The two companies said on Wednesday that Microsoft would invest $240 million for a 1.6 percent stake in Facebook. The investment values the three-year-old Facebook, which will bring in about $150 million in revenue this year, at $15 billion.
The deal ends two months of jockeying between three major Internet players for the right to invest in and forge close ties with Facebook.
As part of the deal, Microsoft will sell the banner ads appearing on Facebook outside of the United States, splitting the revenue with it. Last year, Microsoft struck a deal with Facebook to run banner ads on the site in the United States through 2011.
The high valuation also represents a belief that Facebook is creating an important new operating system — one that exists on the Web instead of on personal computers. In May, it opened its platform, inviting other companies and third party developers to create tools for the site and share in the advertising revenues.
The move unleashed a flurry of activity around the social network. More than 4,000 applications, like games and music-sharing tools, have since been created for the site, which in turn has accelerated Facebook’s membership growth. The company says it now has more than 42 million members and will exceed 60 million members by the end of the year.
“Once a social operating system takes over a country it’s like it becomes the native language of that country,” said Lee Lorenzen, a venture capitalist who is bullish on Facebook and notes that Google’s Orkut dominates Brazil, Friendster dominates the Philippines and Facebook is becoming the dominant forum in the United States, Canada and Western Europe.
Facebook boosters say that social networking represents the future of online activity.. Advertisers are attracted to these properties because they offer an opportunity to aim ads to particular users interested in their product or service.
Want to find me on Facebook? I finally caved and joined, and for the most part, I'm impressed. Let me know if you want to find me and I'll tell you how.