Top 5 Facebook Predictions for 2009

-Facebook 2009-Last week we posted out top Facebook stories of 2008. This week it’s time to look ahead to 2009 and consider what the year may hold for Facebook. After an extremely successful 2008, it will be hard for Facebook to do much better than they did this year. We think there is still a lot of opportunity for the company still and below are 5 ways that we think the company will continue to innovate in 2009.

Facebook Surpasses 300 Million Users

Facebook has probably surpassed 150 million users this year which is a long way from the more than 50 million users they started with back in January. Next year the company is on track to surpass 300 million and if growth continues it could easily be much more. The growth picture is much more impressive when you look at it on a country by country level. In the last month alone, Italy’s user base has grown from 3.1 million users to around 5 million. You can keep track of growth on a country by country basis using our Facebook demographics tool.

Facebook Connect Reaches 5 Million Users

Facebook Connect launched a few weeks ago and since then a few hundred sites have added support for the service. Whether it’s through third-party widgets or direct development, the service is clearly getting traction. The real questions is how much traction they actually have. Currently, around 100,000 Facebook users have logged in via the service but that number is set to expand rapidly as the number of sites using it quickly increases.

Facebook will need the help of large third-party publishers like Hulu, Digg, and Twitter to get there but if all goes as planned, Facebook Connect should quickly have millions of users logging in to third-party sites around the web.

Facebook to Launch Payment System

This is one of those never ending rumors. Dave Morin Ben Link previously stated that Facebook would eventually launch a payment system at the Graphing Social Patterns conference but since then the company has been silent. There were rumors floating around that the company had internal conflict about whether or not to launch the service. Justin Smith suggested that the payment system was postponed indefinitely. Yesterday I argued that the company needs to launch one sooner rather than later.

Whether or not you agree with that position, we believe they should and we also believe they will next year. As the company turns their attention away from growth related issues (firefighting with memcached), they will soon begin focusing on monetization which is something everybody has waiting for. Will 2009 be the year that Facebook finally figures out their break through monetization model?

We’re not sure but we definitely think a payment platform will be a good step in the right direction.

Facebook Raises 5,000 Person Friend Limit

“Facebook Whales” or those users with 5,000 friends on Facebook are a rare breed. Robert Scoble, Ted Leonsis, Mike Arrington, and a few others have hit the limit. Many others will hit the limit over the coming year. Facebook has a good point: most Facebook whales don’t actually know all of their friends so should they really have to raise the friend limit? I don’t think that argument will hold up for long as more people connect online through outside communities that support Facebook Connect, for example.

Facebook Surpasses MySpace Traffic Domestically

Facebook is already the largest global social network but it’s still behind MySpace domestically. The U.S. is the center for online advertising spending and in order to become the most dominant social network, the company needs to be the largest in the U.S., not just abroad. It’s clear where the momentum lies and in 2009 we will see Facebook become the largest social network in the United States.