Vague Facebook Invitation Has Industry Guessing

 

Facebook late Tuesday issued an invitation to reporters for a press gathering next week, leading tech observers to speculate about the nature of the news it will share on its Menlo Park campus. Despite the secrecy, Facebook shares surged 5 percent Wednesday in anticipation of the event.

Facebook, it seems, took a page from the playbook of Apple, which is known for inviting media to a news announcement without providing further guidance on the topic.

A Facebook spokeswoman declined to comment Wednesday on what next Tuesday's press event would cover.

The invitation from the now publicly traded social network, led by CEO Mark Zuckerberg, asked reporters to "come and see what we’re building." The last similar event happened about 18 months ago when Facebook announced a video-chat partnership with Skype.

Observers on Wednesday threw out suggestions via Twitter and blogs as to what Facebook should announce, as well as some predictions as to what company executives might actually unveil.

Analysts said it could be a new product or service or the redesign of the Facebook home page or some other part of the network. A robust ecommerce play is also a possibility and could go a long way toward easing fears that Facebook has a murky path in monetizing its massive audience, now at more than 1 billion worldwide.

One early suggestion was the unveiling of a Facebook phone, though some close Facebook watchers quickly discarded the idea. After all, Zuckerberg last year denied phone rumors, saying the company wasn't interested in making devices. He called that approach a “wrong strategy.”

However, the Wall Street Journal has reported that people close to Facebook have said the firm spoke with handset makers, even though it wasn't clear as to the exact nature of those conversations.

Other suggestions for the topic of Facebook's announcement were an expanded online search offer on the network, new mobile-targeted advertising offers and a music-sharing service. In-house gaming development is also a possibility, as is some sort of bold initiative involving Instagram, which Facebook acquired for $1 billion 

Others were guessing that Facebook would say that it is expanding its headquarters or introducing a tablet to compete with Apple's iPad. 

"Following Facebook’s IPO, Facebook’s pressure to monetize has increased significantly, and we have seen Facebook flood its service with large, relatively untargeted advertising," particularly in the mobile space, BTIG analyst Richard Greenfield said recently.

Facebook stock, which reached a high of $45 on its first day of trading last year before sinking weeks later to a low of $17.55, rose $1.53 on Wednesday to $30.59. Wednesday marked the first time Facebook traded north of $30 since July.

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