When Facebook went public on May 18th 2012, it was one of the biggest IPO’s in history, instantly valuing the social network at $104 billion. People were skeptical at first and there was even talk about Facebook not being able to sustain the lofty expectations of Wall Street.
Fast forward 4 years and, not only have we watched as Facebook has managed to prove all doubters wrong, but as of this week, it has taken it’s place as one of the top 5 brands in the world. [Full Brand report here if you want a look].
Cynics credit Facebook’s success with the savvy acquisitions of Instagram, WhatsApp, Oculus, ad revenue and the Facebook Messenger platform that is being build out for brands, but the real reason for Facebook’s commercial success is not economic, it is cultural.
While Facebook certainly is a commercial success, people forget the real reason that Facebook remains not just successful, but RELEVANT. To say that this is because of Zuckerberg (who still has the final say in how Facebook operates), would be doing a disservice to the many great engineers and leaders at Facebook, but he has embedded a vision so deeply into the company that even the sharks of Wall Street haven’t managed to disrupt it. (I’m giving Facebook an unusually wide birth here because I have a point (!), not because I approve of everything they have done to monetise the platform).
Zuckerberg has a vision of how the social web works. We take it for granted now because Facebook (and the social networks that arrived after it), have become part of our everyday lives, but I thought it might be useful to cast a look back at exactly what that vision originally was.
Understanding the importance of the social web is crucial for a number of reasons:
So, as much for my own sanity, as to help restore some of your faith in the social web, I thought it might be worth sharing a letter that many of you may not have seen. It was the open letter that Mark Zuckerberg wrote to Wall Street on Facebook’s IPO submission papers, stating exactly what the social web was, and why they should have faith in Facebook. It was not just 800 words written to seduce potential investors, it was the core belief of the company, and one that I believe still drives them today. This is what makes Facebook (and the social web generally) work. This is the type of vision upon which apps, bots and social networks should be built.
So, if you’ve not read it already, enjoy. And if you have, it probably wouldn’t do any harm to remind yourself why we do the things that we do.
LETTER FROM MARK ZUCKERBERG
“Facebook was not originally created to be a company. It was built to accomplish a social mission — to make the world more open and connected.
We think it’s important that everyone who invests in Facebook understands what this mission means to us, how we make decisions and why we do the things we do. I will try to outline our approach in this letter.
At Facebook, we’re inspired by technologies that have revolutionized how people spread and consume information. We often talk about inventions like the printing press and the television — by simply making communication more efficient, they led to a complete transformation of many important parts of society. They gave more people a voice. They encouraged progress. They changed the way society was organized. They brought us closer together.
Today, our society has reached another tipping point. We live at a moment when the majority of people in the world have access to the internet or mobile phones — the raw tools necessary to start sharing what they’re thinking, feeling and doing with whomever they want. Facebook aspires to build the services that give people the power to share and help them once again transform many of our core institutions and industries.
There is a huge need and a huge opportunity to get everyone in the world connected, to give everyone a voice and to help transform society for the future. The scale of the technology and infrastructure that must be built is unprecedented, and we believe this is the most important problem we can focus on.
We hope to strengthen how people relate to each other.
Even if our mission sounds big, it starts small — with the relationship between two people.
Personal relationships are the fundamental unit of our society. Relationships are how we discover new ideas, understand our world and ultimately derive long-term happiness.
At Facebook, we build tools to help people connect with the people they want and share what they want, and by doing this we are extending people’s capacity to build and maintain relationships.
People sharing more — even if just with their close friends or families — creates a more open culture and leads to a better understanding of the lives and perspectives of others. We believe that this creates a greater number of stronger relationships between people, and that it helps people get exposed to a greater number of diverse perspectives.
By helping people form these connections, we hope to rewire the way people spread and consume information. We think the world’s information infrastructure should resemble the social graph — a network built from the bottom up or peer-to-peer, rather than the monolithic, top-down structure that has existed to date. We also believe that giving people control over what they share is a fundamental principle of this rewiring.
We have already helped more than 800 million people map out more than 100 billion connections so far, and our goal is to help this rewiring accelerate.
We hope to improve how people connect to businesses and the economy.
We think a more open and connected world will help create a stronger economy with more authentic businesses that build better products and services.
As people share more, they have access to more opinions from the people they trust about the products and services they use. This makes it easier to discover the best products and improve the quality and efficiency of their lives”.