Facebook is said to be about to pass the 700m user landmark and, according to estimates, could hit 1bn by the end of 2012. If that happens, the social network would have well over 10% of the population within its syste, although the challenge then would be how best to commoditise the information that is collected and how to retain users. It’s not clear how many of those 700m users are regular visitors, and how many are dormant accounts.
Facebook is fast becoming far more than just a social network. People upload vast amounts of data to the site, turning it into not only a massive advertising juggernaut but also a way of keeping track of people around the world. Some less charitable people might argue that Facebook could ultimately evolve to become the ultimate surveillance machine – oh wait, someone did already suggest that.
The fact is that Facebook is popular because people want to (a) show off their social lives online, or (b) get a better social life that they can then (a) show off online. While many people say that they are concerned about privacy, that argument is still very stunted and few people really consider the true implications of Facebook’s reach into their lives. Once Facebook hits that magic 1bn user mark, it’s hard to see how anyone, even Google, can keep pace.