Facebook: The $41 Billion Social Network

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facebook_small.jpgADOTAS – Coming this fall to your local ISP — Facebook is… The $41 Billion Social Network.

Dammit, why did I waste references to Steve Austin as “The Six Million Dollar Man” last week on Google for its AdSense update? Especially when everyone knows Google more resembles the “Bionic Woman.” (The original, not the remake — oh, Lindsay Wagner, how you stole my young boy’s heart as you leaped over electric fences.)

Before it unveils its new webmail solution, Bloomberg Businessweek reports that Facebook is worth $41 billion. Wait, wait — Facebook is a private company, how can anybody except for CEO Mark Zuckerberg know what it’s really worth? The $41 billion valuation comes courtesy of SecondMarket, an exchange for trading shares of private companies, where Facebook stock hit $16.

To put that in perspective, the social empire supposedly has surpassed eBay (valued at $39.3 billion) to become the third largest U.S. Internet business following Amazon ($74.4 billion) and Google (192.9 billion).

If SecondMarket’s valuation can be trusted, that’s a helluva lot of growth for the social network — in 2007, when Microsoft bought a 1.6% stake in the company for $240 million in preferred stock, Facebook’s worth was tagged at $15 billion. (As history tends to repeat itself, there was a also lot of hullabaloo about whether the social network was worth that then — Twitter got similar media treatment when it hit $1 billion.)

However, last year when the company settled with ConnectU and the rowing Winklevosses, Facebook valued itself at $3.7 billion according to a leaked court transcript. Why the Winkelvoss twins didn’t call bulls— at the time mystifies me, but they’re smartly suing again, claiming that Zuck and crew undervalued the company’s worth. In September the Financial Times pegged its valuation at $33 billion — the last year has been kind to Facebook, but $30 billion kind?

Alas, investors will be once again chomping at the bit for a Facebook IPO. The Facebook crew has repeatedly said they’ll go public when they’re good and ready. However, with the mail product about to be released and the company working on a mobile platform, the social network is on innovation roll. What would be the point in going public like Google and Yahoo, and suffering from investor mood swings?

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