Is Facebook Exodus a Result of Google Subterfuge?

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2008-06-19 Print this article Print

This goes out to all you conspiracy theorists.

Matt Cohler, a vice president of product management at Facebook, is leaving the social network, not for Google, but for Benchmark Capital, which he will join as a general partner.

Cohler will be at Facebook full-time until the fall, when he will transition into a formal advisory role to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and the management team. No, Benchmark does not invest in Facebook, so simmer down.

To say Cohler is a key cog at Facebook is an understatement.

A veteran of professional social network LinkedIn, Cohler joined Facebook in 2005 as its first external executive hire, and he's been credited with helping drive Facebook's strategy, organizational growth and product direction, wrote Elliot Schrage, vice president of communications and public policy for Facebook, himself a former Googler.

This move comes after Facebook CTO Adam D'Angelo bailed in May.

Is there some sort of Google-related subterfuge going on at Facebook? Is Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, who joined the company from Google, squeezing out or ticking off the wunderkinds in the executive ranks at Facebook, as some have suggested?

Is she a control freak, or slowly trying to eviscerate Facebook from within, carrying out some insidious, clandestine mission to preserve Google's dominance in online advertising?

Is Sandberg high-tech's version of Jason Bourne, looking to tear down the rolling machine that is Facebook? Unlikely, but oh, was that fun!

No, here is what I really think is going on, and it's just as great and exciting because it underscores the impending Google-Facebook Web platform battle.

I think Facebook is at the precipice of some greater changes at the company that will help it challenge Google in online ads. I think that by joining Benchmark, while keeping in touch as an advisor to Facebook, Cohler will help the social network expand its domain on the Web.

Here's why: At Benchmark, Cohler will be groomed as a venture capitalist. There Cohler will be called upon to sniff out new opportunities and counsel entrepreneurs, such as Zuckerberg.

He will identify investment opportunities in Internet services. I believe Cohler is double-dipping to help Facebook find new Web services companies to buy as the company seeks to grapple with Google.

We really don't know what form that will take, but the Facebook developer conference July 23 should be interesting in terms of the company's direction. |

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