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The spigot of new stock offerings is gradually turning on again in the dot-com space.
There weren't too many companies going public in 2009, but Internet companies were fairly represented with web-based vitamin retailers, restaurant reservation specialists, and a couple of Chinese online gaming companies taking their chances.
The new year promises more of the same. The market's been rallying since March, and tech stocks have been leading the charge.
In no particular order, here are a few of the cyberspace companies that I would like to see go the IPO route in 2010.
One of the planet's most popular online destinations is finally starting to slow down. It took just two months for its registered rolls to go from 250 million to 300 million, but it took a little bit longer than that to go from 300 million to 350 million. This doesn't mean that Facebook has peaked, of course. It's also not indicative of the sticky usage rates that find folks spending more time on the site. However, no one would blame Facebook for cashing in while the going is still good, as any pupil of social networking's history can attest after seeing Friendster and MySpace squander their fleeting opportunities at the top.
The price comparison site that disrupted travel portals and individual service providers may also want to cash out while the going is good. Microsoft's (Nasdaq: MSFT ) Bing is gaining in popularity, and one of its promoted features is a Kayak-esque travel shopping comparison engine of its own. The runaway success of priceline.com (Nasdaq: PCLN ) in recent years validates the sector, and Kayak's comparison angle will appeal to savvy investors who can appreciate the growing ranks of online deal seekers.
The ambitious marketer of discounted domain name registrations with its titillating television ads seemed all ready to go public three years ago. It didn't happen, naturally, but now GoDaddy is reaching out to a larger Internet audience in a kinder market climate. Besides, there aren't too many dot-com Super Bowl advertisers that aren't public.
We may never officially know who was the one to walk away from Google's (Nasdaq: GOOG ) rumored acquisition of Web 2.0 darling Yelp for $500 million this month. We may never even know if the chatter was legitimate. However, the popular community-driven site of local restaurant and business reviews has at least established itself as a contender during the rumor mill process. The $500 million price tag puts it in the ballpark of 2009 IPO OpenTable (Nasdaq: OPEN ) , which knows a thing or two about taking a web-based turn at improving the restaurant industry.
When Electronic Arts (Nasdaq: ERTS ) agreed to pay at least $275 million for social gaming specialist Playfish, it established a floor for Zynga's valuation. After all, Zynga is the company behind FarmVille and Mafia Wars, two of the more popular games on Facebook.
The road to monetization still isn't clear when it comes to one of the Internet's most talked about sites, but no company has a birthright to buzz. Twitter's brand may never be hotter than it is right now, especially as Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN ) , Dell (Nasdaq: DELL ) , and other companies are generating incremental revenue by leaning on the Twitter's platform.
Before the residential real estate market went bust, Zillow was a hotshot of home listings and nail-biting homeowners tracking the worth of their digs. It may be hard to justify an IPO until the industry turns around, but there are a few promising signs that housing prices are starting to bottom out.
I can certainly see a few of these companies going public next year. If not, many of them will likely be acquired in 2010, as larger companies try to cash in on hot trends or nab disruptors in the crib.
Crack those knuckles, underwriters. There's work to be done.