Facebook: will phone or search engine launch help recovery?

Jan 15, 2013

Six possible announcements from Mark Zuckerberg at tonight's Facebook launch

Max Morse

COULD Facebook's financial fortunes be changing? After a dismal 2012 during which the social networking giant's share price plummeted from $38 in May to around $20, the share price is back on the way up and expectations are high for a launch event being held at the company's Menlo Park headquarters in California today.

Speculation over what Mark Zuckerberg will reveal is mounting ahead of the press call, and it could have serious ramifications for the company's resurgent share price, which broke the £32 barrier for the first time since July earlier this week.

"Most of the new information the market has seized upon is vague - a reassuring public appearance by Mark Zuckerberg, suggestions that the firm has found new ways of inserting ads into its mobile platform, and today a mysterious product launch at the Facebook's Californian headquarters," reports BBC technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones.

That launch will finally give investors some idea of where the company is going. And with so much at stake, rumours about what will be unveiled are flying:

Smartphone: TechCrunch reported at the weekend: "Multiple sources have told us that they expect some sort of Facebook Phone to be on display on Tuesday". Others are less convinced. "Don't bet on it,” said Market Daily News. “Several analysts say a FB smartphone right now is a long shot.”

Search engine: Pocket-lint said that adding full internet search functionality to the site "could cause major headaches for Google: the new feature would give Facebook users a reason to bypass Google altogether". However, The Guardian thinks Facebook's vision might be less grandiose. "Zuckerberg harbours plans for the site to answer more local queries for its users, for example finding nearby restaurants or job vacancies," it says.

A revamped news feed: Business Insider reports that a team at Menlo Park is working on developing a revamped news feed for Facebook users "based on that user's friends, purchase history, web history, location, and much more" and which takes content from more sources than at present. It also aims to push products at users and encourage them to actually leave the site to consume them.

Ad network: Facebook has a problem with mobile advertising, which accounts for just six per cent of its ad revenue. "Analysts have questioned how the site will continue to grow ad revenue in a world dominated by smartphones and tablet computers," notes the Guardian. "Any significant announcement on its mobile advertising strategy would be well timed ahead of its fourth quarter earnings call on 30 January."

Charging for messages: A reporter from website Mashable was surprised to discover last week that he could pay $100 to ensure delivery of a message to Facebook CEO Zuckerberg's in-box, prompting talk that the company was on the brink of launching a pay-per-message scheme. "The company indicated [late last year] that it would be experimenting with other prices, so it's possible we're starting to see the fruits of that," it added.

Facebook for cars: Tech Crunch believes getting ahead of the game in the vehicular market could do wonders for Facebook. "Cars are getting connected, at least according to the slew of major automobile makers who at CES announced developer platforms and other technology in their new models," it said. "Getting embedded in vehicles ahead of other social networks could create a moat for Facebook."

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