Facebook is the world’s largest social network. It recently passed the
400m registered user mark and is now the a top five web property
according to comScore.

But Facebook is fast becoming more than just the world’s largest social
network. With 5bn pieces of content being shared every week, and a whopping
60m status updates being post each week, Facebook can no longer be
classified as a simple ‘social network‘.

While some, myself included, have been skeptical about Facebook management’s apparent fixation on becoming more like Twitter, the numbers don’t lie: Facebook is gaining traction as a content sharing and discovery tool. Which is, of course, what Twitter really is.

While the growth in the amount of content being shared and number of status updates being posted on Facebook is partly due to Facebook’s perpetual growth machine, I think Facebook’s focus on encouraging these activities is likely playing a role. Obviously, Facebook and Twitter are not playing a zero sum game. There are still significant differences between the two services. But Twitter should be worried about Facebook’s potential as a content sharing and discovery powerhouse.

That’s because while Twitter has established itself as a mainstream phenomenon, it hasn’t been able to sustain its growth as well as Facebook has. And a relatively small number of users are responsible for much of the activity. What Twitter offers that Facebook doesn’t is pure simplicity. That’s certainly part of its appeal, but it’s also a vulnerability. For casual users who are interesting in sharing content and posting status updates more occasionally, Facebook may be a more logical tool. That poses a threat to Twitter’s future prospects.

But Twitter isn’t the only company that should be worried about Facebook’s meteoric rise. Web giants like Google and Yahoo have reason to be concerned too. After all, Facebook is looking like the new portal. It has redefined the internet experience for the millions of people who go to Facebook first when they fire up their web browsers. That’s because Facebook has become many things to many people. Interested in keeping up with friends? You can do that. Want to play games? You can do that too. Looking to find out what’s going on in the world? Numbers wise, Facebook is now even a rival to Google News.

The big question is how big Facebook can get, and how much it can offer, before it collapses under its own weight. Focus is important, and “you can’t be all things to all people” is as good a rule as any when building web products. Facebook’s success defies this logic, but perhaps it’s simply too big to fail.

Photo credit: 7son75 via Flickr.