Timeline: Facebook turns seven

Facebook only started turning cash-flow positive in 2009, after six years as a company. Although the social network is worth a lot of money, that is based on its potential or, if you prefer, in speculations about its potential to generate revenues.

The turning point for Facebook to go from being a great tool for social interaction to becoming a successful business is finding a way of monetising the 500 million-plus users it has.

Facebook seems to have chosen advertisements and publicity campaigns (the recently announced Facebook Places Deals is just an example), but it risks losing the aura of a friendly, ad-free atmosphere that has made it the preferred environment for social relationships, the base of its success.

Another challenge of tremendous magnitude is the privacy adjustments and restrictions many users have been begging for, and to which Facebook has responded in an only partially satisfactory way.

What it has done so far was unimaginable a few years ago, and even won Mark Zuckerberg the 2010 Time Person of the Year for "connecting more than half a billion people and mapping the social relations among them, for creating a new system of exchanging information and for changing how we live our lives". However, the challenge is to move this forward into a successful business and successful business tool.

The balance is delicate, as Facebook is at risk of losing much of its identity, but on the other hand it needs to start proving its worth.