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Since the Facebook IPO: 5 years and $1 trillion later

  • Users have lost trillions in potential productivity, including $1 trillion in the U.S. and Canada since the company went public.
  • FB has done better than a lot of tech stocks since going public.
  • Investors who scoffed at the IPO are regretting it now.

Thursday will mark a full five years since Facebook went public. Since then, billions of people spending time on the social network could have added $1 trillion to the North American economy instead, according to a CNBC analysis.

If everybody in the U.S. and Canada spent their time working a minimum wage job instead of "liking" and "friending" each other, they could have increased productivity by about $1.03 trillion, with $5 trillion more possible across the globe.

Those big numbers are reminders of how giant the company has become.

Facebook has about 234 million monthly active users in the U.S. and Canada, or about 66 percent of the population of the two countries. Those users are valuable to the company: In the first quarter of 2017, Facebook made north of $16 in advertising revenue for each user, according to company filings. That's about eight times higher than average revenue-per-user for the Asia-Pacific region.

When the company went public, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said users spent an average of 20 minutes a day on the social network, a figure that's only increased. The CNBC analysis assumed an average usage of 30 minutes a day.

That means people in the U.S. and Canada have spent a collective 16 million years on Facebook just since the IPO. A previous CNBC analysis showed a similar trend for Facebook users around the world.

Facebook's $425 billion market cap represents about 11 percent of all U.S. public software companies. Its global user base is bigger than the population of any country.

Missed the FB train

But Facebook wasn't always the tech powerhouse it is now. Five years ago, many analysts thought the company was overvalued, overhyped and simply not worth the price. At the time, hedge fund manager Dennis Gartman passed on the investment

"The world does not revolve around Facebook," he wrote in his daily "Gartman Letter" at the time. "Never has and never really will." Today, Gartman had no choice but to change his tune and call a mea culpa on the missed investment.

"It's an integral part of the economy and how people communicate," he said this week. "It's like visual crack. That's what makes it good for Facebook, and advertisers know it."

Gartman said his daughter convinced him about three years ago that he'd made a mistake skipping a long position. He was biased against it, so if anything he would have been short on it. He's glad, then, that he stayed away completely.

"In trading, you can't let your personal bias wreak havoc on your trades," he said. "I missed it completely and I was wrong."

Facebook has returned over 256 percent since it started trading. Since then, the stock beat most of the other big tech names on the S&P 500. Only Amazon has squeezed out ahead.