"Come and see what we're building" reads a media invite last week, inviting tech trackers to Facebook's (NASDAQ: FB ) corporate office for a glimpse at the social networking website's future.
Tomorrow's event has generated plenty of speculative chatter, and analysts have been chiming in to make sure that they're publicly bullish ahead of any potential game-changing announcements.
Let's dive into a few of the potential things that we may see as CEO Mark Zuckerberg peels back the curtain.
1. Social search engine
There's a reason why Yahoo! tried to buy Facebook while it was still in its crib, and why Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT ) was ultimately to acquire a small stake that valued the company at an incredulous $15 billion at the time: search.
There are now a billion active users on Facebook, and more importantly, 140 billion friendship connections between them.
This is huge, because Facebook doesn't have to settle for taking on global search leader Google (NASDAQ: GOOG ) or betraying Microsoft's Bing. Facebook can raise the bar on search as we know it, tapping into user preferences and data submitted by friends to serve up even more relevant results than Google.
Sure, if all you're looking for is research on the Spanish Inquisition or you want to learn the when to use further instead of farther, Google it. Bing the heck out of that thing. However, if you're looking for a nearby sushi place to eat, a plumber, or you're gearing up for a job interview at a particular company, wouldn't you rather know area restaurants that your friends frequent, the name of the plumber that snaked a toilet clog for a ridiculously low price, or the cousin of a friend that actually works at the company you're going to visit?
Facebook can go where nobody else can, and Zuckerberg already revealed this past summer that he has a team working on search.
This could be Faceboook's biggest needle-mover, and Google, Bing, and Yahoo! may never be the same if it happens.
2. Video advertising
Facebook has become one of the most popular places for its billion active users to share photographs (and to a lesser extent, videos).
It's not easy to monetize digital snapshots, but Google's YouTube has found several ways to slap ads on videos. From pre-rolls to ads that kick in a few seconds into a video to contextual marketing spots that show up at the end, consumers of free video have come to expect the ads.
It makes perfect sense for Facebook to broaden its offerings to include video advertisements, especially for national campaigns of local sponsors that are willing to pay more to get a multimedia promotional message out there.
3. Facebook phone
A lot of people are betting on a Facebook-centric smartphone being put out, so it's worth addressing.
It certainly doesn't seem necessary. The Facebook app on iOS and Android devices is already getting plenty of use. A Facebook phone may seem as silly and redundant as an Angry Birds phone or a Spotify phone. However, if Facebook feels as if more can be done to raise the bar on social by putting out a dedicated phone, who are we not to listen?
Sure, it'll be a flop. Most Facebook users have no plans on leaving the site, but do they really want to make a two-year wireless carrier commitment to a platform? Facebook partner Zynga (NASDAQ: ZNGA ) probably felt that it could put out a smartphone centered around social and casual gaming before its bookings began to slide sequentially. Imagine the poor sap who would've been stuck with a FarmVille phone or a Mafia Wars handset now.
Beyond the big three
We will probably get plenty of glimpses into less ambitious endeavors.
Speaking of Zynga, the two companies agreed to give each other more breathing room recently. Might we be seeing some Facebook-developed social games on Tuesday? It can happen.
Facebook Gifts rolled out ahead of the holiday shopping season. Did you see a lot of Facebook Gifts updates, alerting you to friends using the e-commerce marketplace to send gifts last month? Me neither. It seems to be off to a slow start. However, there's too much potential to not expand it this year.
Investors will be looking at ways for Facebook to build new revenue streams, though users will be wondering what the dot-com darling has in the cards to keep them coming back more often. In the end, both parties want the same thing. Investors can't count on growth if Facebook isn't getting stickier and growing more popular. Users can't count on new innovations if developers are fleeing in response to a sluggish share price.
Facebook has done a great job of bouncing back in recent months. Tomorrow it has to chance to finally get its stock back up near its $38 IPO price.
Don't deny Facebook's friend request
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