Facebook hits 300 million users, says it's cash-flow positive
It took Facebook five years to get to 150 million active users, a lightning-fast growth rate by any measure. But like track phenom Usain Bolt, the world's No. 1 social networking website atomized its own speed record this year by going from 150 million users to 300 million users in a little over nine months.
CEO Mark Zuckerberg also said today that the company had become cash-flow positive ahead of schedule (he had originally guessed "sometime in 2010") and called the milestone important "because it sets Facebook up to be a strong independent service for the long term."
Facebook makes its money from sponsored advertising as well as from an auction system in which marketers and small businesses pay to target their ads to users of a certain age or geographic region. The private Palo Alto, Calif., company does not disclose its revenues.
Facebook has had a tumultuous childhood, frequently getting in hot water over the way it shares, stores and uses the private information of its large user base. Last month, the company said it was starting a year-long project to clarify and tighten its privacy controls after a Canadian government agency complained about the site's policies.
But Facebook's growth is perhaps the best evidence of its utility and its general appeal to users worldwide. The company says its fastest-growing demographic is now people 35 and older, and in the U.S., the site's nearly 90 million visitors made it the fourth most-trafficked Web property in July. Facebook had 70 million U.S. visitors when it surpassed rival MySpace in May to become the nation's most popular social network.
The company was valued at $10 billion in a transaction earlier this year in which the Russian venture firm Digital Sky Technologies bought $200 million worth of stock in the company. Facebook, which now has close to 1,000 employees, has taken about $600 million in financing.
-- David Sarno