Inside a ballroom at the Sheraton New York in Midtown Manhattan, Facebook’s executives, spinmeisters and bankers are choreographing its initial public stock offering. This is no mere I.P.O. It feels like a cultural event, a pinnacle in the history of tech, a moment. The deep pockets have arrived at the Sheraton for a multibillion-dollar sales pitch. If all goes well, Facebook will go public on Friday in an I.P.O. that could value it at nearly $100 billion.
When starting a new Web site or Internet service, most technologists are aiming to sell to a larger company or gain hundreds of millions of users. But for some there is an even bigger glory than cash: their company name becomes a verb. It didn’t take long for Google to win this honor, as people began saying “let me Google that” instead of using the verb “search.” Microsoft hopes that its search engine, Bing, is on its way to this usage too. And of course this idea goes beyond search sites.
Back in 2011, I sat down at a Starbucks in San Francisco with a group of executives from Ford Motor Company as they lamented what they saw as the auto industry’s impending existential crisis. We were only a few years removed from Barack Obama’s controversial, if necessary, auto-industry bailout, but global finance hardly came up during the conversation.