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Where Does Facebook Grow From Here

Facebook publishes demographic data through its advertising platform. Potential advertisers can obtain estimates for the number of Facebook users by age group, gender, education, country, and even relationship status! While the estimates most likely rely on user supplied data, they provide the best publicly available numbers on the Facebook user base.

Facebook currently has about 75M users spread across more than 80 countries. The good news is that the top three countries (US,UK,Canada) now account for only about 61% of all users:
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A few large (as in population) countries immediately jump out including Turkey, Colombia, and France. Facebook is the top social network in these countries yet the number of Facebook users is small relative to the population. The challenge is that there are more countries on the list where Facebook is up against other more widely used social networks.

According to Alexa, Facebook overtook Myspace as the #1 social networking site on the web. Worldwide numbers are interesting but everyone knows that social networks are best compared on a regional basis. Compare Alexa’s recent numbers to the map of regional Social Network Market Share that Tim posted about a month ago. Regional market leaders (Friendster in Southeast Asia, Hi5/Orkut in South Asia and Latin America, Bebo/LiveJournal in parts of Europe) have significant numbers of users and dislodging each of them won’t be easy.

What to do in countries with strong incumbent social networks? Incumbency relies on average users aversion to recreating “friendships” and profiles.The ideal come-from-behind strategy is to embrace Data Portability. Or more precisely, as Tim stated last November:

Set the data free! Allow social data mashups. That’s what will be the trump card in building the winning social networking platform.

The “our walled garden is better than their walled garden” blueprint works best when you are already one of the established market leaders. The same Data Portability strategy that makes sense for an upstart could be what defines the dominant global social networking platform. Facebook’s tussle with Google over Friend Connect shows that they are struggling with this issue. (Also see David Recordon’s recent post on Myspace as well.)

Actually, the more probable scenario is that (closed) social networks become less important over the long term. With more web applications incorporating social features, users will gradually “leave” closed social networks altogether. Already, I know less and less people who use Facebook regularly. Most people I know log in only when they receive a “friend” request – sadly hugs, gifts, zombies and pokes are losing their allure.

One other demographic tidbit. Just like the US, the Facebook overseas user base is young, with most users less than 34 years old. Given its roots as a US college social network, Facebook has more college-age (18-25) users in the US. [UPDATE: I also keep hearing that more high schoolers are using Facebook. In the US, the 13-17 age group now account for 1 in 6 users.]
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  • http://alt1040.com Eduardo Arcos

    Columbia is not a country, it’s a US State.

    Colombia is the correct way to refer to the country.

  • Ben Lorica

    Hi Eduardo, Thanks for the catch — I corrected it. I wrote this late last night and obviously did not notice the typo. Ben

  • http://gasesnobles.blogspot.com/ Alex

    it’s amazing how facebook has grown in Venezuela… everybody here has a profile in facebook, is like a rule for being somebody

  • Kay

    Columbia may have been a typo for the country Colombia, but Columbia is not a U.S. state either.

  • http://vanirsystems.com/danielsblog Daniel Lewis

    These statistics remind me of the “Social Pie Chart” ( http://vanirsystems.com/danielsblog/2007/11/26/the-social-pie-chart/ ) that I made back in November (2007). Hmm, I was chuckling when I made it.

    Interesting statistics. I’m not sure where Facebook is going next, but it is incredibly clear that distributed information is key and we come closer and closer to needing Distributed Data Spaces ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Data_Spaces )

  • Ben Lorica

    Alex, According to Alexa, Hi5 is still much larger than Facebook in Venezuela. Are lots of people switching to Facebook or using both social networks?

  • http://www.foxsmith.net FoxSmith

    Excelent info, Chile go for the No 1 of Latin America.

  • http://gasesnobles.blogspot.com/ Alex

    Ben, just wait about from three to five months to see the change… Facebook is becoming “the rule” to be somebody in this country today… hi5 was more like a fecer, Facebook is like a way of life and I’m not kidding, everybody loves the way Facebook is linking old friends and old lovers too.

    Just think about this: Hi5 has like 3 years in the venezuelan road while Facebook has no more than 6 months and is in the top10 of the most popular sites in Venezuela

  • http://www.chw.net Nicoxis

    Chile is an interesting case, from the graph you can say it has something like 2% share, that’s about 1.5 Million. Taking into consideration a total population of about 15 Million, you could conclude that 10% of Chilean people has a facebook acount…that’s a lot!!

  • Ben Lorica

    Nicoxis, Chile is more on the order of 1.3% or just above 900K. Still impressive though.

  • http://www.chw.net Nicoxis

    @Ben:

    What percentage of the whole US population would be the US people registered on facebook?

  • Yoni

    What about number of FB users per 1000 people?

  • http://thekillerattitude.com Johan Myrberger

    Facebook stats is fun. Have a look at a post I just made where you can dig around further for a number of parameters. http://thekillerattitude.com/2008/06/facebook-statistics-and-google-motion.html

  • http://mediosdigitales.info Rodrigo Guaiquil

    Since some comments refer to Chile, in this country Facebook is behind Fotolog.com. A study from consulting firm Divergente showed on july 2007 1.864.209 Chilean fotolog users. That figure probably now is about 2.5 million Chileans or 18% of total population.

  • http://thekillerattitude.com Johan Myrberger

    To further add some comments for Chile (as I currently am in Chile..) (For more detailed numbers please see the link I posted above)

    * I have the number of FB users in Chile as of May 30th to be around 1.2 million

    * For Facebook and Chile the really interesting number is the growth – Chile is the number one FB growth country, both the last two weeks in May and since beginning of the year.

    * And I just noticed that it is no longer possible to extract FB stats the way Ben did for this posty (the same way I did) – the Social Ad utility will no longer display the number of users in teh target segment :-(

    * And yes, Fotolog is still ahead in eg Chile and Argentina. On the other hand, my limited personal fotolog usage makes me believe Fotolog and Facebook targets different usage patterns, would you agree?

  • Djoni

    well.. this is weird but it seems that Brazil does not have so many people in facebook!! that’s because Brazilian people prefer ORKUT. I know, becuase I am Brazilian.. According to ALEXA, ORKUT is the most popular page in BRAZIL, actually, it is more popular than GOOGLE!!

  • http://www.claudio-otero.cl Claudio R. Otero

    Hey Guys.
    Why do you say it is no longer possible to extract FB stats …
    I just create an Ad and FB response for Chile:
    Any-any: 3.761.220.

    Saludos.