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Do You Want to Buy A Piece Of Facebook?

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Facebook is the most popular “social networking” website in the world and it may be for sale soon. Or at least part of it.

A “social networking” website is one that lets people meet and chat with each other—not face-to-face, but over the Internet. Facebook and Twitter are two popular social networking websites.

Mark Zuckerberg started Facebook with some university friends in 2004. Recently, he decided to “go public” with Facebook. In this case, that means people he doesn’t even know will be allowed to buy a share (part) of the company.

Right now, Facebook is privately owned by some individuals and companies. Zuckerberg himself owns 24 per cent or almost one-quarter of Facebook–the largest portion.

Mark Zuckerberg
Mark Zuckerberg in 2008 at South by Southwest. Image: Jason McELweenie

When a company “goes public,” it is given a value (for instance, Facebook is said to be worth $100-billion) and that value is divided into “shares.” Those shares, which each represent a tiny piece of the value of the company, are then offered for sale.

They aren’t sold in a supermarket or a farmer’s market, like apples or tomatoes. Instead they are sold on something called a stock market.

The price of a share goes up when a lot of people want to buy it, and it goes down when a lot of people want to sell it.

“Going public” is sometimes a good idea, because the founders of a company–like Zuckberg in the case of Facebook–can sell some of what they own to other people and make some money.

But “going public” also means that Facebook will also be forced to share a lot of information with the Securities And Exchange Commission (SEC). The SEC is an organization in the United States that makes the rules for buying and selling shares.

A lot of Facebook’s behind-the-scenes information about the company, including any business secrets they might have, would then become known to the public.

This article was written with files from Barbara Shecter.

By Kathleen Tilly

Writing/Discussion Prompt
100-billion dollars is certainly a lot of money!  Why do you think Facebook is thought to be worth so much money?

Reading Prompt: Making Inferences/Interpreting Texts
Do you use any social networking sites, such as Facebook or Twitter? Why or why not?

Why do you think social networking is so popular?

Why do you think people want to chat and meet over the Internet instead of face-to-face?

Develop interpretations about texts using stated and implied ideas to support their interpretations (OME, Reading: 1.5).

Develop and explain interpretations of increasingly complex or difficult texts using stated and implied ideas from the texts to support their interpretations (OME, Reading: 1.5).

Grammar Feature: Internet Lingo and Acronyms
Social networking sites, such as Facebook, are filled with acronyms (acronyms are created when the first letter of each word in a phrase are put together).

Some popular acronyms on the Internet are LOL (laughing out loud), ROTFL (rolling on the floor laughing) and BFN (bye for now).

What are some of the acronyms that you use on social networking sites or when you are texting? What do they mean?

Be creative and make up your own acronym!  See if your friends can figure out what it means.