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Mysterious Facebook product plumps up shares on Wall Street

Fat goose or slim pickings coming later today?

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Facebook's stock went north on Wall Street - reaching $32 a share yesterday for the first time since July 2011 - basking in the glow of the free content ad network's imminent product announcement.

The company sent out invites to the press last week to "come and see what we're building".

Surprisingly, the details of what will be revealed at the event haven't been leaked. Pundits have banged on about Facebook developing its own mobile handset even though boss Mark Zuckerberg has publicly pooh-poohed such a plan.

Others have attempted perhaps more intelligent guesses about what will be announced, including the possibility of some kind of Facebook OS geared for mobile devices - which in many ways makes sense given the company's recent Ts&Cs overhaul to allow Facebook to share data across its growing [see Instagram acquisition and subsequent fallout] estate.

Following some last-minute outrage about that plan, Facebook was forced to "clarify" how that system would work in the European Union. In the 27 member states, the website would have to seek consent from its users before opening up the network in that way to admen.

Still others are once again speculating that Facebook will debut its own search tech.

Search is something that Zuckerberg's gang have been openly working on for some time now. A 25-strong team headed up by Lars Rasmussen of Google Maps fame, who has been at Facebook since October 2010, has been focusing on making the network return more intelligent search queries. That team was recently expanded to 100 bods. It's a move that shows just how serious Facebook is about search.

Zuck has also hinted that Facebook needed to address the matter. Last year, in a slightly overstated way, he claimed that the social network was "pretty uniquely positioned to answer the questions people have". Facebook's current search function, which is underpinned by Microsoft technology, is woefully inadequate.

Redmond wonks reportedly tried to offload Microsoft's Bing search engine onto Facebook last year, without such an idea being sanctioned by chief Steve Ballmer, apparently.

There have also been rumours - quickly rubbished - about Facebook doing a search deal with Yahoo!.

But Wall Street analysts have pointed out that this announcement is coming during Facebook's quiet period so the supposed big mystery could prove to be a bit of a damp squib. Two weeks from now the network will report its latest earnings when the performance of its shares are likely to be of much more interest to its investors.

The mystery product unveiling will take place at 18:00 GMT tonight. ®

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