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Facebook steams toward 500M users, satisfaction sags

Facebook is expected to announce a major milestone in the company's growth this week, revealing to the world that it has signed up half a billion users.

Quite likely, the announcement of the 500 million mark will come on Wednesday, and serve as a centerpiece of CEO Mark Zuckerberg's interview with ABC's Diane Sawyer (6:30 p.m. ET).

That broadcast will feature Zuckerberg leading Sawyer on a tour of Facebook's headquarters and sitting for a one-on-one interview, presumably touching on familiar issues such as privacy, perhaps hints of a coming IPO, maybe even a mention of the upcoming movie dramatizing the controversial origins of the company with all its dorm-room intrigue at Harvard back in 2004.

There are many ways to approach a description of the magnitude of Facebook's achievement. With its 500 million members, the social network boasts a population larger -- by nearly 50 million -- than the United States, Mexico and Canada combined. Or 73 million larger than the combined population of Australia and South America. Bigger than 100 Luxembourgs! Or 600 Qatars!

It is a large number by any measure, and all the more impressive when you recall that it was only February when Facebook's ranks swelled past 400 million, and September 2009 when it hit 300 million.

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