directors, says the social network has the potential to be a billion-dollar company already.

Facebook board member Marc Andreessen, who just launched a new venture fund, said in an interview with Reuters (published Monday) that he expects the company's revenue to be in excess of $500 million in 2009, and that in five years it'll be well into the billions.

"Generally speaking, people who are selling their stock in Facebook now are making a mistake," he told Reuters regarding the fact that since an initial public offering is still a ways off, Facebook is permitting some employee stock sales to Digital Sky Technologies, the Russian firm that invested $200 million in the site in May. Andreessen himself is not a personal investor in Facebook, and said that "I probably could have if I had tried hard but I didn't."

If Facebook worked the ad-sales front a bit harder, Andreessen added in the interview, revenue could already be over a billion.

But Facebook has never taken kindly to traditional display advertisements, choosing instead to experiment with "engagement ads" integrated into the social-networking experience--a product it may potentially extend into Facebook Connect's participating sites, which now number over 10,000.

Additionally, Facebook has been working toward an alternative revenue stream with its "credits" system, a virtual currency that for now is restricted to the company's in-house "Gifts" application. Sometime in the not-so-distant future, the Facebook currency system will be made available to developers using the social network's API, which could produce a significant new source of revenue for Facebook as it takes a cut of transactions.

Andreessen--the Netscape founder and Silicon Valley mainstay whose current projects include social-network builder Ning--has been on Facebook's board for just over a year. He joined at the personal request of CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who said at the time that "Marc is an industry leader, and we're fortunate to have him join our board."

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