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Facebook was founded by Mark Zuckerberg and his college roommates in 2004 and is debuting on stock markets in its eighth year. Google’s IPO came six years after being founded by Larry Page and Sergey Brin. When Google turned eight in August 2006, its market cap was roughly $116 billion. Today, the company is worth nearly $190 billion _ down from a peak of about $235 billion in November 2007.

Investors may be asked to bet heavily on the belief that Facebook will continue to revolutionize the way people communicate around the globe. Even with Facebook’s heady growth rate, Google had ad revenue last year of more than five times what Facebook is expected to get in 2013. Yet it is Google that is mimicking Facebook in building a rival social network called Plus.

“There’s the general feeling that Facebook might be the future of the way the Internet works,” said eMarketer analyst Debra Aho Williamson.

Zuckerberg, 27, is already worth $17.5 billion, based on the latest estimates from Forbes magazine. Most of that wealth is drawn from the value of Facebook shares that have traded among a small universe of well-heeled investors that buy stakes in companies before they go public.

As the company gauges public demand for its stock, the number of shares offered and the price asked could change significantly. Groupon had to refile its securities paperwork repeatedly as regulators questioned some of its accounting methods. Even Google took in less than it hoped as people shunned an unorthodox auction-based offering.

John Fitzgibbon Jr., publisher of IPOScoop.com, said it’s too early to get excited.

“Until they actually put the ink on the paper and push it across the desk of the SEC, it’s all speculation,” he said.

The possible filing next week isn’t all that surprising.

Federal rules require companies with at least $10 million in assets and more than 500 shareholders to disclose its quarterly financial results and other details. The reporting requirement kicks in 120 days after the fiscal year in which a company exceeds the shareholder threshold for the first time.

Facebook’s fiscal year ends Dec. 31, so it has until late April 2012 to comply with this requirement, having hit the 500-shareholder threshold last year. Because it typically takes three or four months after filing paperwork to issue the IPO, a Wednesday filing would allow it to meet the deadline. If it happens in May, it could become a lucrative birthday gift for Zuckerberg, who will turn 28 that month.