Facebook Friends Wall Street: What Does this Mean for Its Users?

As early as today Facebook will announce it is going public. To most of us who use the social network as a means to communicate with friends and family we are wondering what the buzz is all about. So what if Mark Zuckerberg wants to file for an IPO (an initial public offering, if you were wondering, likely to be anywhere between $5 and $100 billion).

Being an end user and not someone who is considering buying stock in Facebook when it becomes available, I am curious how this will affect me. Here are some facts and opinions I have managed to scrounge up about that very topic.

Facebook’s Privacy
We have read it time and time again, Facebook getting a wrist slap for their lenient privacy policy. Once Facebook goes public, there will likely be added pressure to exploit user data to bring in advertising dollars. This means all the data stored on Facebook’s servers becomes extremely valuable and in an effort to please shareholders, this data could be monetized.

Less Innovation
Once Facebook goes public the need to make a profit may outweigh the need to be innovative. Ad space and other direct revenue streams could become more prominent on the site. This will change the user experience that many of us have become so accustom to.

or More Innovation
Then there is the idea that more money for Facebook could encourage more innovative ideas. An increase in available funds could result in additional support for startups and new technologies. Once we are able to catch a glimpse of the IPO documents, we will better understand how Facebook plans to spend the money it raises.

Front Page News
Once Facebook goes public they will be required to be more transparent. End users will become increasingly aware of how their personal information is being shared with advertisers and how an increased effort is being made to serve up relevant ads then to enhance their experience. With this information being highlight in the news it might just scare away some users.

The truth is whether or not Facebook went public you would continue to see changes to their user interface. Questions would continue to be raised about their privacy policies. And news media would continue to scrutinize their every decision. Since Facebook could become the largest tech IPO since Google, they will now have to cope with doing their decision making in public, and will be accountable to shareholders as well as its users.

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