Facebook is now too big to buy

@CNNMoneyTech November 8, 2011: 2:37 PM ET

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Yahoo, Google and Microsoft have all toyed over the years with acquiring Facebook, but those days are long gone: The company is now too big to buy, according to its top executives.

In an interview with Charlie Rose that aired Monday night, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg weighed in on a wide range of topics, including Facebook's future.

"You've had an opportunity, I'm sure, to sell," Rose said.

"No one even asks anymore," Sandberg replied.

"It's too big now. Nobody can afford you anymore. Is that the central idea?" Rose asked.

To which Sandberg simply answered: "Yes."

Rose also touched on Wall Street's favorite guessing game: when Facebook will go public. The company is expected either to file for an IPO or to start making financial disclosures in 2012.

Zuckerberg said part of the allure of going public is that valuable equity can help attract talented engineers and designers. Going public will also let investors cash out.

But, he cautioned, "the promise isn't that we're going to do it on any kind of short-term time horizon."

Anonymity and Google: Facebook COO Sandberg talked about the power of relationship-based networks, contrasting "the wisdom of crowds to the wisdom of friends."

"So that's Google (GOOG, Fortune 500) versus Facebook right there," Rose replied.

Sandberg didn't agree. She thinks the entire first phase of the Web's development -- which led to "a lot of wonderful things" -- was largely based on "anonymity and links between crowds."

The next stage of development, the one Facebook has spearheaded, is built around identity. "The social Web can't exist until you are your real self online," Sandberg said. "I have to be me, you have to be Charlie Rose."

Arab Spring and Chinese censorship: Rose asked about the "Arab Spring" uprisings that swept through the Middle East and North Africa earlier this year, largely powered by word-of-mouth on social networks.

"My personal take on this is that social media's role is maybe a bit overblown in that," Zuckerberg said. "If people want change, they will find a way to get that change. I don't pretend that if Facebook didn't exist that this wouldn't have been possible."

Rose then transitioned into another overseas issue: Facebook is not widely available in China due to censorship.

"If your mission is to connect the entire world ... you can't connect the whole world and not China," Sandberg said.

But neither executive is itching to get into that market any time soon.

"Honestly, the way that we look at it now is there's so many other places in the world where we can connect more people more easily without having to face those hard questions," Zuckerberg said. "I think a simple rule in business is if you do the things that are easier first then you can actually make a lot of progress."

Women in tech: Rose also kicked Sandberg a question on a topic she speaks about frequently: whether the tech industry provides enough opportunities for women.

"Over the last 10 years women have stalled out at the top," she responded. That has many causes -- " institutional barriers and all kinds of stuff" -- but a key one is what Sandberg refers to as "a really big ambition gap."

She continued: "If you survey men and women in college today in this country, the men are more ambitious than the women. And until women are as ambitious as men, they're not going to achieve as much as men. " To top of page

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