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Facebook Celebrates Sixth Birthday, Continues World Domination

By Sree Sreenivasan | February 15, 2010 1:42pm | Updated on February 15, 2010 3:56pm
DNAinfo's Facebook Page. Are you a fan yet?
DNAinfo's Facebook Page. Are you a fan yet?
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Sree Sreenivasan

DNAinfo Contributing Editor

Facebook turned 6 years old this month and also released a major redesign, which makes it a good time to consider how it's doing.

While there's a lot more chatter about Twitter and Google's new social networking feature, Buzz, Facebook continues to dominate social media. But while Facebook's latest statistics give you a glimpse of that dominance, they also provide clues to pitfalls that could cause the social networking giant to stumble in the coming years.

1) There are more than 400 million active users on Facebook, and more than half of them log on any given day. 

That would make Facebook the third largest country in terms of population, behind India and China. The average user spends 55 minutes a day on Facebook, and has 130 friends.

While this might explain the lack of American productivity these days, it
also shows how addictive Facebook is.

2) More than 3 billion photos are uploaded every month, and 5 billion pieces of content (links, notes, photos, etc.) are posted each week.

The control of all that content has caused a great deal of worry among users and privacy advocates as rumors have swirled that anything you post on Facebook belongs to the company and can be used any way they see fit.  But, the latest terms of service page says: "You own all of the content and information you post on Facebook, and you can control how it is shared through your privacy and application settings."

3) More than 20 million people become fans of pages each day, and pages have created more than 5.3 billion fans. More than 1.5 million local businesses have active pages on Facebook, including DNAinfo.

Facebook Pages (as opposed to individual-user Profiles) are going to be crucial to FB's business success, offering companies ways to connect with new potential customers and mine data about them. At DNAinfo, the editorial and marketing teams are watching our page to see what it can do for traffic and user engagement (have you become a fan yet?).

4) Average users click the "Like" button on nine pieces of content and write 25 comments each month.

To me, these small interactions on other people's status updates, photos, etc., are what make Facebook truly "social." It's what makes it an enormous time-sink, but one that reinforces family connections, friendships and much more. It can feel like a waste of time, but because it is so social, you can justify the time you spend there.

That said, Facebook's new approach to privacy has lead to some confusion. If you spend enough time digging through your privacy settings, you can control, more or less, what gets seen by the wider world.  With one important exception.

You can no longer hide, no matter how much of a power user you are, the fact that you became so-and-so's friend or liked such-and-such photograph. In its relentless pursuit of more publicly available content and the resulting equivalent with page views, FB risks alienating some of its biggest fans. I, for one, have been hitting the Like button a lot less often than I used to.

As it takes on Twitter, Google Buzz and whatever else might be coming down the pike, FB can be optimistic about its ability to remain the #1 social network in the world, thanks to its simplicity, ease-of-use and enormous user base. But it cannot afford, however, to be complacent about privacy issues in our ever more open world.

Every Monday, DNAinfo contributing editor Sree Sreenivasan shares his observations about the changing media landscape. He is experimenting with Google Buzz and will write about it in the weeks ahead.