Shares in the social-media giant Facebook (Nasdaq: FB) have been public for more than two weeks now.

The bad news is that they're down more than 35% since opening at $42 on May 18. The good news is that things could have been a lot worse.

The underwhelming Internet IPO
Big-name Internet IPOs have performed abominably of late, recording an average after-market return of negative-28%, almost the precise return of Yelp (NYSE: YELP), the online urban city guide.

The worst performer of the lot is Groupon (Nasdaq: GRPN), which is down 62% since going public last November. To provide some context, over the past few months, the daily deals site has had to restate earnings twice, is under investigation by the SEC, and recently replaced two-thirds of its audit committee.

Not far behind are game-maker Zynga (Nasdaq: ZNGA) and Internet radio company Pandora Media (NYSE: P), both of which are down nearly 50% after initially launching above their IPO prices.

Indeed, the only two high-profile Internet IPOs of the past few years to perform admirably are personal finance website Bankrate and Facebook's counterpart for professionals, LinkedIn. The former is up 28%, and the latter is up 11% from its IPO opening trades. If you were a LinkedIn investor who received an initial allocation from the IPO, you would have doubled your money by now.

Facebook is consequently just one among many disappointing Internet IPOs -- neither the best, nor the worst:


First Day Return

Two-Week Return

Total Aftermarket Return*

Total IPO Return**

Bankrate 10% 18% 28% (7%)
LinkedIn 14% (5%) 11% 84%
Yelp 12% (1%) (28%) 47%
Average (6%) (14%) (28%) 49%
Facebook (9%) (34%) (36%) 11%
Zillow (37%) (52%) (43%) 185%
Zynga (14%) (14%) (44%) 10%
Pandora (13%) (13%) (47%) 25%
Groupon (7%) (12%) (62%) 40%

Sources: Yahoo! Finance and Renaissance Capital.
*The total after-market return is calculated using the opening price per share on the first day of trading.
**The total IPO return represents the difference between the IPO price per share and the opening share price on the first day of trading.

Learning our IPO lesson
If there's one lesson we can take away from Facebook's IPO debacle, it's this: As a general rule, most, if not all, value is extracted before any shares ever trade on an exchange.

In every instance but one, the opening price exceeded the IPO price by an average of 49%. And in every instance but two, the subsequent return to retail investors has been negative, down an average of 28%. The spread between returns is a jaw-dropping 77%.

Thus, do yourself a favor and think about this the next time you're tempted to buy into the next big IPO.

Foolish bottom line
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This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.