By Darren Franich
Updated February 02, 2012 at 09:00 PM EST
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Yesterday, Facebook filed for an estimated $5 billion IPO, a move which sent reverberations throughout the tech industry. It’s the largest internet IPO on record, according to Bloomberg — fellow futuristic megacorporation Google had a relatively measly $1.67 IPO back in 2004 — and analysts are already debating whether that price is wildly overrated or cautiously underrated. But how will these new developments change Facebook for you? As the Western World’s defining social network, Facebook already has to please a constituency of 845 million users. How will that mission change when the company also has to appease shareholders and Wall Street vultures?

“With Facebook being private, Mark Zuckerberg could make changes at any point, and if there was backlash it didn’t matter,” says Shira Lazar, cofounder and host of What’s Trending. “Now that it’s public, there’s a sense of responsibility. If things go wrong or if there is backlash, then he will be held accountable.” In the past, Facebook’s changes have always been

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greeted with a cycle of denial-anger-acceptance — recall all the grousing about the News Feed or the recent rumblings about the Timeline redesign. But as The Wall Street Journal notes, Facebook’s rate of growth will inevitably slow down, making major redesigns and shifts both more necessary and more potentially off-putting to users.

There’s also the question about how Facebook’s status as a public company will alter their always-controversial privacy policy — especially since, as Wired points out, they’ll have to come clean about any privacy investigations. Not to mention that, if Facebook follows the trend set by recent IPO brethren Zynga and Groupon, it may stumble out of the gate. But the more likely possibility is that Facebook’s IPO will take the company one step closer to ultimate virtual-world domination. Lazar notes that the network’s long-term goal is to essentially become the hub of all of a user’s Web browsing. “The Washington Post tracks what you’re reading on Facebook; now, they’re building their home page on Facebook. And they’ve only scratched the surface on retail.” In short, by going public, Facebook has officially raised the stakes on its own lofty ambitions: “The question facing them is: How do you make Facebook the only thing you’re browsing on the Web?”

Follow Darren on Twitter: @EWDarrenFranich

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