April 9, 2009

Facebook Reaches 200 Million Users

Facebook has added another 100 million people to its user base over the past eight months, officially signing up its 200 millionth user on Wednesday. 

The number of Facebook users now exceeds the populations of Japan and Brazil. 

The popular online social network was initially only available to college students when the site officially launched in 2004.  But its growth has surged since it began allowing anyone to sign up.

How long such growth can continue is unclear. 

News Corp.'s MySpace, which has an estimated 130 million users, has seen its growth plateau after its spectacular rise.  And Facebook's growth could ultimately level off as well.  

Nevertheless, even if the Palo Alto, Calif.-based company's growth begins to slow as it runs out of new prospects, if it continues to evolve its offering many of today's holdouts might eventually join.

"What's striking to me is how Facebook has become a kind of dashboard for Internet users," said Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Internet and American Life Project, in an interview with the AP.

Facebook, along with MySpace and other social networking sites, have obviously changed the online experience for many, he added.

Along the way, Facebook has had its fair share growing pains, ranging from user privacy concerns to a new site design that angered tens of thousands.

Last week, the company announced the departure of its chief financial officer Gideon Yu.  Facebook said it would seek a replacement with "public company experience", despite the fact that Yu had formerly served as treasurer of Yahoo Inc.

On Wednesday, the company updated its display of site statistics. According to the new figures, more than 50 percent of Facebook users log in to the site at least once a day, with those over the age of 35 the fastest-growing demographic.  And 7 in 10 Facebook users are now outside the United States.

For those users wondering how popular they are, the average Facebook user has 120 "friends" on the site.

In addition to Facebook and MySpace, other social networking sites include Orkut from Google Inc. and AOL's Bebo.


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