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TheStreet Open House

Here's Why Facebook Could Die an Ugly Death

We cannot undo these things we've done.
-- Bruce Springsteen, "Outlaw Pete"

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- There was a period of time when the media, investors and others criticized the newly public Facebook (FB) for not acting like a public company.

We're coming up on the one-year anniversary of those days, a time when I suggested Mark Zuckerberg tell the public to drop dead. Dateline, July 3, 2012:

Ever since the Facebook IPO, the popular furor chided Zuck for not making a "statement" about everything that went down. The media ridiculed him for scheduling two of his life's biggest events -- the IPO and his wedding -- back to back. Of course, he's a multi-billionaire now, so Zuck should have just faxed his main squeeze the prenuptial agreement, ordered in a few pizzas and got back to work. As if the media hacks who generate all of this transparent outrage even have a clue about what a CEO like Zuckerberg does.
Let's get one thing clear: Rare-breed visionaries generally do not do conference calls.

But, unlike Apple's (AAPL) Steve Jobs and Amazon.com's (AMZN) Jeff Bezos, Zuckerberg did the conference call. And that wasn't all.

He quickly became a heck of a lot more public than he used to be. Under pressure, he took Facebook's righteous social mission and chucked it out the window. Sheryl Sandberg -- as much as I love that woman -- was busy writing her book. Then she was busy promoting it. And Zuckerberg was running a public company the one way great visionaries should never run public companies ... like a public company.

Now Zuckerberg listens to the peanut gallery. He does what he is asked to do. He does the expected. He doesn't act as much as he reacts. He permits other companies to dictate the rules of engagement. I provided some perspective and context Thursday with Jake Tapper of CNN on "The Lead":

I often chide Pandora (P) for not moving into or increasing activity in new areas fast enough. However, at the same time, I recognize we must credit Pandora's focus for much of its success.

Pandora does not allow external forces to determine the evolution of its strategy. Pandora is radio. Bottom line. Not many other bells and whistles. It has a timetable for elements that will complement this core offering. It will not speed up that process no matter how much heat it finds itself dealing with.

This focus provides an excellent consumer experience and -- all else equal -- a relatively steady business. This is not a company stopping and starting, twisting and turning, copying and backtracking.

Apple used to be this way. Facebook, prior to going public and for a short period of time after, was this way. But once a company loses that swagger, that attitude ... once the culture changes, it's not easy -- it might not be possible -- to get it back. At least not anytime soon or without significant change at the top.

Facebook will be fine near-term. The stock might even go up as, initially, Facebook shares the lead with Twitter and Pandora -- behind Google (GOOG) -- in the mobile advertising revolution. However, as I explained on CNN, given the way Zuckerberg is now running the company, it's not nearly as great of a long-term proposition I once thought it was. With Facebook's size and scale, it's relatively easy to grab low-hanging fruit and then some. This practically free ride will not last forever.

-- Written by Rocco Pendola in Santa Monica, Calif.

Rocco Pendola is TheStreet's Director of Social Media. Pendola's daily contributions to TheStreet frequently appear on CNBC and at various top online properties, such as Forbes.

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