But now researcher eMarketer says that its ad revenue will hit $4.05bn this year (very precise), up from $1.86bn last year leading to an operating profit of $2bn.
In the first quarter of 2011 Facebook hosted 31 per cent of all US online display ads, double its take in Q1 2010, according to comScore.
And it gets better (or worse if you’re a rival). For the first time more web users are signing in using Facebook than Google (35 per cent against 31 per cent) and new lines of revenue, like its local deals challenge to Groupon, are also performing strongly.
One upshot of all this is that the company’s valuation when it eventually goes public has soared from $50bn a few months ago to $100bn, which would make it bigger than Amazon and Cisco. Google is valued at $171bn, Apple at $322bn.
Can anything derail the popularity and commercial prospects of Facebook? It’s hard to see it at the moment although the company may find things tougher in its chosen ‘export’ markets of Asia and Africa. Chinese equivalent Renren is also attracting interest from investors, with a proposed valuation of $5bn or so based on a claimed 131m users.
But there are doubts about the number of regular users and Renren’s advertising model is nowhere near as developed or successful as Facebook’s.
Actually you wonder why Facebook actually needs an IPO at all as its value seems to double every six months or so without one.