Facebook User Numbers Drop In Major Markets: Report

Dennis Faas's picture

The number of people using Facebook has dropped in several major countries, according to a recent report. It's not enough to stop an ongoing rise in the global total, but the growth rate worldwide has notably slowed.

The figure comes from a firm named Inside Facebook, which takes its figures from Facebook's own advertising tools. It notes that measures may vary from source to source and can depend on exactly what is counted. With these figures, only active users are counted, rather than those who leave accounts dormant.

National drops include the US falling from 155.2 million to 149.4 million and Canada dropping from 18.22 million to 16.6 million. Meanwhile, both the United Kingdom and Norway had drops of 100,000 users apiece.

It's important to note these are overall drops, meaning more people stopped using the service than became new members.

Trends Vary From Country to Country

Worldwide, the total numbers rose from 675 million to 687 million. That increase is down from last month, and barely half of the month-to-month increases that were common last year. Some countries are still experiencing rapid growth, with Brazil and Mexico gaining new members at the quickest rate. (Source: insidefacebook.com)

There is a distinct pattern to the national turnovers: the countries that were among the first to get Facebook when the site expanded beyond its original college-only set-up are the ones that are now seeing overall falls.

50 Per cent May Be Natural Limit

The figures also seem to back the theory that in any particular company, Facebook's growth peaks at around the point that half of all Internet users sign up. At this point, the remaining users are much less likely to come on board and recruitment slows to the point that it's eventually outweighed by those people who stop using the site.

Another possibility is that people who are late joiners are much more likely to have a cynical attitude to the site and thus have a higher chance of giving it a try but quickly abandoning their accounts.

There's also speculation the trend could involve people becoming more aware of Facebook's controversial handling of user data and its attitude to privacy. However, there's no clear evidence that the actual number of people quitting the site is heavily increasing.

Slowed Pace May Be Costly

The trend could have both symbolic and economic consequences for Facebook.

Symbolically, it means that the goal of having one billion users now looks less inevitable. Some estimates suggest that if the 50 per cent saturation rate holds true in all countries, it may be impossible to reach a billion users without making a major breakthrough in either Russia, where domestic social networks dominate, or China, where Facebook is currently banned. (Source: guardian.co.uk)

From a financial point of view, any perception that Facebook is starting to cool off could hamper investor interest in the company listing on the stock exchange.

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