As Facebook Prepares to Announce 500 Million Users, a Look Back at Its Traffic Growth

The last time Facebook announced its total worldwide traffic, it said it had 400 million monthly active users. That was February, three months after it said it had reached 350 million. Now, five months later, the company is planning to announce that has gained 100 million new users to reach the half a billion mark.

These traffic announcements may happen irregularly, but we’ve been tracking them all the way back to the company’s founding. As you can see from the graph below, growth has been consistently up and to the right. So is it straight on to 1 billion in the next few years?

That’s possible, especially if the company’s focus on low-penetration countries like Russia, South Korea and Japan work out (it is banned in a fourth, China). It is localizing apps and services for those places, and encouraging third-party developers to do the same.

Meanwhile, as we’ve covered, Facebook’s core markets are starting to look more mature.

Using Facebook’s advertising tool, we’ve been tracking country and demographic data, and we’ve observed rises and dips within countries and regions even as the worldwide traffic total has grown. In places where Facebook grew first — the US, and some European countries, especially — we’ve observed more weak months as the service has penetrated more of the total population. The fact that so many people are on Facebook means that there aren’t many more people left who can join.

Other issues may also play into this, too, like holiday months, Facebook redesigns and heavy media coverage of controversial issues like privacy. For example, the US, which has the largest Facebook population in the world, had a decrease in growth during June, according to our Inside Facebook Gold report. It’s not clear why the US slowed down. One reason is likely its high 41.4% penetration rate — we haven’t seen many countries grow beyond this mark. Another reason could be the company’s May privacy issues, or perhaps summer vacation, given the drops we saw coming from 20-something demographics.

Overall, though, we have yet to see any consistent flattening or declines. Countries with high penetration rates still seem to grow, overall, and privacy issues, redesign concerns, and other brand issues have faded into the background.

So, whether from new countries or old, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg recently said that he thinks the company can reach a billion users. He shared more about that, during a recent talk at the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival.

“We know that a country has tipped when local-to-local connections outnumber local to foreign,” he said, as The Financial Times reported. “It is a long-term thing we are probably not going to win in six months, not in a year… things look promising in three to five years out.”

He also explained that while there was “no chance” Facebook would reach 1 billion MAU this year, but “it is almost a guarantee that it will happen,” according to The Guardian. He explained: “If we succeed [in innovating and remaining relevant] there is a good chance of bringing this to a billion people… it will be interesting to see how it plays out.”

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9 Responses to “As Facebook Prepares to Announce 500 Million Users, a Look Back at Its Traffic Growth”

  1. Jilted User says:

    Facebook has been currently blocking thousands of users for adding people that have been suggesting to us as friends as well as adding family members, and people that we do indeed know. They have also been warning and blocking people for accepting friend requests as well. This is done by an automated system devised by Caroline Ghiossi from user operations as an anti-spam tool that supposedly detects the speed and frequency to which you add and accept requests regardless of who those people are. It doesn’t tell you when the block is lifted nor do they tell you the limit to which you can add or accept friend requests. Here is the facebook page that addresses this issue. It is now at 3,000 and growing.
    http://www.facebook.com/?ref=logo#!/pages/Stop-blocking-me-for-adding-friends-you-suggested-Facebook/127620077272467?ref=ts
    Facebook has refused to address this problem and we need somebody to have them answer for it!!!
    News editors can contact me via email.

  2. Bertil Hatt says:

    Sorry to point that out, but you show a very regular graphic, without pointing out where were Facebook announcements: it might be very regular because you smoothed it out, by using linear interpolation between each announcement. It might be a problem not to correlate that with the total number of answers to queries such as “Mark” to estimate the English-speaking population, for instance.
    Similarly, considering the time spent on the site might be important, and is accessible through ad monitoring.
    I’d be expecting Facebook to have waves of adoption after each media mention, based on Google Trends data—but you can’t see those with your approach.

  3. The Like that Gets no Love at M! says:

    [...] media teams have put so much focus on creating and promoting Facebook pages. Now, with Facebook approaching 500M users, and with the privacy distractions fading away, this seems more important than ever. So why isn’t [...]

  4. Eric Eldon says:

    Bertil, it is very regular because we smoothed it out intentionally. What you see in the top graph is all the data we have *officially* from Facebook, that is consistent for long enough that we can make something meanginful out of it.

    The specific stats on the stats page have been redefined by Facebook regularly over the years, meaning that they’re not usable for a graph. We also collect our own data on Facebook, which you can see in the second graph on US traffic and in our Global Monitor reports.

  5. Behold, Facebook’s Consequences For Stealing Your Privacy | Defamer Australia says:

    [...] Facebook just spent six months rolling back user privacy, appropriating data and dealing with the resulting outrage. And yet the social network is growing as fast as ever, as neatly summarised in the attached chart from Inside Facebook’s Eric Eldon. [...]

  6. 500 Millionen: Nach dem Google-Jahrzehnt kommt jetzt das Facebook-Jahrzehnt says:

    [...] Facebook hat Facebooks internationales Wachstum [...]

  7. Amanda Milne says:

    I am concerned about a message that is currently going around me and my friends on facebook saying that we have to copy, cut and paste a message to verify we are still using the site and it saays that if we don’t reply or forward this message that our profiles will be deleted which would be a disaster for alot of people. I would appreciate it if you could confirm this to be true or let us know that it is not true. Thank You and i hope you reply to this a.s.a.p

  8. Facebook surpasses 500 million | Frontiering Talk says:

    [...] Graph of Facebook growth from Inside Facebook [...]

  9. eric cote says:

    photo moi message des personnes

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