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A New Face At Facebook

Kim Hart

Two days after the formal announcement, the blogosphere is still buzzing about Facebook's most recent hire. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has lured Sheryl Sandberg, a top Google executive, to the social networking company.

It's surely a sign that Facebook is growing fast--perhaps faster than its young leaders can keep up with. Since it launched in 2004, it has become the sixth most-trafficked site on the Web, according to comScore, and the company says an average of 250,000 new members register with the site each day. Its valuation got a big boost in November when Microsoft took a $240 million stake in the company.

But it's had growing pains as well. The company's most prominent misstep was the introduction of its Beacon feature, which tracks users' behavior on sites outside of Facebook and then broadcasts their activities to friends. The feature met serious backlash from members who saw it as an invasion of privacy. Zuckerberg apologized and made Beacon an opt-in feature.

Soon after, some bloggers and tech pundits began speculating that Facebook would benefit from a more seasoned executive at its helm. Indeed, other successful tech companies founded by twenty-somethings (Google, eBay) have hired experienced CEOs to help them navigate the choppy waters of Silicon Valley success. Zuckerberg, however, seems reluctant to give up his title, and Sandberg will serve as his No. 2.

Sandberg's arrival also has some significance here in Washington. Part of her job will be handling public policy issues. Before joining Google six years ago, she was chief of staff to the U.S. Treasury Secretary under Bill Clinton. It's safe to say privacy issues will be high on her priority list as members of Congress start to give it more attention. Maybe its a sign Facebook will bolster its presence inside the Beltway in the near future.

By Kim Hart  |  March 5, 2008; 10:15 AM ET  | Category:  Kim Hart
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Zuckerberg is making a move that will likely prove fruitful for Facebook - it's a smart move. This is very much parallel to Google's move to bring Eric Schmidt from Novell to give experienced guidance to a company with a great product, but a lack of executive experience. The only problem Facebook has is monitizing it's massive and demographically rich user base. Myspace has done alright at this in recent months, but it doesn't sound like they've hit the homerun that many, including Google though they could. Facebook will never become Google because it is much more limited in reach and is a destination, rather than a network, but if they can use the data they've got on their members, which is about as good as it gets for demographic and targeting purposes, they should be able to provide increasingly valuable offerings to advertisers looking to get in front of a particular customer base.

Posted by: Scott | March 5, 2008 1:44 PM

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