So many of you who know me well probably know that I tend to "call 'em as I see 'em". You also probably know that I spent some time in 2002-2003 on an internet marketing business where I helped small businesses learn how to use Google Adwords to more efficiently spend their marketing dollars. I am, and always will be, a huge fan of the Internet as a marketing channel. It's a perfect channel for generalists -- to succeed you really need an odd combination of skills from marketing to finance to operations and finally development.
Given that setup, let's talk about Microsoft's recent investment in Facebook particularly in context to other activities going on at the company.
I won't recap all the news/analysis that has propagated through the Internet on the story. Instead, I'll ask you to consider how the world is different now than on May 17, 2007, the day before Microsoft acquired Aquantive. Microsoft held approximately 10% share in search. Facebook had 20 million active users and 0 developers...the Facebook API did not launch for another week. :-)
Now fast forward to today. Microsoft has acquired Aquantive and its Atlas ad targeting technology along with Avenue A | Razorfish. Now the investment in Facebook gives the two companies 4 years or more to figure out how internet advertising works best for all parties (users, advertisers, technology providers, etc.)
I've been to trade shows where people have asked me "how is Microsoft relevant to the Web?" I think that question is being answered now. Combine these latest moves with some of the other great work (ex. 1 | 2 - especially Gatineau) going on in Redmond, and it's a much different world than when pay-per-click (PPC) advertising was the only game in town.