Archive for the ‘Technology & Internet’ Category

Is it Right Time for Facebook to float an IPO?

Facebook, with a base of over 650 million active users, continues to be the top-notch social networking site. The term ‘active user’ in context of Facebook implies a user who has logged in to the site in the last 30 days. More than 250 million active users currently access Facebook through their mobile devices with a level of activity twice that of non-mobile users. Other social networking sites such as Twitter, LinkedIn etc. lag much behind Facebook in terms of the user base and its engagement. Twitter, for instance, has just over 200 million registered users and Linkedin just over 100 million registered users.

Let’s now take a peep into some amazing facts about Facebook (Source: Facebook):

  • About 50% of the active users of Facebook log on to the site in any given day
  • An average user on Facebook has 130 friends and is connected to 80 community pages, groups & events
  • An average user creates 90 pieces of content including links, news / updates, photo albums, notes etc. every month
  • Facebook users spend over 700 billion minutes per month on it

I happened to compile information on some of the parameters for Facebook as well as its nearest rivals viz. LinkedIn and Twitter. Here is what I could gather as a comparative analysis:

Launch Year 2004 2003 2006
Minimum Age for Registration 13 years 18 years None
Number of Users 650 million+ 100 million+ 200 million+
Employee Strength 2000+ 1000+ 550+
Available in Languages Over 75 languages including Hindi, Punjabi & many other regional langauges English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Russian, Spanish and Turkish
Office in India Hyderabad Mumbai None
Alexa Rank 2 16 9

If we were to go by the Facebook monitoring site Inside Facebook, Facebook has lost users in the some of the regions including in the key countries like US and UK. Facebook has been quick to deny this. However, it has been widely acknowledged in many reports that the rate of growth of Facebook user base is not as good as it used to be in the year 2010. This brings us to the question if it is the right time for Facebook to go public & get listed by floating an IPO?

Last month, LinkedIn became the first major social networking company to go public and its shares began trading on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol “LNKD”. Its huge success can be gauged from the fact that LinkedIn shares more than doubled in value on the very first day of the trading itself. It has paved the way for other social networking companies to follow the suit.

Presently, Facebook terms of registration restrict a person from using Facebook if he/she is under 13 in line with age limit dictated by the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act which was made Federal Law in America in 1998. However, Facebook founder & CEO Mark Zuckerberg wants the social networking site to let children under the age of 13 use it and he is willing to fight to get the law changed. Probably, this is an extra mile Facebook might be willing to go when the growth is becoming sluggish. Going by these events, the day should not be far when we would also see Facebook going public.

Will Mobile Number Portability Trigger Consolidation?

India’s mobile subscriber base crossed 771 million by the end of Jan 2011. With around 20 million mobile users added every month, by now we must have already crossed the figure of 800 million subscribers. The market share of major Indian telecom players at the end of Jan’11 stood as given in the following figure:

Mobile Number Portability (MNP) was launched in India on January 20, 2011. Just 12 days of MNP during Jan’11 have thrown a different set of statistics. While some of the telecom operators viz. Videocon and HFCL have witnessed negative net addition in the wireless subscriber base (GSM + CDMA) during Jan, some large telecom operators viz. Vodafone, Bharti Airtel and Reliance have made substantial gains. This can be adjudged from the fact that these three large telecom operators, which used to together constitute about 40-42% of the net additions prior to the launch of MNP, witnessed sharp rise in this percentage and constituted over 50% of the net additions in the Jan subscriber base. It remains to be seen as to what the statistics will look like when Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) releases the figures for Feb’11, a first complete month of MNP in effect. If we were to go by these trends, this phenomenon may be even more pronounced for subsequent months, more so when the consumers become increasingly more aware. After all, the barrier to change the existing telecom operator is as low as Rs. 19.

I have captured the month-wise percentage net addition of subscribers for the various Indian telecom players for a three-month period starting from Nov’10 to Jan’11 in the following figure:

Now, is this a signal of the consolidation for the Indian Telecom Industry? Only the time will answer this question. Quality of service (QoS) is presumably the major differentiator for users to hop from one service provider to another.  The Indian telecom players are already grappling with the falling average revenue per user (ARPU). In a fiercely competitive Indian telecom marketplace, it is very difficult for the small players to invest significantly into improving their QoS levels when the margins are already under pressure. Mobile number portability, as it appears, has only added to their woes. If things were to continue in this fashion, the time is not far when we will see a wave of consolidation in the Indian Telecom Industry.

Identity Theft: Are We Aware of Consequences?

Now a days, social networking has become buzz of the day. People continue to throng social networking sites in more and more numbers every day. There is nothing wrong with social networking as long as it is used for the purpose it is meant for. The problem creeps when one tries to befool others by pretending as someone else after stealing that person’s identity.

I’ll tell you an interesting piece of story on Twitter to which I was myself a witness. A girl named Ritu Walia (name changed to protect identity), a 19-year old teenager from Haryana, created a Twitter account with the name of Nareshgoyal9w, mentioned profile name as Naresh Goyal, wrote in the Bio as Chairman of Jet Airways, uploaded a background design featuring exclusively Naresh Goyal and also used his photograph as profile photo. Since, Mr. Naresh Goyal in reality had no existing account on Twitter at that point of time, anyone could easily leverage it to one’s advantage. Probably, Ritu’s intentions were not in that line and may be she wanted to just exploit it for entertainment purpose.

Gradually, she started tweeting many famous personalities posing as Mr. Naresh Goyal. One amongst them was our dear Mr. Anand Mahindra, Vice Chairman and Managing Director, Mahindra Group. Posing as Naresh Goyal, she tweeted Mr. Mahindra, “I am following you”. Mr. Mahindra reciprocated by mentioning, “And i shall follow u back, Nareshji!” (See the actual snapshot below)

From here started the tussle. After corporate big shots themselves started following Nareshgoyal9w, many ordinary people like us also fell in line with them and as a result, the followers of the user Nareshgoyal9w started increasing exponentially. However, a judicious user named Mr. Kumara Guru (kumaraguru), Associate Director – Dean’s Office at Indian School of Business, Hyderabad, preferred to confirm with Jet Airways if Nareshgoyal9w was the official Twitter handle of Mr. Goyal. JetAirways tweeted Mr. Guru with the following message:

Mr. Guru was quick to retweet it to Mr. Mahindra to bring it to his knowledge that NareshGoyal9w was a fake user posing as Mr. Goyal. Realising this, Mr. Mahindra in turn retweeted this to all his followers to spread the word:

Only after Jet Airways, threatened to sue Ritu for impersonation and reported the matter to Twitter, she realised that she had committed a blunder and the only way to escape was to disclose the full identity and seek apology publicly. She then changed the profile name to mention her name explicitly and mentioned the Twitter account Bio as Fan Club of Naresh Goyal. She also tweeted Mr. Mahindra that she never stated that the account belonged to Mr. Naresh Goyal. Then Mr. Mahindra retweeted this to all his followers taking the sympathetic view.

The problems didn’t end here. How can such an issue remain away from the glare of media? Ritu started getting the tweets from Surender Sharma, a Delhi based journalist. He continuously tweeted Ritu and insisted her to give her phone number or else make a call on his number. Ritu was so afraid by this point of time that she was not in a position to take any step without the guidance of her parents. The journalist was continuously insisting Ritu (through tweets) to share her side of the story. Ritu didn’t call the journalist. But, the next day, she could see her actions becoming news in some of the web media and this was reported by the same journalist – Surender Sharma.

See, how an act, though committed unintentionally, may lead to serious consequences and one may end up not only getting defamed but also find him/her behind the bars within no time. 19-year student old Ritu Walia was a real-life example.

Some people may be lucky enough to not get the attention of their Identity Theft efforts. One amongst them is Mr. Jaydip Parikh who seemingly ran a parallel Twitter account of Mr. Narendra Modi, Gujrat CM by the name thenarendramodi. From first look, the foremost purpose of his creating the account seemed to be directing the traffic to his website from the links posted in Tweets from this account. I was well aware of the official account of Mr. Modi because I was following and was also being followed by Mr. Modi on Twitter. It was only after my tweets to Jaydip that he changed the Twitter Name from “Narendra Modi” to “Narendra Modi Blog” and mentioned in the Bio that the account was an unofficial blog and not real twitter account of Mr. Modi. Otherwise, his case could have been even more complicated than that of Ritu Walia.

Under Indian Cyber Law, Identity Theft on social networking sites is a crime and as such the person committing this act is punishable under the law. It’s high time we understood the consequences of Identity Theft on social networking sites.

Remember that Social Media should improve your life, not cost you your life!!!