Facebook Nears Milestone: 500 Million Users

Networking site Facebook's popularity has soared so high it may soon be dubbed "the King of social networking."

In just six years, the site is approaching a major milestone.

If Facebook had its own status update, it might soon read, "Facebook is 500 million strong."

The social networking site created by Harvard undergrad Mark Zuckerberg in 2004 has doubled in size in the last year alone and, says a spokesperson for the site, Andrew Noyes, expects to grab its 500 millionth user this week.

"We've never see anything on this scale before. The numbers that Facebook represents are enormous," said John Abell of Wired.com.

To put it in perspective: that equals the population of the United States, Japan and Germany combined.

Or how about this -- one out of every 14 people on the planet uses Facebook.

"Facebook allows me to get in touch with thousands of people with the click of a mouse," said Nick Waggoner, director of Sweetgrass Productions.

Independent filmmaker Nick Waggoner is shooting on location in Argentina. He uses the site to publicize his movies to more than 2,300 friends. To demonstrate Facebook's grassroots power, if each of them reposted his message to 10 friends...and those friends send it to five more, 115,000 Facebook users would get that original message.

"Without Facebook, it would be really, really tough to get the word out that quick," Waggoner added.

Facebook's influence doesn't stop there. It has reunited long-lost families and expanded social circles. It may have even changed the very definition of the word "friend."

"A lot of writers have now famously said there is no such thing as a friend, or a friend is anybody, and it's true," Abell observed.

Yet, the site is not without controversy. It's been accused of giving out too much information about its users.

But while it may have detractors, it's hard to deny the power of the world's biggest social network, whose average user spends an hour a day sharing news, photos, opinions and updates.

"It's impossible to have a discussion with anybody about the Internet without bringing up Facebook, good, bad or indifferent. It is, if not the center of the Internet universe, very close to it," Abell said.

What does this all mean for our lives and how we connect as human beings?

Technology expert Katie Linendoll shared some insight on Facebook's milestone, and powerful impact, with Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith: