Facebook began trading on the Nasdaq today, priced at $38 a share. This puts the total value of the company at $104 billion, the third largest initial public offering ever after Visa and General Motors.
CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg started Facebook in 2004 from his dorm room at Harvard University and the site now touts 900 million users worldwide. It has grown from a platform for college students to get to know their classmates and share photos from the weekend to a legitimate marketing tool for businesses seeking to advertise and promote their products among the social network’s users. A large amount of Facebookers still mainly use the site for personal purposes (keeping up with friends and family), to be sure, but companies, products, and celebrities now also have their own pages.
The increased commercialism of Facebook has also brought about an increase in ads on the site, which are generated based on the self-identified interests of each user. Now that Facebook is a public company, it will feel pressure from investors to meet revenue goals, which could lead to more ads.
Combing user data to generate ads also produces privacy concerns, an issue the site has struggled with. Facebook has been criticized for making privacy settings difficult to locate and understand, and quietly changing settings without widely informing users. Privacy is likely an issue that will continue to dog the company, especially internationally, and is one reason some give for avoiding the site altogether.
Facebook users will have to decide whether or not potential advertising increases and reduced privacy as a result of the IPO will actually negatively impact their experience, or if the site will remain just place to see pictures of your friend’s cat or read about where your brother ate lunch today.
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