Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

1 billion Facebook friends

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NEW YORK -- More than a billion people log into Facebook each month to check up on old friends, tag photos of new ones and post about politics, religion, cats or what their kids are doing.

That's double the 500 million it hit in July 2010 -- what now seems like a lifetime but was a little more than two years ago. August 2008 marked another big juncture, 100 million users.

The latest milestone also amounts to nearly half of the world's roughly 2.5 billion Internet users, as measured by the International Telecommunications Union.

So who are these people?

Most of them -- 81 per cent -- live outside of the U.S. and Canada. Many of them log in on mobile devices rather than personal computers, and the company has 600 million mobile users.

The people joining now are young, with a median age of 22. It was 23 in 2010 and 26 in 2008 and 2007. Most of them are from Brazil, India, Indonesia, Mexico and the United States. They are unlikely to be from China, the world's most populous country and home to its largest Internet population. And millions of them are not actual people. Facebook acknowledged in August that 8.7 per cent of its then-955 million users may be duplicate or false accounts. At that rate, as many as 87 million accounts are fake.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg marked the milestone on his Facebook page. "If you're reading this: thank you for giving me and my little team the honour of serving you," he wrote. "Helping a billion people connect is amazing, humbling and by far the thing I am most proud of in my life."

But he acknowledged in a Today show interview the company is going through a difficult patch.

"We're in a tough cycle now and that doesn't help morale, but people are focused on what they're building."

The Menlo Park, Calif., company's stock has never recovered from a botched initial public offering. Facebook Inc.'s stock slipped a penny to $21.82 in Thursday trading.

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 5, 2012 B11

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