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Facebook Backer Milner Sees Network Lasting 100 Years

Bloomberg Billionaires Index
Bloomberg Billionaires Index

Yuri Milner, the Russian investor whose early bet on Facebook Inc. made him a billionaire, sees the social network as one of three websites that will endure for 100 years.

Facebook, along with Google Inc.’s search engine and Wikipedia’s online encyclopedia, will still exist a century from now because their services gain momentum the more people use them, Milner said in an interview on stage today at Austin’s South by Southwest Interactive Festival.

“All three have amazing network effects,” said Milner, the co-founder and chief executive officer of Digital Sky Technologies. “Chances are that those are long survivors.”

Milner was relatively unknown before his 2009 investment in Facebook, when the company was valued at $10 billion. Since then, the value of the social network has grown more than sixfold and Milner has expanded his Silicon Valley portfolio with investments in Zynga Inc., Groupon Inc., Twitter Inc. and LinkedIn Corp.

After selling 45.7 million shares of Facebook in the company’s May 2012 initial public offering, Digital Sky Technologies and its subsidiaries still own about 13.8 million shares, valued at $387 million, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Milner’s net worth is about $1 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Like Facebook, Google’s search engine is such a common tool in daily life that it’s difficult to imagine it going away, Milner said.

‘Smartest Machine’

“They have been able to build the smartest machine that is in a way substituting some parts of our brain,” Milner said. “If Google is turned off, for example, for a short period of time, I don’t think we’ll be able to function the same way we used to function because we outsource some significant portions of our brain already to Google.”

Wikipedia has staying power because it has virtually no competitors, Milner said.

“I don’t think you need, like, five competing Wikipedias,” he said.

Milner’s predictions came in response to a question posed by an audience member, Yusuf Roso, via Twitter. “IBM survived for 100 years, which tech company will be next and why?” Roso wrote on the microblogging site.

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