Available Data Shows Facebook User Numbers Growing Quickly, or Slowly, or Falling

Did Facebook have fewer monthly active users in the United States at the start of June than it did at the start of May? What about user counts in other early-adopter countries like Canada and the United Kingdom? Is the company continuing to gain as many new users around the world now as it has in recent years?

As we covered yesterday, Facebook appears to have had fewer monthly active users at the start of June than at the start of May in the US and a few other countries — at least according to one data source — even as it has grown bigger than ever worldwide. Although today a person close to the company tells us that the site is “still growing in the US.”

Our data source was Inside Facebook Gold, our tracking service that shows country-by-country monthly active user counts, based exactly on the data that Facebook provides in its advertising tool. It showed Facebook falling from 155.2 million at the beginning of May to 149.4 million at the beginning of June, but growing by 11.8 million monthly actives around the world to reach 687.1 million over the same period.

Because this data can be buggy, delayed, or otherwise unclear, we regularly compare it against what leading third party measurement services show. Here’s the latest data available from Compete, comScore, Google Ad Planner and Quantcast.

A word of warning, though: Each of these other services has its own methodologies, and its own delays and bugs, so it’s important to look for trends that emerge from multiple sources over the months, not just what a given source says on a given month. Facebook, for example, self-reports its data in monthly active users, which isn’t exactly the same measure as the “monthly unique visitor” metric that third parties provide.

As you can see from our past posts, as well as from the data below, each data source does not exactly match with the others (here are the three most recent editions, if you’re interested). Let’s get started.

Compete

May stats are not yet available, but looking back to April, the firm shows Facebook falling from 140.7 million monthly unique visitors in March to 137.9 million in the US. In contrast to multiple other sources, Compete has shown Facebook gaining and losing users month-to-month over much of the past year.

It also shows Facebook’s most direct social product rivals, Twitter and MySpace, also losing users in April.

ComScore

While often more in line with the data in Facebook’s ad tool, comScore’s data tends to diverge a bit in the US and a lot internationally — or at least that’s what we’ve observed in the past (take a look at the top graph in this story for another divergent month: January of 2011).

In May, Facebook grew by 3.16 million monthly unique visitors, according to the firm, to reach 157.2 million in the country. It’s not clear why comScore is showing growth while Facebook itself is showing a loss. Twitter, meanwhile, made back some losses from April, while Myspace lost some of its gains from that month.

ComScore doesn’t have May worldwide numbers available yet, so here’s a look at March and April. Facebook had a slow month, growing by around 5 million worldwide, while MySpace made some unexpected gains, and Twitter fell again after many months of growth.

Google Ad Planner

In striking contrast to all other available stats, Google’s DoubleClick Ad Planner tool shows Facebook with 890 million unique visitors. It’s not clear why. The graph you see below shows Google’s count of Facebook’s daily unique visitors, based on browser cookies. This usage measure appears to have declined slightly from a high at the start of April back to 300 million.

Quantcast

More similar to Compete than the others, the firm shows Facebook with 139 million uniques by the end of April, growing slowly from previous months. Twitter and MySpace, meanwhile, also have a relatively flat trajectory.

Conclusion

As we say in every post we write about Facebook monthly user counts, a wide variety of issues cloud what is happening month to month. On the technical side, these can be philosophical differences in how each company measures usage — some are more reliant on buying data from internet service providers, or on gathering responses from user-installed toolbar trackers, to name two examples. Bugs can pop up for any of these services, including Facebook’s tool.

But as we noted yesterday, there do appear to be some overriding trends here. Canada, the United Kingdom and a few other early adopting countries have alternately shown gains and losses starting in 2010. Up until then, growth had generally been much steadier.

There’s an especially odd mix of data about the US. Most third parties showed Facebook with fewer monthly active users in January and February, but Facebook’s own data didn’t reflect that. Meanwhile, for May, the only third party to report numbers so far is showing growth, in contrast to the loss that Facebook is showing.

For its part, Facebook has not typically commented on traffic numbers, except when it publishes official statistics — the last time was when it hit 500 million monthly active users, months ago. After we published our first post yesterday, Facebook is clarifying to media outlets that data from ad tool isn’t intended for measuring traffic. To be sure. We use it anyway because it seems to be the most specific, and directionally accurate, despite the questions.

From time to time, we see stories about Facebook losing users in some regions. 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. We are very pleased with our growth and with the way people are engaged with Facebook. More than 50 per cent of our active users log on to Facebook in any given day.

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29 Responses to “Available Data Shows Facebook User Numbers Growing Quickly, or Slowly, or Falling”

  1. Is Facebook bleeding users in the U.S.? : here’s the thing says:

    [...] tool that doesn’t rely on Facebook’s ad tool, reports that the social networking giant actually gained about 3 million U.S. users in May. Meanwhile, other tracking sites are still compiling their May usage figures for Facebook, [...]

  2. Facbebook ab jetzt »uncool«? | Tim Schlotfeldt » E-Learning says:

    [...] ist (allerdings sind das keine Zahlen von Facebook selbst sondern von den Analysten von Inside Facebook). Weltweit betrachtet wächst Facebook immer noch, wenn auch nicht mehr ganz so schnell. In den [...]

  3. Телеком блог » Blog Archive » Facebook отрицает потери пользователей says:

    [...] Источник: Inside Facebook [...]

  4. Ίσως και να έρχεται το τέλος του κόσμου: τα ενεργά μέλη του Facebook άρχισαν να μειώνονται (ίσως) says:

    [...] με το Inside Facebook, το οποίο είναι αφιερωμένο στο να ερμηνεύει τις τάσεις [...]

  5. Is Facebook heading for saturation point? Should this affect PR campaigns? | Firefly Communications - PR agency says:

    [...] I read on the Inside Facebook blog that Facebook growth in North America has slowed for the second month in a row, although overall, [...]

  6. BOOK OF THE FUTURE says:

    [...] (With thanks to Inside Facebook for stats: http://www.insidefacebook.com/2011/06/13/available-data-shows-facebook-user-numbers-growing-quickly-…) [...]

  7. Facebook serait en perte de vitesse aux US ? Pas si sur… « Christophe Lauer says:

    [...] : Le blog “Inside Facebook” publie justement un billet complémentaire dans lequel ils entrent un peu plus dans les détails et comparent les chiffres de plusieurs sources, avec une conclusion que Einstein n’aurait pas réfutée : “tout est relatif” [...]

  8. Report: Facebook Plans $100 Billion IPO Among Talk of Growth Slowdown says:

    [...] light of Facebook's response, Inside Facebook also compared its findings (which do come from direct measurements using Facebook's advertising tool) to other third-party [...]

  9. Facebook is not declining in Canada | Birds on a Wire says:

    [...] a parting item, the poster of the original report has a follow up article today: http://www.insidefacebook.com/2011/06/13/available-data-shows-facebook-user-numbers-growing-quickly… This article indicates that other reporting source cannot corroborate the initial findings, and [...]

  10. Dans les pays matures, la croissance de Facebook ralentit — SXMINFO says:

    [...] le spécialiste affirme qu’aux Etats-Unis, le réseau social a perdu 6 millions de comptes en mai, pour un total de [...]

  11. 每日观察:关注Facebook用户增长速度减缓(6.15) | GamerBoom.com 游戏邦 says:

    [...] In May, Facebook grew by 3.16 million monthly unique visitors, according to the firm, to reach 157.2 million in the country. It’s not clear why comScore is showing growth while Facebook itself is showing a loss. Twitter, meanwhile, made back some losses from April, while Myspace lost some of its gains from that month.(source:insidefacebook)    [...]

  12. ¿Está llegando Facebook a su punto de saturación? » El Blog de Enrique Dans says:

    [...] solo funciona si se hace con la adecuada dosis de precaución. De hecho, ya podemos ver cómo la misma Inside Facebook que alborotó hace pocos días el panorama con sus datos se desdice al día…. El análisis de series temporales es una metodología compleja que requiere importantes dosis de [...]

  13. Facebook wächst, schrumpft, stagniert… | fbwatchblog says:

    [...] hatte InsideFacebook beispielsweise einen Rückgang von knapp 6 Millionen Nutzerinnen und Nutzern für die USA im Mai [...]

  14. Is Facebook on the Decline? | Christian Web Trends Blog says:

    [...] Tweet this article 0 ShareInside Facebook released a report Monday showing that while Facebook continues to grow worldwide it’s popularity in the U.S. and [...]

  15. Is Facebook Seeing a Decline is US Traffic? | Astek Blog says:

    [...] of Facebook.” However, they do line up with several other reputable third party indicators, as reported by Insidefacebook.com. Other indicators however, report the opposite.  Of course.  What is certain is that [...]

  16. Facebook och det källkritiska haveriet « Same Same But Different says:

    [...] artikel och två dagar innan de flesta andra medier rapporterade, uppdaterade Facebook inside med en post där källor inom Facebook – de enda som inte behöver gissa på hur många aktiva användare [...]

  17. Sociala medier – är svensk media för dåligt påläst? says:

    [...] en uppföljningsartikel garderade sig dessutom Inside Facebook med att statistik från andra källor inte visade på samma [...]

  18. Reverse Network Effect? | | Nikki BradleyNikki Bradley says:

    [...] be that people start to leave the site? Have some of the social networking sites already plateaued? Inside Facebook has reported that Facebook has seen a drop in traffic numbers in the US and Canada for the last [...]

  19. ¿El comienzo del fin de Facebook? | Artifacts: el blog says:

    [...] pesar de eso, otros empresas que miden el tráfico indirectamente (incluído Google), no muestran bajones tan [...]

  20. La chronique de la semaine: “Argent virtuel, valeur réelle” | Geeko says:

    [...] relativisés par Facebook et leurs comparaison avec d’autres estimations montrent qu’il est très délicat de les interpréter de manière significative. Entre les annonces de valorisation de plus en plus folles, les guerres des chiffres autour des [...]

  21. What do the Traffic Drops in US and Canada mean for Facebook’s Growth? | Bramerz | a digital media and marketing agency. says:

    [...] we begin any analysis, lets see how authentic these figures are. Inside Facebook published contradictory stats the very next day the above mentioned stats were put [...]

  22. Facebook’s Mobile Apps Continue to Boom, With iOS, Android and Blackberry … says:

    [...] information from a Inside Facebook Gold report. You’ll get an even steeper sum if you use comScore’s data for a same [...]

  23. Google+ Project: Does it stand a chance | beacon52.org says:

    [...] is a small window of opportunity.  There are some reports that Facebook is on a decline in the US (although Mark Zuckerberg is talking down those [...]

  24. Is Google+ the Next Big Thing in Social Communities? Will you login to Google+? | JASE Digital Media blog says:

    [...] In 2005, MySpace was bought for $580 million by News Corp. In 2006, it became the most popular social networking site, but in 2008 was overtaken by Facebook. Though Facebook is in no danger of losing its pole position any time soon, according to at least one source, Facebook’s traffic has fallen slightly in recent months. [...]

  25. oreillyblog » Nieder mit den Best Practices! says:

    [...] – genau kann dies derzeit wohl keiner außer Facebook selbst beziffern (Zur Diskussion siehe insidefacebook.com). Dennoch: Ich vermisse die Anfangseuphorie, bei mir und bei meinen Kontakten. Ich vermisse die [...]

  26. Live A Slice of Dexter’s Life on Facebook says:

    [...] a time when Facebook has seen a slowdown in monthly active users in the U.S. market, one wonders to what extent the the game will boost the frequency with which users visit their [...]

  27. Hot or not: Is Facebook on the slide? | Firstpost says:

    [...] InsideFacebook took a detailed look at Facebook’s US stats and found that they are “growing quickly, or slowly, or falling” depending on which [...]

  28. Facebook wächst, schrumpft, stagniert… says:

    [...] hatte InsideFacebook beispielsweise einen Rückgang von knapp 6 Millionen Nutzerinnen und Nutzern für die USA im Mai [...]

  29. Moving Youth » Satisfying the need of an open Internet says:

    [...] les plus connus. Or en 2010 Inside Facebook, un observateur du réseau Facebook montrait le début d’un ralentissement de la croissance des inscriptions sur ce réseau. Cependant, les annonceurs continuent d’accroître leurs [...]

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