Facebook now has 2 billion monthly users…and responsibility

“We’re getting to a size where it’s worth really taking a careful look at what are all the things that we can do to make social media the most positive force for good possible,” Facebook Chief Product Officer Chris Cox told TechCrunch about the company’s new milestone. 13 years after launching and less than 5 years after hitting 1 billion, Facebook now has 2 billion monthly active users.

Facebook wants people to celebrate with a personalized “Good Adds Up” video they can make and share here. Meanwhile, Mark Zuckerberg played it cool with this brief announcement message.

2 billion makes Facebook the largest social app in terms of logged-in users, above YouTube’s 1.5 billion, WeChat’s 889 million, Twitter’s 328 million, and Snapchat’s estimated 255 million (extrapolated from its December 2015 ratio when it had 110 million daily and 170 million monthly users). Beyond YouTube, only Facebook’s other apps have more than 1 billion, including WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger with 1.2 billion each. Instagram might soon join that club as it recently rocketed past 700 million.

Facebook’s growth the last half decade has been fueled by the developing world. The company has relentlessly optimized its app for cheap Android smartphones and low bandwidth connections. It’s added 746 million users in Asia and the Rest Of World region since hitting 1 billion users total. Meanwhile it only added 41 million in the US and Canada.

Despite Facebook’s size and age, at 17% its user count is growing as fast or faster than any year since 2012. And people aren’t using it less either. In fact, 66% of Facebook’s monthly users return each day now compared to 55% when it hit 1 billion. If the teenaged social network isn’t as cool to teenagers any more, it’s not showing in the big metrics.

But neither does the colossal impact Facebook has had on society, which it’s now trying to bend towards positivity with its new mission statement to “Give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.”

“There’s a deep sense of responsibility in every part of the company” Cox told TechCrunch. “We’re getting to the scale where we have to get much better about understanding how the product has been used.” That’s why he’s been traveling around the world doing user research. And it’s why Mark Zuckerberg has been criss-crossing the country on a listening tour that many people cynically assume is the start to a run for President, despite the CEO’s denials.

Yet perhaps stewarding a 2 billion person community is responsibility enough to get out of Silicon Valley and figure out how Facebook impacts people’s lives.

There are the big, newsy things like suicides on Facebook Live and fears that fake news got Donald Trump elected. But deeper down, there are even more complex ramifications of a near ubiquitious social network. It can propel internet addiction that alienates people, and facilitate the filter bubbles that polarize society by reinforcing our opinions. Facebook has largely conquered its competitors, giving it the slack to finally address the modern sociological challenges that stem from its popularity.

If getting to 1 billion was about building a product, and getting to 2 billion was about building a user base, Facebook’s responsibility is to build empathy between us at it reaches for 3 billion.

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