Thursday, 22 July 2010

Facebook Hits 500 Million Users

Facebook recently announced that they have passed the 500 millionth registration. To put that into some context, that's 7% of the global population and 25% of Internet users. That's crazy! The BBC has a lot of interesting data too.

Facebook continues to see the largest growth of all social network sites, however it's also good news for Twitter, Orkut and LinkedIn. Sadly MySpace, Flickr, Bebo and Friends Reunited are not adapting quickly enough to Facebook's dominance. Do you remember Friends Reunited? A few years ago, when I was just a wee young whipper snapper it was all the rage! I was still at school at the time and a bit young to use it so the Friends Reunited fad went right over my head but I can remember my mum and her friends always going on about it. Friends Reunited can obviously be seen a pre-cursor to Facebook. Facebook was original only for university students. I think when it first opened you could only speak to someone in the same university as you. Imagine if it went down a more academic road? We'd all be swapping class notes on Facebook - maybe even having study sessions and revision workshops on there!

What else is really interesting is the comparison between Facebook and other social networks in specific countries. The BBC only gives data for US, UK, Brazil, Australia, Germany, Spain and Italy and it would be interesting to see Facebook fairs in Russia, China, India etc. (i.e. less Western-centric). Amazingly, Facebook has 127 million users in the United States, that's 41% of the population, 54% of the internet population. That means, for every 2 users of the internet in the US, 1 has a Facebook account. Isn't that crazy? In the UK, 24.2 million people have a Facebook account. That translates to 51.8% of UK internet users. That similarly equates to 40% of the population (based on recent population estimates).

Furthermore, the amount of time spent on Facebook per month has also gone up. In the US it has gone up by approximately 1 hour 20 minutes to 6 hours~. Whilst in the UK it has only gone up 20 minutes to 6 hours 10 minutes~. Interestingly Australia has seen Facebook usage nearly double to 7 hours 10 minutes~. This suggests we are increasingly becoming dependent on Facebook as a source of communication and/or entertainment. With the games industry on Facebook going from micro-transaction strength to strength and Facebook's rollout of being able to just about "Like" anything you see on the web, I wonder when the tail-off point will be reached?

What I find most interesting about the data is Brazil (arguably the least Western country examined) does not have Facebook as the number 1 social network. That honor goes to Orkut, Google's answer to Facebook. Orkut is somewhat popular but it has very niche markets - South America, Asia etc. Has Google made a smart move going after these new markets? I think quite possibly yes. The populations of many South American and Asian countries dwarf North American and European countries.

If a social network site can get a similar 40% of China's population registered, that would equate to 535,445,187 users. Leap frogging over Facebook as the world's most popular social network and with just 1 country! That's not to say that such an achievement would be easy to attain, I'm sure there are many cultural and technical difficulties to overcome when entering very different markets.

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