This year, Facebook added its 550 millionth member. One out of every dozen people on the planet has a Facebook account. They speak 75 languages and collectively lavish more than 700 billion minutes on Facebook every month. Last month the site accounted for 1 out of 4 American page views. Its membership is currently growing at a rate of about 700,000 people a day.
Facebook's continuing ability to create a global network is impressive, and it is certainly changing the world. Choosing this year seems a bit odd: We've known all this for some time. But with the Newark schools donation, joining the Giving Pledge, and the near constant presence of Facebook in the news this year (and that movie, too), perhaps 2010 was the best choice.
The real question still is: What does this network accomplish? It is good, to be sure, to be able to reconnect with friends from my childhood, easily see what everyone I know is doing and thinking, and make unexpected social connections. But the real promise of a global social network is always explained as something bigger: a way to use technology to bridge the gaps that too often divide us. When the globalization of a social network actually does some true global good, let's give it an award then.