By Quentin Fottrell
As Facebook prepares for one of the biggest IPOs of all time, analysts say the company’s biggest problem is an enviable one: What do with all that extra cash?
The social networking giant filed for an initial public offering Wednesday, and hopes to raise as much as $10 billion when it begins selling shares this spring. But as Facebook’s expansion continues, some say Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg will likely use the new money to invest moreheavily in technicians and infrastructure to safeguard against the kind of hacking scandals that hit companies like Sony. “Facebook is one of the most targeted social media sites, which means it will be difficult for them to ever eliminate the problem,” says Chester Wisniewski, senior security advisor at Sophos, an online security consultancy.
Wisniewski says there is an easy place to start: the “Like” button, which has helped businesses raise their profile through the site. When users “like” pages, it creates a viral effect as friends follow suit. However, Wisniewski says users are often tricked into “liking” a malicious link. This “like-jacking” could be greatly reduced if Facebook introduced an additional security step before users decide to “like” a link, he says.
Another invisible threat to Facebook and its new investors, say tech pros: boredom. People tire of reading status updates about what others had for breakfast, says social psychologist Matt Wallaert. There could be greater user control over the newsfeed to allow people to select limit updates along subject matter like births, weddings or their friends’ sporting activities, he says. “At the moment, a lot of users are just browsing, keeping general tabs on friends and checking out the occasional funny thing on YouTube,” he says.
Both fans and critics alike say Facebook’s new “Timeline” also needs revision. It replaces users’ old profile page and allows users to tell the story of their life with a large “cover picture” at the top. Seth Rabinowitz, partner at management consulting Silicon Associates, says the Timeline has the samecluttered feel as MySpace – the social network eclipsed by Facebook in the mid-2000s. Unhappy Facebookers have complained online. “People dislike the way it’s integrated into the site,” he says. “Profile pages aren’t as clean and simple as it once was.”
Though Zuckerberg retains a controlling interest in the company, some say post-IPO, there will also be pressure on the site to more aggressively target users with advertising. Currently, Facebook has relatively unobtrusive sponsored ads on the top right-hand corner of people’s Timelines. “Obligations toshareholders may result in the need to generate profit rather than innovate and prioritize the user’s needs over investors,” says Ari Zoldan, CEO of technology group Quantum Networks.