Facebook, the hugely popular and often controversial social networking service, is expected to announce this week that it has reached 500 million users. It's a momentous milestone for CEO Mark Zuckerberg's company, which just over six years ago was still a dorm-room project on a shoestring budget.
Judging by influence and reach, Facebook today is one of the most successful Internet startups in history, even if not the most profitable. But as the Silicon Valley mantra goes: First build an audience, then monetize it.
Thanks to a deft understanding of the "network effect," in which a service becomes more valuable as more people use it, Facebook has accomplished the first task. And with annual revenue nearing $1 billion, it's making progress on the second.
And the timing of Facebook's milestone couldn't be better for a forthcoming movie, The Social Network. That 500 millionth member will likely sign on just days after the release of the full-length trailer for the Aaron Sorkin-penned, David Fincher-directed film about the company's origins (see video below). The movie's tagline? "You don't get to 500 million friends without making a few enemies."
Time to "Celebrate Users"
Facebook has its own strategy for marking the occasion: It's launching a publicity campaign called "Facebook Stories," which is designed to highlight how the service has affected the lives of individuals, according to AllThingsD.
"As we anticipated our 500-million milestone, and we wanted to find a different way to announce and celebrate it," Facebook's Randi Zuckerberg (CEO Mark Zuckerberg's sister), told Kara Swisher. "In the past, it's been all about the numbers and milestones, and we realized we had never taken the opportunity to celebrate users."
"Facebook Stories" will be a collection of posts up to 420 words -- the status update word limit -- grouped around geography and themes like love, grief and natural disaster, Swisher reports. Facebook users can submit their stories here.
But remember, by doing so, you're granting Facebook "an irrevocable, perpetual, royalty-free, worldwide right and license (with right to sublicense) to use, distribute, reproduce, create derivate works of, perform and display Your Content, in whole or part, on or off the Facebook site for any purpose, commercial or otherwise without acknowledgment, consent or monetary or other compensation to you."
Facebook is no doubt keen for a dose of positive press after a rash of bad publicity earlier this year over its privacy policies. But the respite may be somewhat short-lived: Judging from The Social Network's theatrical trailer, the film doesn't portray company CEO Mark Zuckerberg in a particularly flattering light.
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