Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has plans to increase the user base of the social network up to 5 billion users by 2030, connecting people across the world with solar-powered autonomous planes.
Zuckerberg announced the news during the celebration of Friendship Day at the Facebook headquarters, where the event commemorates the 12th anniversary of the social network.
"We want to finish connecting everyone, we're going to do it in partnership with governments and different companies all over the world," Zuckerberg said.
He also mentioned that the degrees of separation between a typical pair of Facebook users is now down to an average of 3.57 from 3.74 in 2011 as the user base achieved a 1.5 billion count, indicating how much the social media website has reached people on a global scale.
Considering that Facebook has been going strong on many technological fronts, the company definitely has the potential to bump up its current number of users by 3.5 billion. Still, it's no easy feat to attain that figure.
To emphasize, there are currently about 7 billion people in the world, and roughly a fifth of that consists of children under 13 years old who are not allowed to make an account on Facebook just yet. Simply put, the company has to get almost every adult on Earth to sign up on the social network, not to mention that it's based on the assumption that the population won't grow for the following 14 years.
According to the United Nations, the world population will come to about 8.5 billion by 2030. To put two and two together, Facebook could have 5 billion adult users out of the total of 8.5 billion if its plans are successful. At any rate, a 5 billion count out of any value is nothing short of remarkable.
Meanwhile, the solar-powered planes equipped to provide broadband-level Internet connection virtually anywhere is called Aquila. Zuckerberg says that it'll be able to "fly around a city and beam Internet access," remarking that it's "pretty crazy."
Aquila is a drone that weighs about 1,000 pounds and flies approximately 11 miles above the ground. As for the radius of its Internet connection, it's set at roughly 50 miles.
For the record, it's nothing like quadcopters. It's comparable to a Boeing 737 minus the cabin in size, sporting a boomerang-like form factor. It's expected to spend three months up in the air before it safely lands for a refit.
Now, Zuckerberg has always been vocal about his intentions of connecting the entire online. At first glance, the idea of providing Internet access to everyone appears to have no negative impact whatsoever, but certain watchdog groups and telecom companies say otherwise, particularly about the violations concerning net neutrality.
To boil things down, Facebook is out to get the whole world connected in due time, and it's starting with the Aquila and Free Basics to achieve that goal.
Of course, the fact remains that gaining a 5 billion user base is a pretty tall order to fill, but the social network seems to have the means and determination to pull it off.