LinkedIn may be eyeing IPO in 2011

Will LinkedIn beat Facebook and Twitter to become the first social network IPO?

LinkedIn may become the first social network to register for an initial public offering, according to news reports.

The Wall Street Journal first reported that the social network will file papers in the first quarter of this year in pursuit of an IPO. Despite being a second-tier player in the social networking world of Facebook and Twitter, LinkedIn may actually be the first one out of the IPO starting gates.

"LinkedIn would be the first social networking company to go public and it will be a good test of how valuable these companies might be," said Dan Olds, an analyst with The Gabriel Consulting Group. "While LinkedIn isn't Facebook or Twitter, they do have something like 85 million users and a business plan that is at least as developed, or hazy, depending on your perspective, as those at Facebook and Twitter."

Citing unnamed sources, the Journal reported that Bank of America, Merrill Lynch, J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. and Morgan Stanley are underwriting the IPO.

This has been a big week in the social working scene.

Earlier this week, it was reported that Facebook received a $500 million influx of cash from Goldman Sachs and a Russian investor. Goldman Sachs, a major investment bank, also valued Facebook at $50 billion.

That significant financial shot in the arm did a lot to validate the business behind social networking, which was considered to be little more than an immature venture without a lot of planning behind it until the last few years.

In late September, reports began to hit the blogosphere that Facebook was a few years away from its own IPO .

Facebook board member, venture capitalist and PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel told Reuters at the time that the company was looking at making an IPO sometime after late 2012. With more than half a billion users and a massive online presence, Facebook would likely draw a lot of investor interest.

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her e-mail address is

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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