After IPO, experts debate Facebook’s next big thing

The next iPhone or iPad from Apple is surely around the corner, and Google is getting into everything from cloud computing to car making; the company just completed its acquisition of Motorola and will now be manufacturing its own smartphones.

But what the cards hold for $100 billion behemoth Facebook is far from clear, experts said.

“Facebook isn't sharing much beyond acknowledging that it wants to double down on mobile,” Lance Ulanoff, editor in chief of tech news site, told “And that could mean a lot of things: a Facebook phone, innovative ways of delivering ads and marketing content” -- or something else entirely.

In the road show for financial analysts held in the days leading up to the groundbreaking IPO, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg (wearing his signature hoodie, of course) was tightlipped. Analysts leaving one meeting told the Wall Street Journal they didn’t learn much about the company’s plans, even as they gushed about the IPO’s potential prospects.

Facebook did not immediately respond to requests for information on its future plans.

'Facebook isn't sharing much.'

— Lance Ulanoff, editor in chief

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The company’s current efforts have largely focused on improvements to the site, the main “product” in Facebook’s portfolio. In the hours prior to the IPO, employees at hackathons in California and New York pulled all-nighters writing code.

It’s uncertain what they came up with, but it’s unlikely to be a new product.

To grow the user base that fuels its advertising business, the company has been looking outside its stable of developers: In recent weeks the company bought photo-sharing sites Instagram and LightBox as well as location-based social network Glancee.

“It's clear that they are more than willing to acquire the technologies and audiences they need to expand,” Ulanoff pointed out.

Growing the audience to a billion users and hiring new talent are key to Facebook’s future, of course. But Wall Street and Main Street both wonder about the gee-whiz future Facebook must have planned -- a future that remains purely speculative.

“Because it's still a relatively immature company, and is no more open about what it's working on than your average Silicon Valley company, it's hard to guess where it's going,” Harry McCracken, editor at large for TIME, told

“I think they could expand into other areas with their new pile of cash,” speculated Ulanoff.

Others disagree -- new products might not even be needed at all, said Dan Costa, editor in chief of

Facebook IPO Watch

Shares of Facebook (FB: 32.20, -1.83, -5.38%) took another tumble on Tuesday as word spread that the company’s lead underwriter slashed its revenue target during the social-networking heavyweight's IPO road show.

Read more at FoxBusiness.

“For Facebook, it isn’t about making products. It isn’t even about selling services,” he told

“Facebook wants to own the network itself and be the company that validates your true identity, so that anything you do in the digital world will be done through Facebook Connect ... and with three-quarters of a billion users, they are further along than almost any of their competitors,” he said.

From that perspective, Facebook is more similar to Microsoft than Google -- a company that builds a platform upon which other companies innovate. And Facebook’s platform is what the Internet is becoming.

When companies pay millions for their Super Bowl spots, they’re no longer sending you to their own website: they’re sending you straight to the Facebook page. Because of this, Facebook could succeed as a back-end business, without any other products. You never need to visit again -- you’ll still be logged in every time you visit any of the hundreds of sites that rely on the company’s Open Graph system to log users in.

Meanwhile, the day-to-day swings of Facebook’s stock have the world watching. On Tuesday shares of Facebook tumbled as low as $30.98 -- 18.5 percent below the company’s $38-a-share IPO price, Fox Business reported. Even during the Friday trading debut, Facebook's underwriters had to step in to prevent the shares from breaking issue.

Analysts are debating whether the company will swing back after this initial dip. The future for products and services from Facebook is equally uncertain.

Some argue that the lack of a “next big thing” is no big deal: Most consumers won’t care at all.

“I think there are two types of Facebook users. Some of them want to thoroughly understand the service and don't particularly like major changes. Others are along for the ride and are OK with surprises,” McCracken told

“It's this second type that's most likely to be happy with the service long term.”

Do consumers need or even want change? Are new products necessary at all?

“Right now, Facebook has the users. But so did MySpace at one point,” Costa said.