Writing in the latest issue of MIT's Technology Review, Tom Simonite looks at the potential of Facebook's data analytics activities as a major revenue source. Not much is known about the team assigned to develop this business but the market cap would indicate that much is expected. Very much is expected. A buy of the stock at these valuations is akin to a vote that yes, Cameron Marlow and his team will deliver...
Now that the company has gone public, the pressure to develop new sources of profit is likely to force it to do more with its hoard of information. That stash of data looms like an oversize shadow over what today is a modest online advertising business, worrying privacy-conscious Web users and rivals such as Google. Everyone has a feeling that this unprecedented resource will yield something big, but nobody knows quite what.
Heading Facebook's effort to figure out what can be learned from all our data is Cameron Marlow, a tall 35-year-old who until recently sat a few feet away from Zuckerberg. The group Marlow runs has escaped the public attention that dogs Facebook's founders and the more headline-grabbing features of its business. Known internally as the Data Science Team, it is a kind of Bell Labs for the social-networking age. The group has 12 researchers—but is expected to double in size this year. They apply math, programming skills, and social science to mine our data for insights that they hope will advance Facebook's business and social science at large. Whereas other analysts at the company focus on information related to specific online activities, Marlow's team can swim in practically the entire ocean of personal data that Facebook maintains. Of all the people at Facebook, perhaps even including the company's leaders, these researchers have the best chance of discovering what can really be learned when so much personal information is compiled in one place.
I'm not an investor in Facebook right now - I tend not to place bets based on potential where expectations are high and patience is thin. But I wouldn't bet against the potential here either. I suppose my own take is somewhere in no man's land awaiting more, no pun intended, data on their progress.