What does the Facebook IPO mean for you?

Molly Wood May 18, 2012

You might have heard, Facebook is going public today. And we wondered what a bunch of shareholders mean to the rest of us friending, picture-posting, regular Facebook users. We asked a few people in downtown L.A. for their best guesses.

Hicus Dermengian: I don’t think it has much room to grow. I think it’s kind of like a trap waiting for people to go in, so I don’t think IPO — is not a good option at the moment.

Erin Reynolds: I hope that it going public doesn’t mean that they hold back from risk-taking and that they have a lot of constraints. I hope that it means that they’ll have even more support and resources to really see what the internet and social networking is capable of.

Tim Durkin: Maybe it will go the way of Myspace.

And, what do experts think shareholders will mean for our Facebook experience? Debra Aho Williamson is an analyst at eMarketer. She says, “You can certainly expect Facebook to invest in lots of new products, new services, enhancements, just to make the Facebook experience even better.”

Those new Facebook services could also be fully developed by the time we see them. Jennifer Van Grove writes for VentureBeat and says “I’m thinking a new search experience, which has been rumored, a mobile branded cell phone. These won’t be beta products because Facebook is a public company. These will be products that a consumer can go out and use immediately and should have a very seamless experience.”

Facebook’s responsibility to shareholders means the company needs to raise money, which could lead to another set of changes. Molly Wood is executive editor at CNET.

Molly Wood: They conducted a little test recently in New Zealand to guage interest from users and companies in whether they’d want to actually pay to promote their status updates to make sure that people saw them. That’s probably the worst case scenario, that Facebook would in some way charge you to use it. Most likely, you’ll see a lot more ads, and the experience will be less about sharing — it’s already sort of evolving this way, that the experience is less about you having a personal conversation with the people in your network, and more about you recommending restaurants, recommending music, recommending things that other people may be able to buy.


Now, the e-nose, an electronic sniffing device that’s small enough to fit on a smartphone. It can spot smells and help doctors figure out whether or not you’re sick.

Heather McCaig is working on this device at the California Institute of Technology. She says, in the future, the e-nose could help your physician diagnose a disease like lung cancer. “It’s typically diagnosed at a late stage, very difficult to treat, and detecting it would involve an invasive biopsy. So, if you have a patient that’s at risk for lung cancer, you could just have this patient exhale into a detector system and get a first line read that maybe we need to be concerned that this patient should actually have a biopsy.”

But don’t expect an iPhone-based sniff test at your doctors’ office anytime soon. The electronic nose is still too big. Part of McCaig’s research involves coming up with a phone-sized sniffer.

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