As Facebook celebrates its 10th anniversary, the world’s biggest social network is finding its path as a maturing company, adapting to an aging user base.
The company created in a Harvard dorm room in 2004 has established itself as a phenomenon, securing its place in the world of the technology giants.
“Facebook has made the world much smaller, much more interactive,” Global Equities Research analyst Trip Chowdhry said. “Facebook started the social revolution, but it may not be able to control it.”
In its short history, Facebook has become a part of daily life for more than 1 billion people around the globe.
Facebook cofounder Mark Zuckerberg described the mission as “making the world more open and connected,” and some say he has accomplished just that.
“More than 20 percent of all time spent on the Internet is spent on Facebook,” Social Internet Fund founder Lou Kerner said.
Yet in some ways, Facebook could be the victim of its own success.
Its initial core base of teens and university students has expanded, and Facebook is now widely used by people in all age groups.
Facebook says it has a global total of 1.23 billion monthly active users, including 945 million who use the social network on a mobile device.
However, some analysts say that Facebook has to shift strategy for an aging user base.
An iStrategyLabs study of US Facebook users found a 25 percent drop in the number of users in the 13 to 17 age group, along with an 80 percent jump in the number of users over 55.
“People joke that for the teen, Facebook isn’t cool when your mom is on it,” Kerner said. “I think it’s not even your mom anymore, now it’s also your grandmother.”
The research firm Social Bakers says its data shows teens are a big and still-growing part of Facebook.
“The 18-to-24-year-old age group is still the largest,” Social Bakers’ Ben Harper said. “Our data shows the growth of audience and interactions on Facebook, and while teens are undoubtedly using multiple platforms, they are also sticking with Facebook.”
In the US, Facebook is used by 71 percent of all adults who are on the Internet, or 57 percent of the adult population, according to the Pew Research Center.
Pew found that while Facebook is used by 89 percent of online adults in the 18 to 29 age group, it is also used by 60 percent in the 50 to 64 age category and 45 percent of those over 65.
Facebook is maturing as a company as well. It had a calamitous initial public offering in May 2012 plagued by technical glitches, and saw its share price slump by half, but has been on a roll for the past year, with its stock hitting record highs.
Facebook has reassured its investors it can generate advertising revenue, particularly in the mobile segment used by an increasing number of members.
Facebook reported its profit for the whole of last year jumped to US$1.5 billion from just US$53 million in 2012, and revenues increased to US$7.87 billion from US$5.1 billion.
According to the research firm eMarketer, Facebook has become the second-largest recipient of digital advertising spending behind Google, and is particularly strong in mobile ads.
“Facebook appears the best way to play the social Internet,” Morgan Stanley analysts said in a note to clients, preferring Facebook to the up-and-coming network Twitter.
Some analysts say that Facebook’s appeal to grownups is a big part of maturation, and represents the key to generating revenue and profit.