More from Mike Elgan

Elgan: Facebook's Summer of Fail

The social networking sites' woes started with its IPO and have continued ever since

1 2 Page 2
Page 2 of 2

A startup called Limited Run posted a scathing commentary about why they intended to leave Facebook. The post said their own analytics revealed that 80% of the Facebook advertising clicks they were paying for were from "bots," not humans.

They also changed their company name, and asked Facebook to reflect the change on their Facebook page. But Facebook allegedly told them that in order to change their name on Facebook, they would have to spend $2,000 more per month on Facebook advertising.

The company has since removed their complaint from Facebook, which they explained in a company blog post. Apparently, the small company found the tsunami of press attention overwhelming and distracting.

An investigation by Facebook found no evidence of the click-bots claim, but hasn't yet issued a statement on the name-change claim. The details about the dispute remain unclear. But even if Facebook did nothing wrong, it was a widely reported story that damaged the company's reputation.

The bad news keeps piling up

Although it's been a horrible summer overall, it seems to have gotten even worse this week.

The company is having trouble with developers. A high-profile developer named Dalton Caldwell wrote an open letter this week, picked up by the media, accusing Facebook of hardball bully tactics.

Google Senior Vice President Vic Gundotra wrote a widely circulated Google+ post that linked to the Caldwell screed, asserting Google's respect for developers and implying that Facebook has no such respect.

Facebook is also bleeding executives. Senior executives Katie Mitic and Ethan Beard announced their resignations this week, bringing the number of high-level departures since the IPO to three.

(Even Mark Zuckerberg's sister, Arielle Zuckerberg, and his brother-in-law, Harry Schmidt, husband of Mark's other sister, Donna, now work for Google, although somewhat accidentally. They both work at Wildfire, the social-marketing startup that Google just bought for $250 million.)

Facebook security is also a hot topic now. For example, several Major League Baseball Teams' Facebook pages were hacked this week.

To sum up: Facebook is having a tough summer, investors are losing confidence, users are losing interest and developers are losing their tempers.

Can Facebook rally? Who knows?

The important thing is that it's still very early in the social networking business. The leading company, the business models that work, the right mix of services, monetization and privacy -- all these things have yet to be determined.

And it's still true that Facebook has the home-court advantage: It's the only social network "mainstream" enough for you to assume that any random person on the street is likely to have an account. People are creatures of habit, and they won't leave en masse without a really good reason. The future is Facebook's to lose.

But can Facebook get its mojo back? Can they orchestrate an Autumn of Awesome followed by a Winter of Win?

Maybe. Either way, it's hard to imagine things getting any worse for the company than they are right now.

Mike Elgan writes about technology and tech culture. Contact and learn more about Mike at, or subscribe to his free e-mail newsletter, Mike's List. You can also see more articles by Mike Elgan on

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

1 2 Page 2
Page 2 of 2
Shop Tech Products at Amazon