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TheStreet Open House

Facebook's Zuckerberg: Tech's Version of a Sellout?

Stocks in this article: FBGOOG

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- I grew up in Western New York, where Buffalo-born and bred The Goo Goo Dolls used to be a punk band called The Sex Maggots. Once the Goos went mainstream, more than a few people from back in the 'hood said they "sold out." Same thing happened to Green Day in Oakland, Springsteen during the "Born in the USA" hysteria and countless other acts from around the world.

You create a hit song. You let somebody market you. You make a ton of money, allegedly compromising your "roots" in the process and some of your "people" and other peanut gallery members chide you for "selling out."

While I don't consider The Goo Goo Dolls, Green Day or Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band sell-outs, I tend not to have a strong opinion either way. That said, you won't find me running around questioning their decisions. Creative people evolve all of the time; purists often want to preserve the past for their own emotional needs to the detriment of somebody else's growth or progress.

That said, I don't have a problem with how Facebook (FB) has evolved under Mark Zuckerberg, but it has been an interesting transformation.

On last week's Facebook earnings call, some form of the word "business" came up 27 times. For example, we heard Mark Zuckerberg tell analysts and investors, don't worry, we'll muck up the skyline with ads on Instagram as well!:

... we're building Instagram to be at business and that we expect that over time we're going to generate a lot of profit from it and probably through advertising.

That's a considerable departure from the sentiment Zuckerberg expressed in the letter he wrote to prospective shareholders in Facebook's IPO prospectus from 2012:

Facebook was not originally founded to be a company. We've always cared primarily about our social mission ... This is a different approach for a public company to take ...
Simply put: we don't build services to make money; we make money to build better services.
And we think this is a good way to build something. These days I think more and more people want to use services from companies that believe in something beyond simply maximizing profits.
By focusing on our mission and building great services, we believe we will create the most value for our shareholders and partners over the long term ...
We don't wake up in the morning with the primary goal of making money ...
Once again, Facebook exists to make the world more open and connected, and not just to build a company. We expect everyone at Facebook to focus every day on how to build real value for the world in everything they do.

Hey, it's all good. But it's instructive at the same time.

Facebook's goal -- and the goal of the games you play through it -- is no more righteous than say Google's (GOOG) or Candy Crush's. Facebook has become obsessed with getting its users to click on ads and/or make the equivalent of in-app purchases. If you can clock in at Facebook Monday morning and tell yourself you're building "real value for the world," the fumes in your newly-painted Mission District loft must be getting to you.

Is serving up ads -- some relevant, some not so much -- a long-term strategy? Can FB become a $100 stock? Given the success the company reported in the most recent quarter, you have to, as I explained Thursday on CNN, give it the benefit of the doubt. And maybe you should have never doubted Facebook in the first place.

But let's face it, Facebook is no better than the city council that shoots down plans for a tall building, but allows Clear Channel to plaster the landscape with ugly billboards.

-- 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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