Can Facebook make me rich?

Popular Web Sites Image Gallery In 2007, Facebook opened its platform, allowing undiscovered software developers to create applications for the Web site. See more pictures of popular web sites.
Image courtesy Facebook

If you're a software developer with a little ambition and a good idea, then Facebook may be the company that makes you a very wealthy person. The social networking site that began in 2004 as a way for college students to keep in touch has expanded to allow everyone to create their own Facebook page. Since then, Facebook has carved a niche for itself in the tech world as a company that is willing to break through the traditional barriers of business.

In May 2007, the company opened its platform, allowing software developers to add their programs to the Facebook site. This in turn allowed the site's users to choose from a wide variety of programs and add them to their personal Facebook pages. To show that its platform is truly open, the company held f8, an eight-hour-long competition where developers created their own programs for Facebook's interface. Eighty-five new programs -- ranging from video sharing to a Scrabble offshoot -- were added to Facebook as a result of f8.


­Now, the company is taking its cultivation of new applications even further. In September 2007, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg announced the company has a $10 million pile of cash waiting for software developers who want to share their programs with Facebook. The company calls it the fbFund.

The grants range from $25,000 to $250,000, and a good idea could fatten a developer's bank account. The company hasn't announced any restrictions on the number of applications each developer can contribute, so potentially one developer could make a lot of money with a few applications. And while $250,000 isn't anything to sneeze at, the fbFund grants are actually just the tip of the iceberg.

As it turns out, the company is interested in providing more than grants -- it wants to serve as venture capitalists for the right application. Developers receiving grants from Facebook will not only get the initial cash, they will also maintain ownership of their programs. Facebook just wants first crack at providing the money needed to take the software and turn it into a viable start-up business.

It's a basement software developer's dream come true, and it's no coincidence that the offer comes from a former basement software developer. Zuckerberg seems like Willy Wonka, having sent out the gold-wrapped candy bars and waiting patiently in his chocolate factory for the arrival of someone like Charlie.

Of course, Zuckerberg is probably not secretly planning on handing over the keys to Facebook's front door. But with the fbFund, he has thrown out the traditional, frustrating search between venture capital and good ideas and simply put out notice of where the money can be found.

Facebook has attached only one stipulation to its fbFund: The company won't consider applications from any developer or company that has already accepted venture capital from another source. This satisfies two dilemmas. It spreads venture capital around to those who have been overlooked -- an example of infracaninophilia, or love for the underdog. The stipulation also keeps Facebook out of any sticky potential legal battles over who actually owns the software backed by Facebook's capital.

For unknown developers with good ideas and drive, Facebook's fbFund offer could prove to be a cash cow. But fbFund isn't the only way to make money online. Read the next page to find out some of the ways to earn a living on the Web.


Build Wealth Online!

The Scion xB Toaster, an example of the Scion cars available for purchase in the virtual world of "Second Life."
Image courtesy Millions of Us

Facebook's fbFund is a revolutionary way for developers to find funding for their software, but the rest of us want a piece of the online money-making pie, too. It turns out, all you need is a lot time to sit around.

HowStuffWorks has already answered the question, "Can I Make My Living in Second Life?" Users can purchase land in the "Second Life" virtual world, set up businesses and find employment in other people's companies. Users can also create things like cars and furniture they can sell to other Second Lifers for use in the virtual world.


Since the "Second Life" currency, Linden dollars (L$), can actually be exchanged for real-world currency, people are making real money off the virtual world. As of the end of September 2007, around L$270 translated to one United States dollar [source: Second Life].

Right now, the money made in "Second Life" is peanuts, but that may soon change. The virtual world is emerging as a place where real-world business can take place. Users who are making cars for sale are finding competition from car companies like Nissan, Scion and Pontiac, which have opened up dealerships in "Second Life." As real-world competitors enter the virtual world, the stakes may raise and prices could increase.

Perhaps the most lucrative way to make money online is by collecting virtual goods that have real-world value. Like "Second Life," the popular online game "World of Warcraft" features items that people have proven they're willing to pay real currency for. Virtual farmers -- people who are paid to play games strictly to collect goods which can be sold for real cash -- have emerged, most notably from China. These farmers mostly collect small rewards for doing repetitive virtual tasks, but the rewards add up over time and can lead to big pay-offs. The pay-offs don't generally go to the farmers, however. These employees usually receive no more than subsistence-level wages.

Savvy entrepreneurs can make cash through virtual real estate speculation: For example, three shopping malls in the "Entropia Universe" virtual world were auctioned for US$180,000 in 2007 [source: CNN]

You can also make money with a little clicking. "Cash Cliques," a Facebook program, pays users to click ads found throughout cyberspace. The company pays five shares for each ad clicked and opened for twenty seconds. At 10,000 shares, users can cash them in for real money. Users also receive shares from clicks made by friends they've recruited into the "Cash Cliques" pyramid -- as users recruit others, their recruits, in turn, tap even more users to click, building an increasingly wider base for those at the top. ­

It should be said that not all of these examples are entirely legal. Sale of virtual goods from World of Warcraft violates the company's terms of use, and "Cash Cliques" may even constitute fraud. There are perfectly legal ways to make cash online, though.

The royalty-free stock photography site 123RF allows amateur photographers to upload their own pictures to the site. When your photo is downloaded, the company pays you 50 percent of the fee they charge. Contributors also get 36 cents for each subscription download. Like "Cash Cliques," 123RF also pays for referrals.

Of course, making money online hasn't hit a stride where payouts are commonly big ones. So when you need to come up with your rent money in a hurry, you can always use an older method of making money online: selling your stuff on eBay.

For more information on online money-making, including related HowStuffWorks articles, read the next page.


Lots More Information

Related HowStuffWorks Articles

More Great Links


  • Irvine, Dean. "Virtual Worlds, Real Money." CNN March 12, 2007. index.html?iref=newssearch
  • Valdes-Dapena, Peter. "­Real Car Brands Enter Virtual World of Second Life. CNN. November 17, 2006.
  • "Cash Reward For Facebook Programs." BBC News. September 18, 2007.
  • "China's 'Gold Farmers' Play A Grim Game." NPR. May 14, 2007.
  • "Facebook Announces fbFund." Facebook. September 17, 2007.
  • "Facebook Unveils Platform for Developers of Social Applications." Facebook. May 24, 2007.
  • "How Can I Use Facebook To Make Some Extra Cash?" Earn Money Online.
  • "LindeX Market Data." Second Life. September 29, 2007.
  • "Member FAQ." Cash Cliques.
  • "Not 1, Not 2, But 3 Ways You Can Make Money With 123RF!" 123RF.
  • ­"The World of Virtual Work Defined." Manpower.­3e4a9419-2d9b-435e-a535-ce4455b3eada/MP_World%20of%20Virtual%20Work%20Defined_FINAL.pdf