Page last updated at 00:15 GMT, Wednesday, 16 September 2009 01:15 UK

Facebook grows and makes money

By Maggie Shiels
Technology reporter, BBC News, San Francisco

Facebook

The world's largest social networking site just got bigger with the announcement it has 300 million active monthly users from around the globe.

Facebook also revealed that it had started making money ahead of schedule.

The company had not expected to start turning a profit until sometime in 2010.

"This is important to us because it sets Facebook up to be a strong independent service for the long term," said Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.

"We are succeeding at building Facebook in a sustainable way. We are just getting started on our goal of connecting everyone.

"We face a lot of fun and important challenges that require rethinking the current systems for enabling information flow across the web," Mr Zuckerberg said in a blog post.

'Milestones'

The news that Facebook had passed these two benchmarks was made at TechCrunch 50 in San Francisco, a conference for start ups.

Facebook hit the 250 million user mark back in July. It is estimated that the site is gaining about five million new users a week, or 50 million in the last 75 days.

Facebook developers conference, BBC
More than 70% of users are outside the United States

"Passing these milestones to me means we can continue to fund our development and our innovation and be self sustaining as we grow this network," Mike Schroepfer, Facebook's vice-president of engineering, told BBC News.

"We think 300 million is a just the first step on the way to get as much of the entire world on the social network communicating with the friends and family and the people they want to communicate with."

"That Facebook is able to continue this growth and build a "cash-flow positive" business is an impressive feat," said Nick O'Neill of AllFacebook.com.

"If the company can cover the cost of scaling to one billion users and still manage to break even, there's no doubt that the company will have a great opportunity to rake in billions," added Mr O'Neill.

Facebook's Mr Schroepfer said the company had worked hard to get more money flowing in than out.

"The growth of the network has certainly helped us go cash-positive and the engineering team has done a lot of innovation on our ad products, as our business is primarily advertising-funded.

"As more and more of the world gets on the network, people and advertisers realise the power of sharing information, whether it's about a movie preview or a car," said Mr Schroepfer.

Look out Twitter, said Ben Parr, who is associate editor at the social media blog Mashable.com.

"If Facebook continues to open up its platform and adopt Twitter's best features, it could spell trouble for the Twitterverse. The world's largest social network is on the warpath," warned Mr Parr.



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