What is expected to be the largest technology flotation in history was last night generating the kind of investor frenzy not seen since the days of the dotcom bubble.
Facebook's stock market debut could value the company at $75-$100bn (up to £63bn) and make a billionaire of Mark Zuckerberg, 27, who launched TheFacebook.com from his Harvard University dorm room eight years ago this week.
Facebook executives spent yesterday putting the final touches to the marketing materials it will use to sell a $5bn-plus sliver of the company, while lowlier employees went to work knowing that more than 1,000 of them – one out of three – could soon be dollar millionaires on paper. Two of Mr Zuckerberg's Harvard friends and Facebook co-founders – Dustin Moskovitz, who stayed with the company until 2008, and Eduardo Saverin, whose breach with Mr Zuckerberg was the subject of the film The Social Network – will also become billionaires, along with investors Peter Thiel, a founder of PayPal, and Sean Parker, the creator of Napster.
The publication of the share prospectus fires the starting gun on the flotation, with Facebook shares joining the stock market by the end of May.
Such was the anticipation that business television provided rolling coverage yesterday of the build-up, while industry analysts waited with baited breath to discover the financial details of an internet colossus whose profitability has been kept secret for so long. Analysts say Mr Zuckerberg, whose personal stake in the company could be worth $20bn, faces daunting challenges to keep his company on an even keel despite the hoopla.
As well as having to ensure that his mega-rich employees keep turning up for work every day, he will have to assure the company's most important asset – its 850 million users – that he will be a responsible guardian of their privacy, despite the demands of his new shareholders to make ever more profit from their personal data.
"Today is a big day for the entire tech industry," said analyst Debra Aho Williams.
"Facebook is in a small category of companies to have changed the world... which changed the way people used computers."