Facebook is far and away the largest social network in the world and increasingly dominates the time we spend in mobile apps. It's running neck and neck with YouTube when it comes to data consumption on our smartphones and tablets. All the time people spend in the company's Newsfeed is growing into a huge advertising business for Facebook, especially now that it's got more lucrative formats like video auto-playing. Its fourth quarter earnings grew 45 percent over last year, to $3.85 billion, with a profit of $701 million. For the full year, the company generated $12.46 billion in revenue, a 58 percent increase over 2013.
Facebook's mobile revenue is huge even without Instagram or Whatsapp
Mobile now generates 69 percent of Facebook's revenue, up from 53 percent for the same period last year. That's good news for the company, and it's even better when you consider that it also has over 300 million users on Instagram, to whom it's just starting to advertise, and more than 700 million on WhatsApp, which it's not yet seeking to monetize at all. The company reported a daily active user base of 819 million users, with 1.39 billion check-ins in a one-month period. For Mobile, those numbers are slightly lower.
Like all US companies, Facebook earnings were strongly impacted by volatility in the global currency markets. As the value of the US dollar has risen dramatically, international earnings have taken a hit. Facebook says its revenue would have been roughly 4 percent higher excluding changes in foreign exchange rates. That's the same percentage cited yesterday by Apple.
One major change that bucked the across-the-board financial increases was a major drop in the company's gross margins. Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg had cautioned investors that Facebook planned to spend heavily on hiring, acquisitions, and R&D. While its revenue and profit rose, its operating margin fell 15 percent compared to the same period in 2013. Research and development spending rose 10 percent just since last quarter. Hey, virtual reality movie studios don't come cheap.