Facebook’s Land Grab in the Face of a Downturn

The social-networking site is moving aggressively to sign up more users around the world while much of Silicon Valley hunkers downAs gloom descends on Silicon Valley, most startups and giants are growing cautious and cutting back. But not Facebook. The social-networking Web site sees a bleak economy as all the more reason to press ahead with aggressive plans for growth. “This is not the time for tech companies to be cutting back; this is the time to be hitting the accelerator,” says Peter Thiel, a Facebook board member and investor.Facebook executives think they can use the economic downturn to gain ground on the competition. So they’re going to great lengths to keep user growth on track in these rough times. The company is gearing up for more acquisitions, hiring rapidly, and rolling out new advertising programs. Rather than trim the site’s development costs, Facebook has engineers cooking up versions in languages such as Xhosa, Tagalog, and French Canadian to go after niche audiences around the world. “We’re in this game not just for five or 10 years,” says Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer. “We’re in it for 20 to 30 years.”

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