Alibaba filed paperwork late Tuesday for a $1 billion public offering.
The value of the IPO is seen as a placeholder to calculate registrations fees. The actual amount raised in the IPO is reportedly expected to be closer to the $15 billion to $20 billion range, making it the largest tech IPO since Facebook, if not ever.
Alibaba was founded in 1999 by an eccentric former English teacher named Jack Ma and has since become China's largest ecommerce company. It mainly consists two big shopping websites: Taobao, which launched in 2003 to compete with eBay in China, and Taobao Mall (or Tmall), an online shopping marketplace.
"Our founders started our company to champion small businesses, in the belief that the Internet would level the playing field by enabling small enterprises to leverage innovation and technology to grow and compete more effectively in the domestic and global economies," the company wrote in a mission statement included with its paperwork. "Our decisions are guided by how they serve our mission over the long-term, not by the pursuit of short-term gains."
Alibaba generated $5.55 billion in revenue for the year ending March 31, according to the F-1 filing on Tuesday. It had 237 million annual active buyers in 2013, more than half of which came from mobile.
In the filing, Alibaba highlighted a number of potential risk factors including loss of key executives like Ma, slowing retail growth in China and the reliability of the internet infrastructure in the country.
"Our revenue growth may slow or our revenues may decline for other reasons, including decreasing consumer spending, increasing competition, slowing growth of the China retail or China online retail industry, changes in government policies or general economic conditions," the filing notes.
The company has invested in a range of businesses, including retail site ShopRunner, messaging app Tango and Weibo, China's version of Twitter, which also recently went public.
Alibaba has yet to specify which stock exchange it will choose to go public with.