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A public offering by Mark Zuckerberg & Co. would make investors rich. What's in it for the social network's community?

Rumor has it that Facebook employees were celebrating word from founder Mark Zuckerberg that he plans to take the company public next year, but reaction among members and power users of the social network were decidedly different.

“I think that an IPO would put profits ahead of utility,” said Jeremy Gregg of Dallas, who said he is “totally addicted” to Facebook. "Facebook makes tons of money, but their owners are first and foremost ‘users.’ They are evangelists for the cause. That disappears the moment they go public, and the primary focus shifts from user experience to stock price.”

An initial public offering of shares of Facebook could be the biggest such deal in history, but the company has yet to make an official announcement and has not commented on the new rumors. Zuckerberg has not appeared to be in any rush to take the company public, but a fresh round of whispers apparently originating with Facebook employees has Wall Street drooling—and Facebook users uncertain about what that means for them.

“They are generating enormous revenues—I would be very concerned if that is not enough to fund whatever expansion they need,” said Gregg, who also uses Facebook in his job at a nonprofit. “The only reason for an IPO would be for the initial creators to cash out, which could mean the end of the company from an innovation standpoint.”

This latest round of IPO talk comes at a time when Facebook is facing some tough criticism from many of its users. The company has repeatedly delayed implementation of its latest innovation, a Timeline feature that displays a person’s history of Facebook usage. Last week a malware attack, which showered users with porn, left many threatening to deactivate their accounts.

The U.S. Senate is also looking into the company’s practice of using cookies to track members even after they have logged out of their accounts.

“If I was an investor or early employee in Facebook I would hope Zuck focuses on that IPO ASAP before any more value is lost. Sinking ship,” @brandonwinnie tweeted.

It doesn’t help public perception that Goldman Sachs, which led a round of investment in Facebook last January, is expected to be involved in a public offering. There’s not much love for Wall Street investment banks among rank-and-file Facebook users.

“I guess we'll have to find a new social network,” Mike Diel wrote in a Facebook post last month, after reading a story about the Goldman deal.

Photo by Guillaume Parmier

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