SPECIAL REPORT: Facebook - "Friend the Future"

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - With more than 800 million active users per month and nearly 3 billion "Likes" and comments every day, Facebook is a social networking giant.

As depicted in the movie "The Social Network", Facebook was originally limited to college students.  But 8 years and 100 billion friendships later, Facebook is where individuals and businesses go to connect.

Columbus photographer John Pyle has more than 7,000 "Likes" for his business page.  He says Facebook's reach has helped grow his client-base tremendously

"I can remember shooting one of our first high school seniors and then posting the pictures on a site called Facebook and the next morning having 20 or 25 new friend requests, "says Pyle.  "It was then that I realized the impact we could have with that social media platform."

Samantha Knipe's business was born out of Facebook.  It's called Complete Columbus, a site that markets small business services in the area.  Knipe says after just a few days online things are taking off.

"It's growing every day," Knipe says.  "We've been live a week and have almost 200 followers and we're meeting people we would not have met and connecting with different businesses we didn't even know existed in the area."

Knipe and Pyle are among the 9 million small businesses that Facebook says are using the site to connect with consumers.  Most businesses say it's a no-brainer. Where else can you get direct access to an unlimited market all for free?

While Facebook may be free for users, the site makes billions from advertisers generating $3.7 billion in revenue last year, a billion in profit alone. Twelve percent of that revenue came from Zynga - the company that creates games like Farmville and sells virtual goods for those games.

Facebook remains poised to make even more money this year.  In what could be the largest ever Internet IPO, the company, a few weeks ago, filed to go public and raise $5 billion.  It's a move that could place the social network's value at $75 to $100 billion.

Facebook is rolling out some new features to help you better connect with friends and consumers including the timeline which it calls the "evolution" of your profile.

It will allow users to storybook their lives and include information from birth to present in their profiles and share information.

"I think it's cool, you can go all the way to birth,"says Chris Icenhour, Vice President of Pro Motors in Columbus.  Icenhour, who has a personal and business Facebook page, also sees a downside to the timeline.  He says it can be difficult for people who may want to keep past relationships and marriages private.

However all and all, Facebook users we talked to were excited about the timeline and believe it's just another way to help them better connect with the people they want to reach.

As for what else in Facebook's future, the site says its next big push will be mobile and the development of more mobile products.   With 845 million active-users a month, that means 1 in 8.

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