“What makes this hard is that these companies seem to be so many years away from the kind of earnings that the valuation numbers are forecasting for them,” says Andrew Metrick, finance professor at Wharton. The $15 billion MySpace figure “would imply that a lot more people will be on MySpace than are currently on it.”
Metrick believes social networking sites will not be a passing fad. But there’s no guarantee that MySpace, Facebook or any of the other current players will be the big winners in the end. Fader, too, believes social networking is here to stay, but he thinks it may work best not as a freestanding function but as an additional feature on sites that draw users for other reasons. Hence, the winners may turn out to be other sites that adopt social networking features. Or they may be new players, or current networking sites that broaden their offerings.