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Facebook crosses 500 million users landmark

Half-a-billion and counting. Facebook passed a key milestone this week as it continued its meteoric rise in popularity. Yet, as the site continues to grow, so do the challenges.

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If it was a country, Facebook would now be the third most populous on earth behind India and China. 

Facebook crossed an important milestone on Wednesday, when the 500 millionth user signed on to the social networking service.  

With millions of new users registering each month, the once brash prediction by the company’s founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, about building an online community of a billion people is no longer seen as the typical Silicon Valley hyperbole. After all, in less than six months, Facebook added a staggering one hundred million new users. If the company maintains that pace, then reaching the 600 million mark by the end of the year may be within reach.  
 
Trouble ahead?
 
With its surging popularity, Facebook is also facing increased opposition, particularly from those concerned about online privacy.

In 2007, the company encountered fierce opposition to its “Beacon” programme that sent information about a user’s purchases on third-party sites to each of their Facebook friends.  The company did, however, cancel the initiative soon after its launch.

More recently, the social network came under renewed criticism for its complicated privacy settings. In May, the U.S.-based Electronic Privacy Information Center filed a complaint in Washington with the Federal Trade Commission claiming that Facebook’s privacy controls are unnecessarily complicated, if not intentionally designed to confuse users.

 
While Facebook's growth is no doubt impressive by any measure, Silicon Valley is littered with the remains of companies who failed to properly scale their businesses.  Although sceptics have often underestimated Zuckerberg and erringly predicted Facebook's demise, the company faces real challenges as the number of users and critics continue to grow.

 

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