You know what’s cooler than a million users? A billion users. And now Facebook has just that.
Yep, the social network birthed in a Harvard dorm grew in eight short years to a membership that it says accounts for nearly one seventh of the world’s population. Not fake users or bots — which Facebook tracks closely — but real humans who actively engage on the social network, a company spokesperson confirmed to TODAY.
Just so we’re clear: As of Sept. 14, one in seven people on this planet has been classified by the company as an active Facebook user.
Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg shared the milestone in an exclusive interview with Matt Lauer, which premiered Thursday on TODAY.
“I mean, it’s just — an amazing honor,” Zuckerberg said of his social network’s monolithic membership when he sat down with Lauer last week at Facebook’s campus in Menlo Park, Calif.
“To be able to come into work every day and build things that help a billion people stay connected with the people they care about every month — that’s just unbelievable.”
No hyperbole there. Since Facebook launched, the social network’s seen 1.18 trillion “likes” and 140.4 billion friend connections. 219 billion photos are currently being shared, while 17 billion check-ins have been made. Since the music listening app launched in September 2011, 62.6 million songs have been played 22 billion times — that’s around 210,000 years of music.
And while Zuckerberg may have a responsibility to investors to publicly boast Facebook’s accomplishments, this gives us an opportunity to wrap our heads around exactly what 1 billion means.
If Facebook was a country, it would have the third largest population, right behind China (1,347,350,000) and India (1,210,200,000) and ahead of the United States (314,500,000).
If steampunk Facebook existed in 1804 — precisely when the world population hit 1 billion — everyone on Earth would have a profile: Thomas Jefferson, Ludwig Van Beethoven, Jane Austen … and every other living soul.
“I don’t think in the history of the world that there’s been a single medium that’s amassed a billion users as fast as Facebook did,” Steve Rubel told TODAY.com. As vice president of all-encompassing public relations firm Edelman, Rubel is a well-regarded expert in the many ways we consume information, and what that means on a large scale.
Radio, television, even mobile phones — Rubel notes none of these were adopted at the rapid global rate comparable to Facebook’s eight-year rise. “Considering I struggle to think of anything that touches as many people as much as Facebook does,” he said. “Maybe water …”
As Zuckerberg told Lauer, “There’s no way that when we were getting started with (Facebook) that I would have ever thought that, you know, myself or any of the people around me would be able to — to be a part of something like this.”
The average Facebook user worldwide — now around age 22 — would’ve been about 14 when Zuckerberg famously launched the first version of Facebook in 2004. As the Aaron Sorkin-penned movie “The Social Network” depicts, thefacebook.com was first available only to Harvard students, before rolling out to other Ivy League schools in the U.S. and Canada.
Whether cunningly planned or by accident, exclusivity was a successful strategy. By opening first to upwardly mobile students, the word spread organically. Early Facebook offered a clean, well-ordered alternative to the glitter GIFs and chaos of MySpace, the the social media leader of the time. People wanted in.
So in 2005, Facebook opened its doors to high school students in the U.S. and six other countries, including Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, Ireland and Australia. And, in a politically savvy move, a few choice employees at high-tech companies including Apple and Microsoft were also invited to join.
Then, in 2006, your mom was allowed to join — along with everybody else age 13 and older. Things quickly got interesting.