No one has really been able to give Facebook a hearty thumbs-up for its first year since its IPO.
First, the IPO itself spurred a huge amount of controversy, and then the stock price took a nose dive and has still to recover to its original launch price. While executives like Sheryl Sandberg enjoyed positive media attention, the site itself has wrestled with difficult headlines about privacy failures and government access to user data. Its recent big-ticket effort to grab the first-touch experience on Android phones, Facebook Home, got off to a terrible start and has been temporarily suspended. Google recently snatched up the navigation app Waze, a company Facebook was eyeing. And all the while, Facebook's big rivals Twitter and Google+ continue to grow and add new features.
This made this week's shareholder meeting, the first one Mark Zuckerberg has faced as CEO of a public company, a bit of a thorny affair. Stock owners expressed nervousness about revenue growth, privacy failings, UI flaws, and the potential for users to ignore advertising. Questions from shareholders reflected these sentiments, and unfortunately, neither Zuckerberg nor his fellow executives seemed to have meaningful answers prepared. Here, some of the questions:
On Google+ being a Facebook rival:
On the NSA affair:
On the massive price drop in shares and how Facebook plans to turn it around (note the big "if" in the answer):
On the drowning of meaningful content from close friends in the news feed:
As the shareholder meeting unfolded, Twitter users chimed in with just the right mix of snark and insightful commentary:
Vindu Goel noted a pointed question from a disgruntled user: "Great shareholder question: Why can't you call Facebook for help, especially when your account is hacked?"
Megan McCarthy, noticing the kind of non-technical questions from the audience, one of whom admitted to not knowing how to use Facebook, remarked "The Facebook shareholder meeting is an eye-opener about the type of people who invest in Facebook."
Mike Isaac tried to sum up the meeting in a few simple phrases: "FB shareholder mtg, in a nutshell -- Shareholders: 'why does stock suck. make it go up.' Facebook: 'yes we know. just wait a while.'"
Today, Facebook announced the addition of hashtag functionality, but if it wants to impress shareholders, it might need to #shapeup.
[Image: By Flickr user mauriz]