This Week In Facebook: September 20, 2009

This week was yet another big week for Facebook with the company reaching new milestones, employees leaving, and the official launch of status tagging. I’m also proud to introduce a new feature of our weekly roundup: a stop motion video produced by my sister, Megan O’Neill. This new addition is a complete experiment so let us know your thoughts on the new weekly video!

Facebook Reaches 300 Million Users

This week Facebook announced that they officially crossed the 300 million user threshold, increasing the rate of growth to record levels. In addition to crossing this significant milestone, the company announced that it was officially cash flow positive, signaling that the company indeed has a legitimate model for those naysayers. We’ve projected that the company should come close to reaching 400 million by the end of the year which is nothing short of spectacular.

Facebook Beacon Officially Killed

While we’re not sure why we weren’t included on the initial release, we’ve finally received a statement about the end of Facebook Beacon. The death of Beacon is a result of a class action lawsuit first filed last August despite changes that were made almost a year prior. There are two significant components of the announcement:

  • Facebook Beacon Will Cease To Exist – Facebook Beacon, a product which was the focus of significant controversy after launch, will finally be removed two years after launching.
  • Creation of a $9.5 Million Settlement Fund – “An independent foundation will be created to benefit Internet users. As the agreement describes, the foundation will fund projects and initiatives that promote the cause of online privacy, safety, and security. This foundation will be funded from a $9.5 million settlement fund (pursuant to the agreement, plaintiff’s lawyers can recover up to a third of this amount). Work to establish this foundation will begin as soon as the court approves the settlement.”

Barry Schnitt, Director of Policy Communications for Facebook, made the following statement: “We learned a great deal from the Beacon experience. For one, it was underscored how critical it is to provide extensive user control over how information is shared. We also learned how to effectively communicate changes that we make to the user experience. The introduction of Facebook Connect – a product that gives users significant control over how they extend their Facebook identity on the Web and share experiences back to friends on Facebook – is an example of this.”

Man Names Son Batman After Reaching 500,000 Fans

On a less important note, a man on Facebook launched a campaign to reach 500,000 fans on his Facebook Page by offering to name his son Batman if the milestone was reached. Within a short period of time the page surpassed 500,000 and as of today the man claims that his son will now be named Batman as soon as he is born. While I previously wrote that it was simply an attempt to drive traffic to the company’s website, Facebook has appeared to let this individual continue posting updates.

Facebook Launches Prototypes

A new feature of the application directory, Facebook Prototypes, was launched last week at the Techcrunch 50 conference. New applications developed from within Facebook can be tested by users prior to being officially integrated into the site. While not all features will be published to this area, it’s a great way for Facebook to publish side projects built by the company’s regular hackathons. 5 applications have been posted to this new area of Facebook so far. Our favorite feature so far is the photo tag search application which lets you find those images which multiple friends appear in.

New Photo Tagging Applications Spreading Around The Platform

A new application,, was recently shut down after spamming users through an automated image tagging trick. While it was one of (if no the only) Facebook Connect site to go viral through the site, millions of users found themselves being tagged in photos by friends they hadn’t spoken to in years. Numerous other applications leveraged this technique to quickly gain millions of users in a short period of time. It appears Facebook wasn’t a big fan of the new strategy as has since been shut down.

Josh Elman Leaves Facebook

Yesterday Josh Elman, the Facebook Platform Program Manager, announced that he was leaving the company to pursue new opportunities. Less than two years in, Josh was one of the key public figures for the platform team, speaking at industry events around the world. We wish the best of luck to Josh as he moves on to pursue new projects.

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