Facebook Reaches Half A Billion Users

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One in twelve people on the planet is now a member of social network giant Facebook, according to Mark Zuckerberg

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg announced yesterday that the social network now has more than 500 million registered users, just six years after it was first launched.

Writing on the Facebook blog, Zuckerberg described this as “an important milestone”, and thanked users for helping to spread the site around the world.

“Half a billion is a nice number, but the number isn’t what really matters here,” he said in a video statement. “What matters are all the stories that we hear from all of you about the impact your connections have had on your lives.”

Facebook stories

Mark Zuckerberg
Mark Zuckerberg

To mark the occasion, Facebook is launching a new application called Facebook Stories, where users can share tales about how Facebook has affected their lives. Zuckerberg gave the example of Ben Saylor – a 17-year-old student who used Facebook to organise a community effort to rebuild his local outdoor theatre after it was damaged by floods.

“Our mission at Facebook is to help make the world more open and connected,” said Zuckerberg. “Stories like these are examples of that mission and are both humbling and inspiring. I could have never imagined all of the ways people would use Facebook when we were getting started 6 years ago.”

However, despite its overwhelming success, Facebook is still plagued with concerns about privacy, user interface changes and advertising. According to the 2010 American Customer Satisfaction Index E-Business Report, Facebook only scored 64 out of 100 on the satisfaction scale. The company was ranked in the bottom 5 percent of all the private companies surveyed, said ForeSee Results, which partnered with ASCI on the survey.

“Facebook is a phenomenal success, so we were not expecting to see it score so poorly with consumers,” said ForeSee President and CEO Larry Freed  “At the same time, our research shows that privacy concerns, frequent changes to the website, and commercialisation and advertising adversely affect the consumer experience.”

Ongoing privacy concerns

Last year Facebook sparked complaints when it redesigned its home page. Facebook also regularly triggers privacy concerns, most recently with its instant personalisation, universal “like” button and social plug-ins. And still the website is gaining new users at a pace of 200 million per year.

Zuckerberg made an appearance at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California, yesterday to celebrate the release of David Kirkpatrick’s book “The Facebook Effect”. In that interview he said that Facebook has always held personal control as a core tenet, and that “when people become comfortable with sharing information they share more information.”

Zuckerberg also said that he does not intend to make information shared on Facebook more public over time, but rather that he aimed to create a simpler experience back in December, and that’s why he opened up the default settings.

Earlier this year, Facebook was forced to design new security features, following the fallout over the changes to its privacy settings.

“Social networks don’t have to be at odds with protecting privacy,” said Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy at the time. “The problem is when companies like Facebook become obsessed with monetising every bit of their members’ data, and throw caring about privacy out the digital window. A responsible social network can balance generating profits with also protecting privacy.”

Additional reporting by Clint Boulton

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