Facebook, Inc. filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission in Washington last week to become the world’s most anticipated initial public offering (IPO), aiming to raise $5 billion by selling stock this spring.
But the social network’s future remains unclear as it faces stagnant membership, a trend evident among UR students and the potential influence of stockholders on new technologies.
The looming question remains: Has Facebook lost its allure?
For those who saw the births, deaths and evolutions of social networks, the problem seems to lie in novelty, regularity and relations.
“All the changes, like Timeline, they aren’t really new or consistent,” senior Emily Redman said.
Many people in the younger generation jumped the Myspace ship for the Facebook bandwagon in high school, as sophomores and juniors were enticed by the ability to write on each other’s walls and share pictures.
Upon entering college, it became the social medium and bulletin board, connecting students to their newfound peers as well as their family and friends back home. Students could spend countless hours browsing pages, living vicariously through Facebook.
But times have changed.
“I don’t care about everyone else’s life, documented every second on the Internet,” sophomore Kami Green said.
Yet, she admits to checking Facebook everyday, spending at least 45 minutes on the site daily.
Some students know Facebook inside and out and consider it a tool for communication, rather than a toy to play with.
Sophomore Mohamed Ahmed said he now uses it for “chatting with friends from far away.”
For some, this goes both ways.
“I’ve stayed in contact with people I probably shouldn’t have,” senior Miles Vaughn said.
Having too many “friends” can backfire, leading some to call it quits, he believes.
Timeline is a testament to the constant changes Facebook has undertaken to keep its members engaged and traffic flowing on the site, but the drawbacks are now coming to light.
Every six months or so, profile pages are reformatted and users must readapt to the new design, without the option to return to the old format. Some students say they find this “annoying.”
As Facebook becomes an IPO, some think it’s “smart,” because few online tech firms have gone public and this could give the social network the revenue to grow even further.
“It was bound to happen,” Vaughn said. “It will allow the company to stay around for another seven to 12 years due to public investment.”
He also said he is curious about what the outcome will be if “stockholders take control of the tech side.”
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has notoriously been hesitant to make Facebook an IPO due to the swaying power of the stock price. He wants his employees to focus on quality and innovation, rather than how to raise revenue for stockholders.
More importantly, the social network going public poses privacy issues.
“At some point I’ll have to give up Facebook,” Ahmed said, noting that he worries about the future of his personal information.
Zuckerberg has promised users that he will protect their privacy, with the company agreeing to independent privacy audits for the next 20 years.
Facebook has constantly evolved since its creation in 2004. Now, eight years and 800 million users later, it has reached its peak and is facing the eve of a new era.
Like many others, Redman now “checks [Facebook] once a day. But I’m not obsessed,” she said.
Johnson is a member of the class of 2013.