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Facebook says it now has 900 million monthly users

By Mike Swift, San Jose Mercury News –

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Facebook’s monthly user population has passed 900 million people, increasing the size of its regular user base by one-third in the past year, while about half a billion people access the social network through a smartphone or tablet.

But while Facebook’s first-quarter revenues jumped by 45 percent compared to the same quarter last year, profit fell as the social networking company spent heavily on research and development. Facebook Inc. disclosed the numbers Monday in an addendum to its IPO filing.

Facebook released a host of new data about its growing user population, and its recent $1 billion purchase of the mobile photo-sharing service Instagram that suggests the Menlo Park, Calif., social networking company sees its stock pricing at just under $31 a share when it goes public, an event widely expected in May.

Facebook said it now has 526 million people who log in to the social network every day on average through either a desktop or mobile connection, up 41 percent over the past year, and its users are now uploading on average more than 300 million photos every day.

But while sales hit $1.06 billion in the first quarter, with advertising revenue up 37 percent to $872 million, Facebook’s total profit dropped to $205 million, from $233 million a year ago.

Partly fueling that change was a jump in research and development costs, which increased by $96 million, or 168 percent, compared to the same quarter in 2011, Facebook said. The company’s sales and marketing spending also grew rapidly, up 134 percent to $159 million.

“This investment supported our efforts to improve existing products and build new products for users, developers, and advertisers,” the company said in its filing.

Facebook said it doesn’t plan to slow its spending anytime soon.

“We anticipate that research and development expenses will increase in dollar amount and as a percentage of revenue in 2012 compared to 2011 as a result of continued growth in head count and head count-related expenses,” including employees cashing in stock incentives, the company said. “We plan to continue rapidly hiring engineering, design, product-management and other technical employees.”

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