Facebook's prosperity has been fueled by a steady expansion of its audience, making its website a more attractive marketing vehicle for ads, which account for most of the company's revenue. Facebook ended last year with 845 million users, up 39 percent from 608 million at the end of 2010. Those users share their interests and preferences prodigiously. Facebook recorded a daily average of 2.7 billion "likes" and comments during the final three months of last year.
Facebook has become so addictive that more than half its audience — 483 million users — log in every day.
Facebook's revenue total disappointed some people who pored through the documents. One reason: The company generates about $4.39 in revenue per user. "That is a surprisingly low number," said University of Notre Dame finance professor Tim Loughran, who studies IPOs. Google's annual revenue of nearly $38 billion works out to more than $30 per user of its services.
"Facebook needs to find more ways to get revenue from their users," Loughran said.
Facebook listed its most promising expansion opportunities as Brazil, Germany, India, Japan, Russia and South Korea. The company, based in Menlo Park, Calif., eventually hopes to make its service available in China if it can navigate rules requiring online content to be censored if the Chinese government considers it to be objectionable or obscene.