Facebook expands its reach beyond colleges

In wake of privacy snafu, Facebook carefully expands to high school students and tries to maintain ties with college graduates.

Facebook, the extremely popular social networking site has nine million members who are all associated with a university or another institution. But the company is making careful overtures toward expanding, reports the San Francisco Chronicle.

Facebook has nearly 6.5 billion page views, up from about 2 billion the year before, according to comScore Networks. The fact that there was a minor uprising among its users regarding a controversial news feed service, which prompted a public back-peddling by Facebook officials, has not dimmed its ambitions.

In fact, the company recently announced that that its service will not only be available to students but to the general public as well.

As it stood last week, a Facebook user had to have an email address from an academic institution, a military outfit or a corporation. Soon, members will still have to provide an a specific email address to join a specific network, but don't need a special email to join.

It's all an effort to expand Facebook into new user areas. People are only students for a short while. But Facebook wants to maintain its relationships with them as they go off into the work world. Recently, the company added high school students, and more than 1,000 work networks linked to a particular company or office.

"When they graduate, what do you do then? How do you maintain the tie with people who were on the site?" said Baris Karadogan, a partner with ComVentures, a venture capital firm, who tracks social networking companies.

After the news feed debacle, Facebook is carefully considering their future growth, and hoping to avoid some of the backlash that MySpace generated.

"Facebook has been very conservative and cautious in its growth and avoided a lot of the negative publicity that has surrounded other competitors like MySpace," said Debra Williamson, a senior analyst with eMarketer. "This is new for Facebook. They're getting a taste of what MySpace has gotten."