Facebook IPO set for Q1 of 2012: report

Facebook may be going public. Meanwhile, even as IPO news careens around the Web, one site says Facebook growth in the US is not as robust as it once was.

Facebook IPO rumors continue to percolate. The latest: Facebook will go public in the first quarter of 2012. Here, a user thumbs past a Facebook app on an Apple iPhone.

Facebook is going public, probably.

So say the folks over at CNBC, who put the Facebook IPO date at the first quarter of 2012, and estimate that the valuation of the most-popular social network in the world could top an extraordinary $100 billion. (Take a moment to wrap your head around that number. Done? OK.) Facebook is keeping mum on the rumors, but CNBC reporter Kate Kelly points out that reps for the company have already called an IPO "inevitable."

Some of the impetus behind the IPO can be apparently traced directly to a debate over employee compensation. "Early last year, Facebook put curbs on employees’ ability to sell their company shares privately to other investors – a move that may now be prompting employees to quit Facebook in order to be able to monetize their shares," Kelly writes.

If Facebook did go public, of course, employees could sell their stock more easily.

Facebook! Public! Those words have dominated the tech news cycle today, and for good reason – as Greg Sterling notes over at Search Engine Land, an IPO would add pressure on Facebook to "justify the [$10 billion] valuation with revenues and not just revenue potential." In other words, a publicly-traded Facebook would really have to start making lots of money, and fast. That could mean major changes for Facebook users.

And speaking of Facebook users, well, there aren't as many new ones as there used to be. Inside Facebook has published a report showing that while Facebook membership continues to grow worldwide, "overall growth is lower than normal for the second month straight." Most distressing: the site says the US lost nearly 6 million Facebook users in May, down to 149.4 million.

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