Newsweek’s cover story on Facebook has an interesting quote attributed to a company cofounder:
Karel Baloun, an engineer who worked at Facebook until last year, recalls vividly the baldly stated prediction of one of the company’s cofounders: “In five years,” he said, “we’ll have everybody on the planet on Facebook.”
Is that just a lot of hype? Let’s do the math:
According to Newsweek, Facebook has 35 million users today and has “an astonishing growth rate of 3 percent a week.” Assuming 35 million users as of 8/20/2007 and continued 3 percent per week growth compounding, that would project to 62 million users by the end of the year, 108 million by the time I turn 45 in mid-May and 162 million a year from now.
Let’s take it a little further. By New Year’s Day 2009, Facebook would have something over 285 million users, and would log its billionth account around October 22 of that year. User 2,000,000,000 would sign up on April Fools Day 2010, with the total reaching 3 billion by Independence Day, just a few months later.
If that weekly growth trend continues, Facebook would have 6 billion users in January 2011, which would make that cofounder prediction of blanketing the planet in 5 years come true.
Of course lots of factors could intervene to diminish Facebook’s growth rate. As the old prospectus boilerplate says, “Past performance does not guarantee future results.” But even if Facebook’s “astonishing” growth rate were cut by a third, to 2 percent a week, it would have 400 million users by January 2010.
Here’s a PDF of the Excel spreadsheet I used in these calculations.
I also uploaded the spreadsheet to my Facebook profile using the file sharing utility MediaFire, so if you want to play with different growth scenarios you can friend me and then get the file yourself and plug in different rates.
At any rate (if you’ll pardon the pun), you can see why Mark Zuckerberg turned down $1 billion for Facebook (I’ll bet he’s calculated the growth trends, too), and why many investors consider it worth more than MTV. With friends inviting friends to join, and with companies like MediaFire developing applications that extend its usefulness (I don’t have to worry about sending large email attachments anymore), Facebook’s “astonishing” growth is likely to continue.