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What's Facebook's secret? Search feature possible

AP/AFP | 15th Jan 2013
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg - File photo
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg - File photo


San Francisco: Facebook's mystery ‘press event’ on Tuesday could reveal a more robust search feature that would intensify the competition between the social networking giant and its rival Google Inc.

Facebook is holding the event at 10 a.m. (1600 GMT) at its California headquarters. The company has not said what it plans to announce. Last week, it invited bloggers and journalists to ‘come see what we're building’.

The company probably won't be showing off a new office building - unless it decided to make its invitation very literal.

It's also unlikely to be unveiling a much-rumored ‘Facebook phone’ - unless CEO Mark Zuckerberg has changed his mind recently. Last fall, as he'd done on numerous occasions, he publicly shot down speculation that Facebook was building its own smartphone.

"It is so clearly the wrong strategy for us," Zuckerberg said at a September technology conference in his first public interview after Facebook's May initial public offering. "It doesn't move the needle for us."

As far as search goes, users would likely welcome a better way to sift through Facebook for people, businesses, events and everything else available on the vast online network.

The company, whose much-promoted initial public offering turned out to be a disappointment, may also talk about new advertising features. Facebook has been especially focused on building up is mobile advertising business, since most of its users access Facebook through smartphones and tablets.

Research firm eMarketer estimates that Facebook, the No. 2 company in the U.S. mobile advertising market, had an 8.8 percent share last year -up from zero in 2011. That compared with No. 1 Google's 56.6 percent. This year, Facebook is expected to grow its share to 12.2 percent, while remaining far behind Google.

Facebook, which has been calling itself a ‘mobile first’ company, has been growing thanks to increased use of its mobile apps, improving ad quality and its emerging advertising network, called Facebook Exchange, Baird analyst Colin Sebastian said in a recent note to investors.

"Our field checks suggest that the recently launched Facebook Exchange is helping advertisers target consumers more effectively," he said, adding that over time, Facebook will make more money from mobile ads, helped by its increasing user profile data.



Guessing game ahead of Facebook mystery event

Facebook shares wobbled Tuesday amid a guessing game ahead of a news conference set by the social network giant at its California headquarters.

Shares opened higher but then slipped back in morning trade before moving up 0.02 percent at $30.95 at 1535 GMT, ahead of the company's 1800 GMT event at its Menlo Park campus.

Facebook was mum about the details of the event, but analysts and media reports were abuzz with speculation about the possibility of a Facebook-backed smartphone, a new consumer mobile platform or details of the new engineering building designed by architect Frank Gehry.

The latter possibility was sparked by the invitation from Facebook, which says: "Come and see what we're building."

The company, which has built a user base of over one billion people worldwide, has nonetheless struggled since its stock offering in May.

Shares in Facebook made a market debut at $38, but sank by more than 50 percent in the following months. The shares have clawed back some of those losses, and began the day down around 20 percent from the IPO level.

Victor Anthony at Topeka Capital Markets sought to dash speculation about a Facebook smartphone but added that "what could be announced is deeper Facebook integration with carriers" to allow "further monetization of mobile."

Anthony reiterated the brokerage's "buy" rating for Facebook, saying any of the speculated announcement at the event "would be a strong positive catalyst for the shares."

Ross Sandler at Deutsche Bank said Facebook "could unveil a new search technology that helps users navigate the site much faster on PC and mobile," which could also be positive for the company.



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