Facebook’s S-1 Language: Lots Of “Control”–But Not Much “Privacy”

Facebook’s S-1 document is the hottest read since Harry Potter put down his wand. We gaze into this word cloud and parse the language to find hidden gems.


Facebook’s mission is to “make the world more open and connected,” it says right at the top of the S-1 document filed late yesterday with the SEC. People use the site “to stay connected with their friends and family, to discover what is going on in the world around them, and to share and express what matters to them to the people they care about,” while developers use it to make apps, and advertisers use it to gain access to its “more than 800 million monthly active users (MAUs).”

So far so good–no huge surprises there. But let’s dig a little deeper into the doc.

Those three little letters–MAU–pop up 39 times throughout the document, demonstrating that Mark Zuckerberg’s (113 uses of his name, incidentally) site is well aware that its only real assests are its users (507 uses of this) and the interconnections they’ve logged between their groups of friends (98 uses, network gets 19 uses, networking 6). Ignoring the common words, the most used word in the entire document is the word “stock”–with 1,029 mentions. “Facebook” itself gets 407 mentions and fiscal terms fill up many of the next rank of popular words (“tax” gets 223 uses, “revenue” 184 for example). 

Now, the most revealing parts of the filing: The word “control” pops up 102 times while “privacy” is used just 35 times. Is Facebook more about mastering its user’s wishes than it is about maintaining their privacy? You’d be forgiven for wondering that, given Mark Zuckerberg’s crusade to change the common perception of privacy in order to drive revenues (granted, some of the uses of “control” have to do with company management).

The truth is, this is a rather dry document–deliberately so, from a legal standpoint. Words like “happiness” and “human” are rare (1 use and 3 uses, respectively) while words like “data” and “equity” are common (114 uses, 109 uses).

But we can’t help wondering if Facebook’s future isn’t revealed here, as well. So far Zuckerberg has had more or less free reign (moderated by regular meetings with COO Sheryl Sandberg–45 uses of her name) to do as he wishes with the site, adding features and forcing controversial redesigns and privacy changes. When Facebook becomes accountable to its shareholders, that will change, with much more emphasis on generating revenue and converting it efficiently into “profits” (8 uses) by farming data out to paying ad partners. That means there will likely be fewer surprising and delightful features that Zuck thinks are a good idea–and that users enjoy. Will the joy of Facebook’s current services get buried beneath the demands of making more money? Time–and strategy–will tell.


[Image via Wordle]

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