Social networking site Facebook has notched up a major online milestone – signing 500 million users – almost eight per cent of the world’s population.
Started six years ago with just a few hundred members the company has exploded in the last 15 months adding eight new users a second.
The developing world has proved to be an ideal recruiting ground.
Randi Zuckerberg of Facebook consumer marketing said: “Actually we have released some new statistics around India and Brazil, some of our fastest growing countries. In India we have 12 million users, Brazil six million. That is particularly exciting to us because this time last year we had just a very small presence in those countries.”
It has not all been plain sailing. Privacy controls have been an issue with many users reluctant to share all the personal details the site gives others access to.
Facebook user Shannon Amos said: “I spend time on it, but I have started to pull back because of some of the privacy settings. I just feel that we are so open now to so many people.”
Julia, another Facebook member, said she was disillusioned with the network: “I think it’s terrible, it’s narcissistic. It shows that our culture, unfortunately, is going in the wrong direction.”
But, one Iranian student known only as Khsro said:
“For a lot of Iranians, like a year ago, it became one of the foremost important tools to get news from inside Iran.”
Despite the setbacks and concerns over bullying and even identity theft – Facebook has become an internet giant rivalling search engine Google in size and scope.