Facebook is expected to say this week that it has reached 500 million users, making it the biggest information network on the Internet that has connected the world into an online statehood of status updates, fan pages and picture exchanges.
In its six-year history, the site has become ritualized in our daily lives. It has even attracted the unwilling who join for fear of being cut out of the social fabric. It has connected old friends and family. It has helped make and break political campaigns and careers. It has turned many of us into daily communicators of one-line missives on the profound and mundane. And it has tested the limits of what we care to share and keep private.
The sheer impact and sized of the Facebook universe has captured the attention of lawmakers who are struggling to protect consumers and their privacy as they flock to this and other sites like Twitter.
The half-billion-member-mark can’t be understated. To put the number into perspective, the population inhabiting Facebook now equals that of the United States, Japan and Germany combined. The universe of Facebook membership is less than half the population of India, but in the last year the social networking Internet site has doubled in size.
The Silicon Valley Web site is now the biggest online trust of our vacation photos, electronic rolodexes, and recordings of how we felt about President Obama’s candidacy for president, the ban on headscarves in France and the build up of the FIFA World Cup.