Facebook hit 1 billion users, and all it got was this lousy ad

World's largest social network celebrates major milestone -- one overshadowed by its own confusing commercial

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One can safely assume W+K collected buttloads of money for this (though I certainly hope they didn't take payment in stock). And it made me think, heck, if they could do it, why couldn't I?

Facebook. It's a blender. It's a monkey wrench. It's fertilizer and cobwebs and corn muffins. It's a country song playing on the radio of a pickup truck rolling down a gravel path on a dark Louisiana night, and the sound of a baby crying in the forest, and elderberries. It's a deserted island in the South Pacific where all the birds have been eaten by snakes.

Facebook is that feeling you get when you sit on a public toilet seat and discover that it is warm and slightly damp. You understand someone else has been there before you, and realize you are not alone in the universe.

See? Easy. That'll be $10 million, please.

All snark aside, reaching 1 billion members is an amazing achievement. Outside of the Internet itself, I cannot think of another nongovernmental entity that could make such a claim. The only part of that commercial that made any sense to me is when it compared Facebook to a "great nation."

Even more impressive is the engineering it took to get there. If anyone ever needed a case study about a business that scales, it's Facebook. In my memory, Facebook has rarely if ever gone down. Maybe a minute or three, here or there, it's unavailable. But overall, the uptime has been astounding -- way beyond anything Google, Microsoft, Twitter, or anyone else on that level could claim. I tip my fedora to them there as well.

Where Facebook tends to fall down, ironically enough, is in how it communicates with the public. Whether it's a blog post announcing a new policy or an emailed statement from an anonymous spokeshuman responding to another controversy or even Zuckerberg's occasional public appearances, Facebook is amazingly tone deaf. The crew really doesn't get that we really don't get them. This commercial, seemingly an attempt to reach a broader public, is a perfect example of that.

Personally, I think Facebook has peaked in this country. On the other hand, it has barely scratched the surface in Asia and South America. There's plenty of room for growth (as well as plenty of competition). It's possible Facebook will figure out how to fix its communications problems as well, sometime before the second billionth member signs up.

In the meantime, have a seat and enjoy the show. Just be careful not to sit on Facebook.

If Facebook isn't a chair, what is it? Name your favorite inanimate metaphor below or email me: cringe@infoworld.com.

This article, "Facebook hits 1 billion users, and all it got was this lousy ad," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the crazy twists and turns of the tech industry with Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Field blog, and subscribe to Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter.

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