Yves here. We edited this important post from a version on Aaron Greenspan’s website. Lambert reordered it to make the likely magnitude of Facebook fake accounts the starting point, which we see as the most damning evidence against Facebook. Most people accept the proposition that Mark Zuckerberg is running a less than trustworthy business that among other things, has no concern for the safekeeping of personal information. But the idea that his business looks like a Ponzi scheme is a new disclosure and merits a hard look.
By Aaron Greenspan, founder of the Think Computer Corporation1
Facebook now has a market capitalization approaching $600 billion, making it nominally one of the most valuable companies on earth. It’s a true business miracle: a company that was out of users in 2012 managed to find a wellspring of nearly infinite and sustained growth that has lasted it, so far, half of the way through 2019.
So what is that magical ingredient, that secret sauce, that “genius” trade secret, that turned an over-funded money-losing startup into one of America’s greatest business success stories? It’s one that Bernie Madoff would recognize instantly: fraud, in the form of fake accounts.
Old money goes out, and new money comes in to replace it. That’s how a traditional Ponzi scheme works. Madoff kept his going for decades, managing to attain the rank of Chairman of the NASDAQ while he was at it.
Zuckerberg’s version is slightly different, but only slightly: old users leave after getting bored, disgusted and distrustful, and new users come in to replace them. Except that as Mark’s friend and lieutenant, Sam Lessin told us, the “new users” part of the equation was already getting to be a problem in 2012. On October 26, Lessin, wrote, “we are running out of humans (and have run-out of valuable humans from an advertiser perspective).” At the time, it was far from clear that Facebook even had a viable business model, and according to Frontline, Sheryl Sandberg was panicking due to the company’s poor revenue numbers.
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