Facebook Critics Just Don't Get It

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Facebook (FB) still seems misunderstood. When CEO Mark Zuckerberg is not receiving criticism for being "too young" and "inexperienced," he's getting it for wearing hoodies.

But it's a little surprising that Zuckerberg's decision to exercise stock options worth an estimated $3.3 billion is generating grumbling. They're called "options." And they were his to exercise.

True, he reportedly exhausted his supply of options after exercising 60 million of them in 2013.

But that doesn't mean he lacks a significant stake in the company or motivation to make it perform. He still holds more than 420 million Facebook shares worth a total of roughly $26 billion.

Selling stock is no different from what other corporate leaders have done. Facebook shares have more than doubled in the past 12 months. And no one's talking about Zuckerberg and his wife's donation of 18 million Facebook shares valued at nearly $1 billion to a nonprofit. He can't win.

What critics really don't like is that Facebook doesn't "follow the rules."

On the heels of Zuckerberg's $19 billion deal for WhatsApp, Dennis Berman of the The Wall Street Journal wrote: "There's been so little precedent for business at this scale that we have a hard time simply comprehending all of this."

But that's not Facebook's problem.

The only "rules" that matter are growth and profits. Facebook is doing better than most in those categories. 

But some observers have had a difficult time embracing anything Zuckerberg has tried to do over the past two years, including last week's $2 billion dollar acquisition of Oculus.

As with the WhatsApp deal before it, some analysts complained that Facebook was paying too much. Talking points ventured to how Facebook's "ambitions had become scattered." The deal was seen as yet another "head-scratching" event.

But in Facebook's fourth-quarter conference call, Zuckerberg laid out clearly what the company's long-term strategy was. It hinted at these sorts of deals. Analysts just weren't paying attention. During the January quarter's conference call, Zuckerberg said:

"One theme that should be clear from our work on products like Messenger, Groups and Instagram is that our vision for Facebook is to create a set of products that help you share any kind of content you want."

The key words in that statement were "a set of products." And while commenting on the Oculus deal, an excited Zuckerberg offered this vision of virtual reality:

"Imagine enjoying a court side seat at a game, studying in a classroom of students and teachers all over the world or consulting with a doctor face-to-face -- just by putting on goggles in your home."

Zuckerberg believes Oculus has the potential to become the next communication platform, one that can allow people to share unlimited spaces and experiences. Critics hate what they don't understand. But Zuckerberg sees the future. And the future will be more than just mobile.

Zuckerberg is smart enough to not get complacent. Although some observers have complained that Facebook is somehow "losing its cool factor" among teenagers, they conveniently ignore that losing this demographic in apps may not matter, because Oculus may be the product to get them back.

I've said this before: It's time we move past this bashing of Facebook.

A Huffington Post contributor recently called the company "The world's biggest waste of time." The article claims that Facebook  is "just an advanced version of the electronic bulletin board." This was before Zuckerberg picked off Oculus.

A Forbes contributor offered 7 reason to dump Facebook.

A Seeking Alpha contributor has argued that Zuckerberg is being too frivolous with its money. The article didn't mention the $1 billion Zuckerberg gave to charity last December.
 
It seems that no matter how much progress the social media company has made since its initial public offering in 2012, it will never escape this kind of criticism.

With revenue growing in the recent quarter by more than 60%, Zuckerburg does not want to let his foot off the pedal. Critics should fear being run over.

At the time of publication, the author held no position in any of the stocks mentioned.

This article represents the opinion of a contributor and not necessarily that of TheStreet or its editorial staff.

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