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Facebook IPO Impact: Inspiring a New Generation of Startups?

Let's be honest: This Facebook IPO is a little lacking in drama for Facebook itself.

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Ted Aljibe | AFP | Getty Images
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It's already the most popular Internet service in the world. It's got 901 million users. Hollywood made a movie. Mark Zuckerberg's a 28-year-old gazillionaire.

With the benefit of hindsight, this IPO might be most significant because of what comes after it. Apple's IPO in 1980 introduced the idea of the Silicon Valley nerd-king a half decade before Bill Gates took Microsoft public.

The Netscape IPO in 1995, and the Yahoo IPO a year later, ignited Silicon Valley's imagination and played a huge role in creating a gold rush. Nearly five years of dot-com adrenaline ensued, and now everyone remembers the follow-up more than the IPOs themselves.

But will this time be different? Almost certainly.

Silicon Valley IPOs used to feature long-shot companies who needed investor cash to grow into household names. In 1980, Apple hadn't yet made the first Macintosh, much less the iPod or iPhone; in 1986, Microsoft Windows didn't exist. Netscape's browser was still a long shot when that company went public, just 16 months after it got started — and Microsoft ended up crushing it.

Facebook is on far sturdier footing. Thanks to the backing of early investors, Facebook didn't need to go public five years ago when it was still duking it out with MySpace for social networking supremacy.

Now it's already a juggernaut, having done a couple dozen acquisitions of its own.

Which brings us back to the question of impact: Will other startups follow in Facebook's footsteps? If so, it doesn't mean a bunch of fledgling startups rushing to go public with little revenue and no profit.

Phil Libin, CEO of Evernote, tells CNBC the startup landscape has changed to be far less dependent on the IPO, and that's a good thing.

Private markets allow companies to give early employees and investors some liquidity without opening the barn door of going public.

At the same time, the Facebook platform itself is inspiring a fresh generation of startups including Pinterest, Socialcam and Viddy.

(Pinterest just this week raised $100 million from Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten at a $1.5 billion valuation.)

So, the Facebook IPO's legacy? Ironically, it could involve inspiring a new generation of startups without a new generation of IPOs.

-By CNBC's John Fortt

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