It’s not literally everyone, but it sure feels like it some days: Facebook has announced that as of today, it officially boasts more than 2 billion (yes, with a b) active users per month… a number that only keeps going up.
Facebook is of course touting the good news and the human interconnection angle of this milestone, because that makes the overall implications seem warm and cuddly.
Users can expect to see a personalized “Good Adds Up” video hitting their news feeds sometime this week, the company says. It will also be increasing the number of “good job” style messages it populates into your feed whenever you wish someone a happy birthday, create a group, or use the “love” reaction on a post.
The implications of Facebook’s reach, however, are enormous. It’s impossible to think of a parallel in history where more than a quarter of all living humans on the entire Earth — across boundaries of geography, language, and nation — could all be reached with a single tool at the same moment.
But Facebook has often been criticized over its privacy practices and the way in which it allows advertisers to access and use its massive trove of user data to unethically or unlawfully target or exclude certain people and groups.
Facebook’s easy sharing mechanisms are also routinely blamed for a massive uptick in “fake news” being easily and virally spread, and the company still hasn’t really figured out how to handle the problems of hate speech; revenge porn; violent, graphic, or offensive content; terrorism; and other kinds of threats and and harassment on its platform — problems which are spreading as Facebook’s reach does.
As the company grows, it continues to want to be basically your everything service. Facebook keeps adding new functions to Messenger in an attempt to become the “everything app” for countries outside of China the same way WeChat is for 1 billion users in that country. It’s become a live video streaming service regularly used by polticians, celebrities, and anyone else who needs to reach a crowd on the spot. And soon, if the company has its way, it will be yet another “channel” you can watch exclusive scripted TV shows on.
Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote a memo of congratulations to the world about the major mathematical milestone on his own Facebook page.
“We’re making progress connecting the world, and now let’s bring the world closer together,” Zuckerberg wrote. “It’s an honor to be on this journey with you.”
In response to questions in the comments, Zuckerberg added that while it took from 2004 until October 2012 to reach the first billion users, the second has all happened in under five years.
If that trend were to continue and it were to take three fewer years to reach the next billion than it did to reach the second, we’d see the three billion user milestone around 2020. But of course, there’s no guarantee that Facebook’s growth rate will take any particular form — and trying to predict even six months into the future, let alone six years, is a fool’s game when it comes to internet businesses and culture.