One of the most hyped and least surprising tech industry milestones of the past few years is finally official: Facebook announced midmorning on Wednesday that it has reached 500 million active users around the world, an unprecedented number for a social-networking site.
Of course, everyone was aware that this was imminent. Facebook had already announced that it would be launching an application called "Facebook Stories" to commemorate the experiences and connections that people have created and shared on Facebook's network. In our CNET Conversations podcast last week, Facebook VP of product Christopher Cox talked about the forthcoming landmark. And CEO Mark Zuckerberg will be appearing on ABC World News on Wednesday night for a rare television interview.
"I could have never imagined all of the ways people would use Facebook when we were getting started six years ago," Zuckerberg said in a post on the company blog announcing the 500 millionth user (no, Facebook isn't saying who it is).
Facebook continues to grow extremely fast, particularly in regions of the globe where it hadn't previously been an influential Web presence. It was less than a year and a half ago that Facebook hit the 200 million active-user mark, launching a campaign in the process to spread awareness of how it could be used for charitable causes.
But it's also a time of some disquiet for the company.
A recent privacy scandal appears to have blown over with users, but regulators and officials in several countries, including Canada and Germany, aren't buying it. Zuckerberg himself is about to be depicted onscreen as a backstabbing megalomaniac in "The Social Network," the upcoming David Fincher-directed film that has already wowed movie lovers with a beautifully constructed, creepy trailer. And a new lawsuit that appears outlandish on the surface may prove a little bit more complicated than Facebook expected, as documents prove that Zuckerberg did once do freelance software development work for a New York man who now claims that he is entitled to a massive chunk of Facebook.
As the brash tagline for "The Social Network" asserts, "You don't get to 500 million friends without making a few enemies."