Facebook Celebrates 500 Million User Milestone

Earlier today, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced via a blog post that the social media site has officially reached the 500 million user plateau. If you follow social media news scene with any regularity, this comes as no surprise. But the significance of this achievement shouldn’t be overlooked, especially since this may still just be the beginning for Facebook.

Facebook launched in early 2004, and it took the company nearly four years to reach 100 million users. From that point, Facebook’s growth has been exponential, with the latest 100 million new users added since February. And due to new mobile technology that allows people to access the site easier and more quickly, some are predicting that one billion users by the end of 2011 isn’t out of the question.

To commemorate the 500 million user milestone, Zuckerberg announced a new application, Facebook Stories, which will serve as an online forum for people to share their personal accounts of how Facebook has fostered interaction and growth in their lives.

“Our mission at Facebook is to help make the world more open and connected,” Zuckerberg wrote. “Stories like these are examples of that mission and are both humbling and inspiring. I could have never imagined all of the ways people would use Facebook when we were getting started 6 years ago.”

It doesn’t seem like a coincidence that Diane Sawyer will be interviewing Zuckerberg today for ABC’s World News. And Facebook’s glut of users won’t be the only thing they have to discuss.

A few weeks ago, Paul Ceglia filed a lawsuit against Facebook claiming 84 percent of the ownership rights. According to Ceglia, Zuckerberg signed a contract with him in 2003 that entitles him to the vast majority of Facebook. Up until recently, the media has largely dismissed the charges. But that all changed today when Facebook lawyer Lisa Simpson said, “Whether [Zuckerberg] signed this piece of paper, we’re unsure at this moment.”

It’s highly unlikely that the lawsuit will lead to any systemic change in the company’s ownership, but there will likely be a hefty settlement and some significant media coverage. A high-profile dispute of this nature, even if it ends in a settlement, is never good for a major international corporation. This isn’t the first time that Zuckerberg’s claim to Facebook has come into question. Two classmates at Harvard accused Zuckerberg of stealing their code to develop his site, although a $65 million settlement has effectively kept them quiet.

Sawyer is sure to question Zuckerberg on the new Columbia Pictures film “The Social Network,”  a biopic which covers the development of Facebook while Zuckerberg was at Harvard, including the aforementioned dispute. The movie’s tagline, “You don’t get to 500 million friends without making a few enemies,” seems particularly apt given current events.

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