Analysis: How will Facebook build a future in mobile?

By Peter Gothard
18 May 2012 View Comments

Although Facebook's initial public share offering is due this week, the social networking company's future goals are still shrouded in mystery.

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Its recent purchase of app companies including Instagram and Tagtile suggests a push into mobile, but since Facebook currently has no revenue from mobile, is this truly a bold new direction, or just a last-minute attempt to bolster the company's valuation?

On the surface, Facebook's impending public stock offering looks like great news for the company and investors alike. It's being compared to Google's similar move in 2004, which saw the search engine giant make $1.67bn (£1.06bn) through its IPO, and which paved the way for its consistently impressive expansions and acquisitions in the fields of social media, net neutrality and environmental philanthropy.

Although Facebook's current size and reach is already greater than Google's was back in 2004, there's a crucial difference between the two; and that difference is potential.

Many consider Facebook, which can be viewed in essence as little more than a carefully marketed, all-encompassing community blog, as already being at the peak of its powers.

"Just like the dotcom bomb happened, we're heading for social apocalypse," Gartner analyst Adam Sarner told Computing, naming Google specifically as "one of the horsemen".

"We're at the peak of inflated expectations," said Sarner. "[Facebook is going public] while we're at the peak, rather than on the downswing. Engagement only goes a certain distance. At some point you're going to have to say ‘who is the customer here, and where is the money coming from?' and those are things that Facebook will be figuring out."

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