In 2007 USA Today ranked Bill Gates number one among the top 25 most influential people in the world on the grounds that his Microsoft software had “shaped the way millions use the technology that has transformed communications and commerce,” thus making him “the world’s richest man” and a “leading philanthropist.”
At the time, probably few people perceived that a 20-year old youth named Mark Zuckerberg who, 3 years earlier, had launched a new networking site called Facebook would soon be in a position to claim equal bragging rights with the Microsoft founder.
Today – just six years after the launch of Facebook – the site is ranked number two behind Google among the top 500 sites on the Web by the Web information company Alexa.
Moreover, an analysis of Facebook World Usage carried out by Internet World Stats confirms that Facebook, like Microsoft and Google, has radically altered the way millions of people communicate and interact with each other and use the Internet. Internet World Stats provides Internet usage statistics and population and telecommunications reports for the 8 major regions and continents of the world..
According to Internet World Stats CEO, Enrique de Argaez, Zuckerberg, “without being a political leader and without planning to do so, has sparked the only true revolution taking place today in the world: the Social Web Revolution.”
He added: “The results [of the Internet World Stats analysis] are very revealing regarding the power and worldwide force of this web platform that has grown to become by far the largest and most important social network on the Internet.”
Internet World Stats was able to generate statistics for each country, territory and region using data as of August 31, 2010. Among other things, they introduced a new Internet metric that they’ve termed the Facebook Index. It corresponds to the percentage of Internet users that are also Facebook users, in any country or geographic region. The source of their figures is the Facebook network itself. And what they reveal is intriguing, to say the least.
More than 517 million persons in 212 different countries have joined the Facebook Social Web over the past six years.
The site has amassed a lot of fans in the Caribbean. There are 3,925,060 users in the region, with a penetration rate of 9.4% as of August 31, 2010.
The United States, not surprisingly, is the country with the largest group of Facebook users – 132,810,940, and a penetration rate of 42.8%. North America as a whole has 149,054,040 Facebook users.
Europe is the region with the highest number of users – 162,104,640 with a penetration rate of 19.9%. The top six Facebook countries are: the United Kingdom, Turkey, France, Italy, Spain and Germany.
The African Continent has 17,607,440 users, with a penetration rate of 1.7%. The top five countries are: Egypt, South Africa, Morocco, Nigeria and Tunisia.
South America has 49,771,960 users and a penetration rate of 12.5%.
Mexico and Central America have 18,417,960 users, with a penetration rate of 11.9%.
Asia has 93,584,580 users, with a penetration rate of 2.4%.
With nearly 2 billon internet users in the world, it means that approximately 26.3% or about one of every four Internet users are also Facebook users.
By any measure, Facebook has proven to be a phenomenal success – far exceeding the original expectations of its creator, namely to connect people with friends, relatives, and associates. The site also allows users to build networks of “friends”, share blogs and articles, create profiles of literally anything of interest to them in a variety of formats, check out one another’s profiles and connect to companies’ profile pages. Facebook’s core service is completely free and ad-supported.
The world’s artistic communities have embraced it with open arms, not least of all writers. Increasingly authors from all around the globe are using it to promote themselves and their work and to build a following of readers. The big question is – does it really work?
Meryl K. Evans, is the author of Brilliant Outlook Pocketbook and the co-author of Adapting to Web Standards: CSS and Ajax for Big Sites. She has extensive experience as a writer and editor and, among other things, has written and edited for AbsoluteWrite, The Dallas Morning News, PC Today, O’Reilly, Pearson and numerous other publications and organizations. She is among several writers who are hugely optimistic about the potential of Facebook to help writers promote themselves and market their work.
“Whether you’re a published author or freelance writer, Facebook offers many opportunities to keep your name out there and connect you with prospective clients, agents, publishers and editors,” says Evans in a recent blog post 50+ Writer Uses for Facebook.
For 26-year old Zuckerberg the site has proven to be the route to a gold mine. He is reported to have shot up in the Forbes rankings of the richest people in the United States, ahead of Apple owner Steve Forbes. His wealth reportedly grew 245% to $6.9 billion last year. Reports have been circulating in US business circles suggesting that Facebook is working with mobile manufacturer, INQ Mobile to create a branded smartphone to be carried on the US network AT&T. Facebook declined to comment on the reports.
Through it all, Zuckerberg has not emerged unscathed. Lately, he and his Facebook team have come under severe criticisms on a range of issues, with some complaining that they have been violating the privacy of some of the site’s users by improperly accessing their personal data. Moreover, Facebook has been clobbered with several lawsuits for violation of intellectual property rights.
Further, a longstanding dispute between Zuckerberg and three former fellow students at Harvard who accused him of stealing the idea for Facebook from them, is still ongong. Business Insider recently published an exposé on Facebook’s origins, disclosing information about the founding of the website which until then, had reportedly never been made public.
All the same, few would question Zuckerberg’s entrepreneurial skills or the notion that he is a true visionary. It’s left to be seen what the future holds for Facebook and its half a billion users and how the site will further impact our interaction with one another and the world.