The population of people using Facebook is larger than most countries. What does it take to grow?
James Martin/CNET
Facebook attracts more than a billion users everyday. Now, the social network needs to find its next billion.
The Menlo Park-based Internet titan has been expanding the series of projects aimed at reaching that goal. To do so, the social network is striking a delicate balance between pleasing its dedicated members, who are used to the site’s current feel, while doing more to attract a new audience.
Some of those efforts are relatively mundane. Facebook has introduced prompts to encourage users to talk about current events, a clear effort to keep its current fans enthusiastic about visiting the site. It’s also altered its well-loved Like button, giving usersanimated emoji to express feelings, such as “Haha” to “Angry.”
Others are downright wacky. Facebook is investigating whether its can use drones to broadcast Wi-Fi signals to people in places without coverage, hoping that by giving people free Internet services, they’ll join the social network.
It’s also testing artificial intelligence software that can tell you the weather or place your restaurant order for you. It’s partnered with Samsung through its Oculus VR subsidiary, to begin selling virtual reality goggles. All of these efforts are circle back to the common theme of Facebook expanding its huge user base.

The company’s already seeing fruits of some of those efforts. The number of people using its service at least once a month rose to 1.55 billion, up 14 percent from the same time a year ago and up 4 percent from its previous tally in June.
“We’ve got about half the world’s online population on Facebook,” said David Wehner, Facebook’s CFO in an interview. He added that, 65 percent of those people use the service daily. “It’s a testament to how engaging the experience has become.”
Of course, Facebook knows more users means more opportunities to show them advertisements, the way the company makes money. It’s building out various tools so that advertisers can create better ads, even in developing countries where videos and other data-rich content are too burdensome for slow and expensive connections.

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s co-founder and CEO, prefers to discuss the company’s efforts in grandiose terms, calling Internet access an engine of economic growth and VR the next step in the technology industry. But he also hopes they drive advertising, which represented most of the $ 4.5 billion in revenue Facebook tallied in the quarter ended Sept. 30. That’s up nearly 41 percent from the same time a year prior.
Despite all these disparate and often expensive efforts, the company turned a $896 million profit in the period, up 11 percent from last year. After adjustments for items such as stock-based compensation, the company said it earned 57 cents per share, above the 52 cents analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters expected.
Whether Facebook’s efforts will succeed is an open question. It’s telling that other companies, such as Google-owner Alphabet, have similar programs. But as long as it continues to count more people using its service, you’ll likely to see Facebook continue to attempt new ways to attract you to its service.

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