The world’s most popular social network, and the one whose founder promotes openness and sharing as cardinal values of the new digital society, is going to remain private until at least 2012, according to a new report in The Financial Times.
Facebook is delaying it’s long-rumored initial public offering (IPO) until September 2012 because CEO Mark Zuckerberg wants employees to not to get distracted from developing new products by the anticipated waves of cash, the FT reported, citing sources close to the company.
Facebook is currently valued at anywhere between $66.5 billion-$80 billion based on the recent sales of private shares, and its IPO would likely be one of the biggest to date.
(For some perspective, during Google’s record 2004 IPO, the company was valued at $24.6 billion.)
Meanwhile, as far as those new products that Zuckberg is reportedly so intent on seeing his engineers crank out, well, Facebook launched a new one just hours ahead of the FT’s report: The all new “Subscribe” button, which allows Facebook users to subscribe to the public status updates and postings of people with whom they aren’t Friends.
As Facebook software engineer Zach Rait wrote in the post:
Until now, it hasn’t been easy to choose exactly what you see in your News Feed. Maybe you don’t want to see every time your brother plays a game on Facebook, for example. Or maybe you’d like to see more stories from your best friends, and fewer from your coworkers. You also couldn’t hear directly from people you’re interested in but don’t know personally—like journalists, artists and political figures. With the Subscribe button, we’re making it easier to do both.
The subscribe button is being rolled out gradually over the coming days and appears in the upper right hand corner of a Facebook user’s profile. Users can also allow or turn-off the ability for non-Friends to subscribe by adjusting the settings on the Subscriptions page. Users can also adjust exactly which content they want to subscribe to, which content they want their subscribers to see and can see who subscribes to them via a new tab.
As prolific social networkers will no doubt immediately observe, the new feature effectively eliminates one of the major ways that Facebook remained differentiated from subsequent networks Twitter and Google Plus, both of which have permitted “one-way following,” since they launched.
To hammer the similarities to Twitter home even further, Facebook will also introduce a new “People to Subscribe to,” effectively mirroring Twitter’s “Suggested Users,” list, unveiled in 2009. Although, as the blog Inside Facebook reports, the service will be differentiated somewhat in that ” Facebook’s subscription recommendations will promote authors who publish updates especially relevant to a user and their network,” rather than Twitter’s set, limited list.
Still, combined with the unveiling on Tuesday of Facebook’s Google Plus-like “Improved Friends List,” (for users to group their friends into more functional, real-world categories such as “Work” and “Family,” and permitting users to share selectively amongst the group), it’s pretty clear that Zuckerberg has no qualms about responding to competition — wherever it comes from.