It was only two months ago that Facebook announced it had hit 350 million users and now it is about to hit 400 million. Couple that with yesterday’s report that it is now the fourth biggest traffic source for news sites then its significance to all of us appears to be growing by the day.
Back in June Facebook reached 250 million active users and by December Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg announced that the social networking site he founded had grown to 350m users globally (23 million) in the UK and that his target was 1bn.
That is a big number and it is announced on the site’s sixth birthday. In the space of 60 days give or take Facebook has attracted 50 million people – that’s 830,000 people a day — and its growth appears to be accelerating.
Here’s what Zuckerberg has to say: “Today we’re celebrating our sixth birthday, and this week there will be 400 million people on Facebook. Just one year ago we served less than half as many people, and thanks to you we’ve made great progress over the last year towards making the world more open and connected.”
News of the 400 million club comes as Facebook also announces changes to its design and navigation. There are improvements to search and the way pictures are uploaded and they’ve added a new games application dashboard to make it easier to find these things should you want them.
The focus there is clear. These games are massive money spinners (like Farmville) and traffic drivers, which is in part helping to fuel Facebook’s growth.
“We’re making it easier for you to find and interact with applications and discover new ones, with the new Applications and Games dashboards, accessible via the “Applications” and “Games” links on the home page. The dashboards will surface the applications you’ve interacted with most recently as well as your most recent application activity and your friends’ activity.”
There are already 3,000 comments on the post announcing changes to Facebook’s design. Plus another 2,500 plus saying they like it. That’s an engaged community. The post only went up five hours ago.
Facebook Connect also looks to have played a big part in this and that has barely got going. People have called Facebook Connect a game changer and we are going to see big things with that this year.
As more sites implement Facebook Connect it will doubtless persuade more users to Facebook because it so easily allows people to hop around the web with a single login.
What’s interesting about Facebook Connect and its success with sites like the Huffington Post for instance is that these are sites come with a huge cross section of audience in terms of age and demographics, which underscores Facebook’s success (and MySpace’s failure). Facebook has broad sustained appeal from your mother to your kids.
What’s also interesting is that the growth appears sustainable. It took it six months to get it the 100 million users it needed to growth from 250 million to 350 million, but only two months to add another 50 million. That raises the prospect of Facebook of hitting 500 million users by June.
What will that mean for news sites and the likes of Google News? It could be significant as more and more people choose Facebook as the platform not only where they network with friends, share pictures, play games, but also stay informed.