POSTED: Wednesday, February 1, 2012 - 4:00pm
UPDATED: Wednesday, February 1, 2012 - 4:36pm
NBC NATIONAL NEWS — Facebook is expected to move one step closer to becoming a public company on Wednesday.
The social networking giant is expected to file paperwork for a $5-billion initial public offering.
The deal would value Facebook at between $75 and $100-billion, making it one of the largest public companies in the world.
"Facebook has become such a huge part of our lives and it's really hard to replace now because it has now taken the place of a lot of just personal e-mailing, a lot of other social interactions," notes CNET senior writer Dan Ackerman.
In doing so, Facebook has become a treasure-trove for advertisers.
Virtually no other website can claim so many people are coming to it and staying so long.
"Part of the appeal of Facebook is that they have really detailed information on who's using the service. Every time you interact with Facebook, you leave kind of a digital fingerprint," Ackerman explains.
A digital fingerprint providing valuable information for marketers.
Generally, it's institutional investors who benefit from any IPO.
"The tough thing about IPOs is that if you aren't a very large investor, you generally don't have access to them," says Stuart Ng of Partners Wealth Management.
Still, some analysts suspect Facebook will make an exception and somehow allow the company's 800-million members to get in on the action. When the stock goes on sale, probably sometime in May.
Morgan Stanley is the lead underwriter.
Final pricing won't be set for several months.
Facebook was founded by Mark Zuckerberg in his Harvard dorm room in 2004.