Margareta Pagano: Mr Facebook, who do you think you are?

An astronomical price tag for the social network but, not only does no one seem to know what it may become, it could already be on the way out

The big question to ask about Facebook, and whether it is worth the astronomical $100bn price tag, is not what it is today but what it is going to become. As it exists now, Facebook is a global web interface, a means by which 900 million people around the world chat and exchange photographs, recommend bands or let each other know what time a party starts. But once you strip aside the hype, there's nothing that Facebook does which other services don't also offer; it's not unique in any way.

To find out what Facebook might become, I've been reading copious amounts of research from all sorts of smart social media experts and financial analysts. And, you know what, no one has a clue; most of it is pie-in-the-sky stuff, studies showing that online advertising has risen 420-fold over the past few years and is set to keep climbing. Why?

There's no reason it should and that's why experts can only value Facebook on what it has been, and that's no guide to the future. Instead, I decided to do my own research with my 17-year-old son, three of his friends, my 20-year-old daughter and another two siblings in their twenties, all Facebook addicts I may add, to find out what they think.

Here's the verdict; one said he would pay £10 a year to get Facebook, three said they are bored and Facebook is dead, another said it's entertainment and uses it mainly to chat to friends they see all day but could easily do without it, another said founder Mark Zuckerberg was daft not to buy Twitter and the eldest said he wished he were Mr Zuckerberg.

Even more interesting was that all said they plan to start new pages or sign off when they move on to college or work for privacy reasons. Anecdotally, they said they have noticed that younger siblings prefer tweeting and are not signing on.

Their views mirror a CNBC/AP poll in the US last week that claims half the country says Facebook is on its way out. As my small sample shows, the young are fickle when it comes to brand loyalty; each generation also likes its own new thing. They stay with Apple because it makes beautiful and innovative products, but there is no such stickiness with Facebook. There are also hundreds of young would-be techies out there already working on the next idea to steal Facebook's space.

If customers are not loyal to the Facebook brand there is only one way Mr Zuckerberg can build the business. He has to become the Procter & Gamble or Unilever of the social media world and buy up all new rivals. But it's going to be tough; the social media world is in upheaval and advertisers are experimenting with the web and changing their minds all the time. Look at General Motors pulling advertising from Facebook because its ads haven't worked.

Relying on advertising is dangerous. Mr Zuckerberg hopes revenue will roll in from the advertisers when he can offer clients more personalised, profiling of his users and their potential customers. Facebook is already the most narcissist organisation I can think of, but such gathering of information makes it sinister as well. We know the alphabet people can find out what they want at any one time. But do people want their most intimate thoughts and relationships stored with companies like Facebook? The CIA would just love that.

What's that saying? Sell on the news? Well, to my mind the real news is that nearly all the early investors and founders of Facebook are selling more shares than they originally planned. Goldman Sachs has more than doubled the number of shares it's selling to $1bn, Tiger Global Management is selling more than it intended, as are board members. New investors will make some money when the shares start trading properly this week because of all the hype but the real money has already been made. The investment bankers have done it again.

We can only hope the Spanish bank crisis can be contained

It's a year ago this month that los indignados, a group of frustrated and out-of-work Spaniards, starting marching across Spain and up into France in protest over welfare cuts and soaring unemployment.

Around eight million are estimated to have taken part in the demonstrations over the past year with protesters blaming the corrupt politicians and greedy bankers for the country's economic plight and arguing for political reform.

They were ahead of their time. Today it's the money that is walking out of Spain as fears grow that the country is sliding back into recession and its banks are effectively bust because of bad loans to the property sector.

The Bank of Spain admitted on Friday these were up by a third to €148bn while the government was forced to deny a run of around €1bn on the country's fourth biggest bank, Bankia, after it was nationalised last week. It's no surprise householders are taking money out of ATMs and deposit accounts.

The situation hasn't been helped by the Moody's decision to cut credit ratings on 16 Spanish banks, including Santander's UK subsidiary. So it's not a shock that Santander UK's customers are worried, and some are already taking out deposits. They are right to be nervous. But should also know that their deposits are covered – up to a cap of £85,000 – by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme. If accounts are held by a couple, each person has their own limit.

Even after the downgrade, Santander UK has a standalone credit rating which is one of the highest of all the UK banks. It's also run completely autonomously from the Spanish parent with a tight ring-fence. According to the Financial Services Authority, the UK business should be fine even if there are further problems at its parent.

Spain's banks should also have plenty of liquidity as they have been the biggest users of the ECB's liquidity facility so problems shouldn't get worse. But, as we saw with Northern Rock, banking is all confidence. Fingers crossed.

Arts & Entertainment
The Honesty Policy is a group of anonymous Muslims who believe that the community needs a space to express itself without shame or judgement
music
News
Waitrose will be bringing in more manned tills
newsOverheard in Waitrose: documenting the chatter in 'Britain's poshest supermarket'
Life & Style
life
News
Who makes you happy?
happy listSend your nominations now for the Independent on Sunday Happy List
VIDEO
Arts & Entertainment
Ian Anderson, the leader of British rock band Jethro Tull, (right) and British guitar player Martin Barre (left) perform on stage
musicJethro Tull frontman leads ‘prog rock’ revival
Arts & Entertainment
Back in the suit: There are only so many variations you can spin on the lives or adventures of Peter Parker
filmReview: Almost every sequence and set-up in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 seems familiar from some earlier superhero film
Arts & Entertainment
Jack Gleeson as Joffrey Baratheon in Game of Thrones
tv
Life & Style
Father and son: Michael Williams with son Edmund
lifeAs his son’s bar mitzvah approaches, CofE-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys he’s experienced in learning about his family’s other faith
Sport
Gareth Bale dribbled from inside his own half and finished calmly late in the final to hand Real a 2-1 win at the Mestalla in Valencia
sport
Arts & Entertainment
Who laughs lass: Jenny Collier on stage
comedy... writes Jenny Collier, the comedian whose recent show was cancelled because there were 'too many women' on the bill
News
House proud: keeping up with the Joneses now extends to children's playhouses
newsLuxury playhouses now on the market for as much as £800
News
news
Life & Style
Stir it up: the writer gets a lichen masterclass from executive chef Vivek Singh of the Cinnamon restaurants
food + drinkLichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines
Extras
indybest
Arts & Entertainment
Ken Loach (left) and Mike Leigh who will be going head to head for one of cinema's most coveted prizes at this year's Cannes Film Festival
filmKen Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
News
The academic, Annamaria Testa, has set out on her website a list of 300 English words that she says Italians ought to stop using
newsAcademic speaks out against 'Italianglo' - the use of English words in Italian language
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

1st Line Helpdesk Engineer Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company has been providing on site ...

Telesales & Sales Support Apprentice

£221.25 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is a well established Inter...

Client Relationship Manager - SQL, Python

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Client Relationship Manager - SQL...

**Financial Services Tax**

£35000 - £50000 per annum: Pro-Recruitment Group: Take your chance to join the...

Day In a Page

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit