NEW YORK —
If Facebook Inc.'s users leave, or even check in less frequently, its revenue growth would suffer. The company, which depends on targeted advertising for most of the money it makes, booked revenue of $5.1 billion in 2012, up from $3.7 billion a year earlier.
But so far, for every person who has left permanently, several new people have joined up. Facebook has more than 1 billion users around the world. Of these, 618 million sign in every day.
Indeed, Fernandez hasn't abandoned Facebook. Though the Traverse City, Mich., high school senior doesn't look at her News Feed, the constant cascade of posts, photos and viral videos from her nearly 1,800 friends, she still uses Facebook's messaging feature to reach out to people she knows, such as a German foreign exchange student she met two years ago.
Fernandez uses Facebook in the same way that people use email or the telephone. But she prefers using Facebook to communicate because everyone she knows is there. That's a sign that Facebook's biggest asset may also be its biggest challenge.
"We have never seen a social space that actually works for everybody," says danah boyd, who studies youth culture, the Internet and social media as a senior researcher at Microsoft Research. "People don't want to hang out with everybody they have ever met."
Might Facebook go the way of email? Those who came of age in the "You've got mail" era can reminisce fondly about arriving home from school and checking their AOL accounts to see if anyone sent them an electronic message. Boyd, who is 35 (and legally spells her name with no capitalization), recalls being a teenager and "thinking email is the best thing ever."
Few people share that sentiment these days. Ian Bogost, professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology, recently listed email alongside "Blood, frogs, lice, flies, pestilence, boils, hail, locusts, darkness, death of the firstborn" in a Facebook post.