Big Growth, Big Questions: Facebook Hits 150 Million

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Facebook now has 150 million active users, up 10 million since last month, according to information recently shared by Mark Zuckerberg.

Of that figure, half are checking the site daily.  “This includes people in every continent – even Antarctica,” Zuckerberg blogged.  In total, Zuckerberg boasted penetration across 170 countries, in 35 different languages.

The figure, if accurate, represents a continued climb past MySpace, at least on a global basis.  By mid-2008, Facebook had surpassed MySpace, according to comScore, though MySpace still retained a strong lead within the United States.

The growth is certainly impressive, though nagging revenue issues remain – especially as the advertising sector softens.  Just recently, eMarketer estimated year-2008 advertising revenues for Facebook at $210 million, up 45 percent from 2007.  But Facebook was hoping for a much higher total, and eMarketer is dialing down its advertising forecasts for the social networking sector.

Other analysts are also predicting trouble ahead.  That includes Norwest Venture Capital Partners principal Tim Chang.  “Microsoft isn’t likely to renew its search-advertising contract — at least not at the same rate — and Facebook makes a significant amount of money from that deal,” Chang recently told paidContent at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.  “Imagine if you lost $300 million worth of revenue — how would you make it up?”

The milestone also tilts the music picture somewhat, especially after the arrival of MySpace Music.  Facebook has music, most notably through application iLike, though Zuckerberg and company are pondering the possibility of a homegrown music initiative.  But bands have been on MySpace for years, and “not on MySpace” means “not in existence,” even for the smallest groups.