Facebook population equivalent to third-biggest country on Earth

Google next in Facebook's crosshairs. Image: Facebook/Bing.

Much as we suggested it would, Facebook has bolstered its own position as the world’s leading social network by officially announcing it has more than 500 million active users.

After beginning life in 2004 as a humble student-based network limited to Harvard, the service has grown to become one of the biggest online services, dwarfing Internet giants such as Yahoo and Wikipedia.

“I could never have imagined all of the ways people would use Facebook when we were getting started six years ago,” commented founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg in a blog post on Wednesday.

“Our mission at Facebook is to help make the world more open and connected,” he added. “I want to thank you for being part of making Facebook what it is today and for spreading it around the world.”

So, with a user base equivalent to the third-largest country on Earth (between India’s 1.18 billion and the USA's 308 million) and having grown from 250 million users to 500 million users in the last 12 months, where does Facebook go from here?

With a clear belief that the network’s growth has far from peaked, Zuckerberg has already confidently predicted that the world’s leading social service is on course to gather one billion users, which would see it match the online standing of search titan Google.

To celebrate reaching half a billion people, Facebook has launched a new application called Facebook Stories, which allows account holders to share personal stories on how finding and using Facebook has impacted their lives.

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