Facebook IPO to raise $US16 billion – but where will the company be in 20 years?

With less than a day to go until Facebook finally floats on the NASDAQ, the company has set its share price at $US38 – meaning it will raise $US16 billion tomorrow at a valuation of $US104 billion, making it the largest technology initial public offering ever.

Hundreds of Facebook shareholders are set to become millionaires tomorrow, while chief executive and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg will reap well over $US1 billion for his efforts while still maintaining a majority control.

But we all know what’s going to happen tomorrow. The more interesting story is – what will happen to Facebook over the next 20 years?

Technology changes so rapidly, and Facebook wasn’t even around 10 years ago. The next few years could dramatically change how Facebook operates, let alone the next decade.

Here at SmartCompany we thought we’d indulge in a little crystal ball-gazing a day before the IPO, and take a look at where the company will be three, five, 10 and 20 years from now, in both a “dream” and “nightmare” scenario.

It’s impossible to say for sure where Facebook will sit in the future. But it’s always fun to guess.

The dream scenario:

Three years

Facebook releases its mobile operating system – and over time takes on both Apple and Google to become one of the most dominant players in the mobile market.

More applications start offering transaction services over the social network. Users can pay their bills using different apps.

More brands start using Facebook to sell goods online. The company introduces a system where it takes a small cut of all products sold.

More advanced apps allow users to find out how their friends are using different programs, and services, allowing the site to create more accurate recommendations and improve return on investment for advertisers and marketers.

Five years

Facebook’s “social graph” now spreads across most major and minor websites. The vast majority of commenting systems use Facebook, and many major websites allow users to sign up with their Facebook credentials.

Users keep track of what friends are doing through the platform, and advertising becomes even more targeted – the most accurate form of advertising on the internet.

The company now rivals Google for its search capabilities as users start searching through the platform itself for brands and products rather than through generic search engines.

Facebook integrates with bricks and mortar shopping – users can see where their friends have checked in recently and what they’ve purchased.

10 years

Facebook has grown to encompass not only the way users take control of their social lives, but their personal finances. Most retailers now accept payment through Facebook phones and users can manage their finances through the platform.

In an effort to stay relevant, Zuckerberg snatches up the hottest start-ups. The group has a dominant stake in the mobile and personal finance markets. The company’s value rivals the biggest tech companies on the stock exchange, including Google and Apple.

Google’s “glasses” project takes off, and Facebook follows suit with its own version that allows users to “friend” people by simply blinking in their direction. Users can look up personal information about others without even needing a keyboard or computer.

20 years

Facebook becomes the most valuable stock on the market, worth more than Apple or Google.

Transforming into much more than a social network, it’s a tech powerhouse across a wide array of industries, allowing users to stay connected more than ever and marketers to tap into the most profitable advertising infrastructure ever known.

The nightmare scenario:

Three years

Facebook declines in popularity as other social services, including Google+, are able to offer better ways to communicate with friends, more comprehensive privacy controls and less advertising.

Brands start flocking to alternative methods of advertising as the network proves less accurate than first thought.

Shares start to show a decline since the float three years prior. Mobile use continues to fall after having ignored opportunities to improve the company’s apps.

Five years

The social element of Facebook is all but gone as users start to lose interest. Instead, Zuckerberg directs the company into its social tech ventures, including Instagram.

The company loses a huge chunk of advertising as it focuses more on these start-ups rather than the company’s core venture.

The company is bought as a “bargain” and Zuckerberg loses majority control. Crucial apps and services start flocking to other networks, including stand-alone platforms.

10 years

Facebook as a social network doesn’t exist. As more users move to the newest form of entertainment, including watching television and film digitally, Facebook misses key opportunities to enter these new markets.

As a result, advertising drops dramatically. It continues to focus on start-up acquisitions which maintain steady, but weaker, audiences than the current market.

The company is deconstructed into new divisions as the single social networking proposition has no relevance in the new media market.

20 years

Facebook as we know it no longer exists. The company is either broken up and sold, or delisted, with only bits and pieces of technology remaining in other ventures.

Zuckerberg, having bailed out from the company years prior, becomes an investor in the start-up scene and a recluse, waiting patiently for another hit company.


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