Facebook lost nearly 6m users in the US last month, according to figures from Inside Facebook, sparking fresh concern that the social network’s growth is slowing.
Total monthly active users on the site still grew by 1.7 per cent between the beginning of May and early June, taking its total to 687m, according to Inside Facebook, part of the Inside Network, which provides news and analytics tools for social media, virtual goods and mobile apps.
But in the US there was a drop for the first time in a year, from 155.2m to 149.4m during the month of May. Canada also lost 1.52m users, while the UK, Norway and Russia lost “more than 100,000”.
That was all offset by big gains in Brazil, India, Mexico and Indonesia, Inside Facebook says, but “overall growth has been lower than normal for the second month straight, which is unusual”.
Although these are headline-grabbing statistics, they are just a couple of months’ data – it isn’t yet a trend. Inside Facebook itself gives a health warning on its figures, suggesting that seasonal factors and “bugs in the Facebook advertising tool” can distort the figures. Facebook has not commented on the report. (Updated: see end of post for Facebook’s response.)
This is not the first time that people have tried to suggest Facebook is losing momentum – and each of them has, so far, proven a blip in an otherwise frenetic growth rate.
It is almost exactly a year since an Inside Facebook interview with Mark Zuckerberg triggered the most recent fears that growth at the world’s largest social network might be running out of steam.
Just as Mr Zuckerberg was talking onstage in Cannes about the importance of Japan, Russia, South Korea and China for its next phase of growth, Inside Facebook published an article quoting him as saying:
“We saw our exponential growth rate continue for a very long period of time, and it still does at a super-linear rate, though not quite 3 per cent a week any more.”
According to Inside Facebook’s latest stats, Facebook is “not quite” growing at 3 per cent a month any more, so it’s true to say that things have slowed down.
But back in June 2010, Facebook had around 500m users. Now it’s closing in on 700m. Its huge scale will inevitably affect its growth rate but from an international perspective, its dominance is greater than ever. Another set of data, from Cosenza, suggests that Facebook is now the leading social network in 119 out of 134 major markets.
As Facebook targets 1bn users, many have focused on China as its great untapped source of growth. But as Facebook’s investors target an initial public offering next year, the health of the network in more immediately profitable areas such as North America and Western Europe might be just as big a concern.
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