Facebook’s rapid growth has shown its first signs of deceleration.
The social-media site recently faced its first domestic decline in users in a year, with a loss of 6 million accounts in May. According to ‘Inside Facebook,’ online traffic data accrued from Facebook’s advertising tool showed that the site entered May with 155.2 million users and ended the month with 149.4 million users. Likewise, Fox News reported that Facebook saw a loss in users in Canada of 1.52 million and in the United Kingdom and Russia of 100,000 each.
Does this signal the oncoming death of Facebook? Not quite.
The company is pushing a 687-million-user membership and while it is losing users in developed countries, it is experiencing new growth in countries such as Mexico, Brazil, and the Philippines.
In Brazil, for instance, Facebook saw a 10 percent increase in users during May, according to Fox News. Faced with questions of decline, Facebook has remained confident in their ability to expand.
In a statement to VentureBeat, Facebook officials said, “Some of these reports use data extracted from our advertising tool which provides broad estimates on the reach of Facebook ads and isn’t designed to be a source for tracking the overall growth of Facebook.”
The company stated that it was “very pleased” with its growth overall. While Facebook has not expressed worry about its decline in major countries, this fact could affect the company’s potential investors when it has its initial public offering, which is slated to occur next year. While the company’s IPO will likely be mutually beneficial to investors, they should keep an eye on the company’s growth data in the near future. These reports do show an interesting trend. Facebook is experiencing explosive growth in countries where it is new, while experiencing decline in countries where it has been long established. Of course, Facebook has been noted to slow growth when it reaches 50 percent of a country’s total population.
However, another factor is likely the rise of rivaling social media sites such as Twitter. The past year has seen the microblogging site grow substantially.
Media attention on the site helped foster this growth, with news of Twitter being used in the Tunisian and Egyptian protests and the news of a government official who leaked the death of Osama bin Laden via Twitter.
“Twitter has risen,” said 2010-2011 SGA President and communication major Bo Hart. “I use Twitter as a news source to see what is going on in the world and on the Virginia Tech campus. It’s fast, easy, and up to the minute.”
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has watched the emerging social media site closely, stating that at times he thought Twitter had the potential to surpass Facebook, though he recently said he no longer believes that this will happen. It is not hard to notice the effects of Twitter on Facebook, however, with some ‘News Feed’ options on Facebook closely mirroring the updates on Twitter.
A common complaint that surfaces when comparing Facebook and Twitter is that the former is often bloated with applications while the latter is noted for its simplicity.
When asked about Twitter during an interview with Inside Facebook, Zuckerberg stated that “[t]hey do one thing really well – that’s powerful.”
However, this statement begs parallels between the two sites. With Facebook doing so much, can they do it all well without having too much? This will be seen in time.
Facebook remains a colossus in the realm of social-networking and will likely stay popular for some time. Growth data allow glimpses into the possible future, though, and raise an interesting question about how people connect online.
“Technology is growing, growing, growing” Hart said. “It will be interesting to see what there will be in five years, whether Facebook and Twitter will still be popular or if something new will have arrived.”