Deirdre McMurdy

By the time you read this, both the dog and the pony will have ended their 10-day journey across the United States. After the much-hyped road show starting in New York City and ending in Cupertino, Calif., Facebook — and its 30 underwriters — will be in the last hours of pricing, sizing and distributing one of the most anticipated issues of public equity.

The pioneering social network company is aiming to raise roughly $15 billion. The share price target of $34 to $38 values its worth as high as $104 billion (share prices were valued at $28 to $35 until being raised on Tuesday). By way of context, Google's current market capitalization is about $190 billion, Microsoft's around $250 billion and Apple's in the $425 billion zone.

(About half the proceeds of the sale will go to company coffers and the rest to buying out the stakes of early individual investors.)

Facebook's boldness is all the more impressive given the fact that the global market for new initial offerings of stock is down 56 per cent over a year ago at just $27.8 billion.

Without question, the cachet of owning a piece of Facebook is extremely tempting to investors — especially among the tens of millions of "friends" who use the network site regularly. Facebook has that intoxicating combination of buzz, brand and mystique that commands a premium in terms of price and demand.

There are other, more concrete, factors that make Facebook an appealing investment as well.

The company knows a staggering amount about its users and is adept at finding new ways of learning even more. The most obvious example of this is Timeline, a mandatory new profile pages that encourages users to create an archive of their lives.

That insight and information allows Facebook to deliver highly targeted advertising — it has overtaken Yahoo as the leader in sales of online display advertising.

The network is also an almost incomparable platform for social marketing. After all, if your "friends" recommend something, it will influence everything from how you vote to what you purchase.

According to rough estimates, the social commerce (or s-commerce) market is already worth about $5 billion, and it's growing. Facebook has even developed its own online currency, Facebook Credits.

* Gallery: Facebook: Journey to an IPO

And for all those who fret about market saturation, Facebook boosters point to the massive upside in emerging markets, specifically China (where it's currently banned).

That said, there have been as many questions about the future prospects of Facebook as there has been hype. After all, the company just posted its first quarterly decline in revenue in two years.