Facebook's only just announced that it's achieved 500 million members--which is a meaningless number, if you think about it, but a huge mental sign that the company is achieving success: It means roughly one in 10 humans is on the service.
The news about a delay to Facebook's plans to IPO comes via Bloomberg, which has heard from several sources close to the company. The change is apparently to give the company to further boost its member figures, and hone its business model (though making $800 million in 2009 is a darn good start). The company's CEO Mark Zuckerberg was reported recently as saying an IPO would only happen "when it makes sense," and while we can assume the company has long been mulling over how an IPO would work, there's obviously been some enforced changes to its plans recently. Facebook has declined to comment, unsurprisingly.
There's a chance this may have to do with the image of the CEO himself--he hasn't comported himself particularly well in recent months, being the figurehead for a change inside Facebook that pushes user privacy aside in favor of more opportunities to earn cash by exploiting their data. Zuckerberg has pushed on with this agenda, despite a media storm on the matter, and ignoring many the many "warnings" when Facebook slips up on privacy--like the recent 100 million user data torrent.
And silly as it might seem, you can't ignore that a big chunk of the pop-culture gobbling world might come to mistake the real Zuck with his bumbling, awkward avatar played by Jesse Eisenberg in David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin's The Social Network. A year from now, the film might well be forgotten.
Back in reality, there are real concerns that Google may start to tackle Facebook head-on with its own version of a social network. But perhaps achieving a quick IPO at this stage would actually be preferable, before Facebook's star gets seriously tarnished, or its competition rises up to challenge its business, and even while it won't necessarily achieve the same financial highs as it might in the future. And quick action may even be advised before the world tires of social networking as a phenomenon ... and finds something more interesting in the future.
It's very confusing. We've approached Facebook on the matter, of course, but as with any future-facing plans that concern an IPO, they're extremely unlikely to comment.
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