From The Facebook to 500 Million Users

By Amy Slife Facebook will soon be celebrating a big milestone, 500 million users, making it the most widely used social network out there today. Having only started in the last decade, Facebook has experienced astounding growth and greatly changed the day-to-day activities of many individuals and companies. It is important to remember that The Facebook, as it was originally named, was started just for an elite group of colleges, and has since infiltrated the daily marketing activities and media mix of many businesses and organizations. With what seems like a plethora of design and platform updates to a recent privacy snafu, Facebook has undergone many changes since its inception in 2004.  Here’s a look back at some of Facebook’s growth and notable milestones over the past six years that have created the Facebook we largely know today.

Launched in February 2004, as The Facebook and only open to an initial group of colleges, Harvard, then the Ivy League schools Stanford, Yale and Columbia, The Facebook accrues almost a million users by the end of ‘04.

2005 was a big growth and development year for the social network. The securement of VC funding in May 2005 allowed Facebook to expand to 800 college networks nationwide. becomes and expands, adding high school networks, much to the dislike of the college Facebook-using population, and international school networks.

In 2006, Facebook took another step in the adding networks direction with the addition of work networks. Later in 2006, the site opened to allow anyone and everyone to register for a Facebook account. With open registration, the site amassed more than 12 million active users before the end of the year.

Facebook hit two notable growth points in 2007, registering 20 million active users in April, and growing by 30 million over the course of 7 months, to register 50 million active users in October. During 2007, we also saw the introduction of the Facebook gifts feature, a real hit among the student population, and now rumored to soon be discontinued as of August 1. Facebook ads, which have since taken off among the brand world, also launched on ’07.

In 2008, Facebook users were introduced to Facebook Chat, an easy and quick communication tool for conversing with friends in real-time directly through the platform. We also saw Facebook hit 100 million active users during this year.

Increasingly notable growth milestones have been coming right and left in 2009-2010 as we’ve seen social media really explode to become not only a daily way of life for the average individual, but also part of the marketing media mix for many large and small brands and businesses. Throughout 2009, Facebook grew from 150 million active users to over 350 million active users in December ’09. By February 2010, the social network announced that they’d reached over 400 million users, 50% of which log on to Facebook daily. Also noteworthy, 70% of those using Facebook reside outside of the U.S. and more than 500 billion minutes are spent on Facebook each month. As they approach 500 million active users a few short months later, it’s astounding to think that a social network started solely at Harvard could have infiltrated its way into the lives of 500 million users in all corners of the globe.

What do you find most astounding about the growth of Facebook? What’s your prediction for where Facebook will take social media in the coming years? Share with us in the comments!