Who knew that providing a place for uploading vacation photos and YouTube links could be so profitable? Facebook apparently earned as much as $800 million in 2009, according to two unnamed sources quoted by Reuters. Despite pressure from outside investors to launch an IPO, the social-networking site has remained privately held.
That $800 million represents a marked increase from earlier estimates, which included Facebook board member Marc Andreessen suggesting the company would make $500 million in 2009. "There's every reason to expect in my view that the thing can be doing billions in revenue five years from now," the entrepreneur and Netscape founder told Reuters at the time.
Facebook retorted with an open letter to that open letter, stating, "We plan to continue to make control easy and effective for all the people who use our service and will continue to engage those groups and others in a constructive dialogue about these important issues." Refuting the advocates' issues point-by-point, Facebook tried to portray the more controversial portions of its service, including the "instant personalization" feature that provides user information to partners such as Pandora, as "widely misunderstood."
Facebook's missive also mentions "a new data permission model" that is "scheduled to launch to all developers in the coming weeks," and points out an option to "completely turn off Platform applications and Websites, so that none of [users'] information is ever shared with applications, even information otherwise available to everyone."
Privacy concerns related to social networking will likely increase in coming years, as more and more users gravitate toward such services. According to new data from Nielsen, Internet users spent some 22 percent of their online time on networks such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. The average visitor apparently spent almost 6 hours on such sites in April, compared to 3 hours, 31 minutes in April 2009. Facebook greatly outpaced other services, in terms of occupying users' social-networking time online.