Facebook surpasses one billion users as it tempts new markets

Facebook users worldwide map North America 44.97% of population using facebook Europe 29.96% of population using facebook Asia 6.68% of population using facebook South America 33.92% of population using facebook Africa 5.15%  of population using facebook Australia and Oceania 42.14% of population using facebook

North America

238m Facebook users
Biggest market: US

Facebook's place of birth is naturally its biggest market.

But shareholders, and Facebook itself, are beginning to question its potential to monetise - particularly when it comes to mobile. On the financial markets, Facebook has seemingly found itself with the tech world's weight of expectation on its shoulders.

Share price drops to below $20 from a starting point of $38 provoke worry - even from Mark Zuckerberg himself, who recently admitted the slump had affected staff morale.


243m Facebook users
Biggest market: UK

Facebook's big challenge in Europe is Russia.

So much so, it was in Moscow, after meeting the prime minister, that Mark Zuckerberg made his first ever live TV talkshow appearance. He later visited a gathering of hackers and coders who were being encouraged to build on the Facebook platform. The competition in this region comes from the likes of VKontakte, which is far in the lead with an estimated userbase of almost 300 million.

In other countries, privacy remains a high concern - with both the European Union and and regulators in Ireland (where Facebook's Europe HQ is situated) keeping a close watch.


258m Facebook users
Biggest market: India

In Asia, Facebook faces a mixture of hope and hurdles.

The company says it is 'watching and waiting' on whether to launch in China, perhaps put off by Google's faltered attempts in the region, as well as already well-established, already popular competitors such as RenRen or the Twitter-like Sina Weibo.

India is the region's stand-out success - it holds an audience of almost 60 million, Facebook's third biggest country globally. However, this type of success comes at a price. The region is notorious for being the birth place of much of the service's spam and 'fake' activity.

South America

135m Facebook users
Biggest market: Brazil

Between June 2011 and June 2012, Facebook users jumped by 50% in South America, a signal that its push into the region - it opened a research centre in Buenos Aires - is beginning to pay off.

In Brazil, its biggest market, Facebook has overtaken local favourite Orkut, which is owned by Google, as the the most-visited network.

As in other developing markets, Facebook has been busy wooing developers onto the platform - this year it has run special events in Mexico City, Buenos Aires and Sao Paulo.


48m Facebook users
Biggest market: Egypt

Where Asia provides political challenges, Facebook's challenge in Africa is one of technology.

It’s a region where connectivity is patchy and slow and technology, for those who can get it, can be outdated. Yet, in other areas, the region is remarkably mature. Many Africans use mobile payment as their primary way of spending and earning cash - a trend the wider world is slow to follow up on. Facebook has launched a range of tools designed to capitalise on this.

The main effort being Facebook for Every Phone, an initiative that strips down the network so it can run on even the most basic of handsets.

Australia & Oceania

15m Facebook users
Biggest market: Australia

A small but significant market for Facebook, Australia and its neighbours present the company with similar challenges to those found in North America and Europe.

Local laws could see the service adapted in the area - such as a recent ruling which saw the country's advertising standards authority say companies were responsible for any incorrect statements about products posted onto fan pages.

Facebook's presence in the country is primarily around selling advertising, a tactic which appears to be paying off. Local brands rank highly among the pages most engaged with.

Facebook's next billion?

The world's biggest social network says it now has over a billion active monthly users. But anxious investors are asking where will its next billion users come from? And the billion after that?

While Facebook is firmly established in the western social media world, it still lags behind in Asia and another continent, key growth markets to satisfy its hungry investors and shareholders.

Click on the map to discover Facebook's big challenges around the world.


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Facebook now has more than one billion people using it every month, the company has said.

The passing of the milestone was announced by founder Mark Zuckerberg on US television on Thursday.

The company said that those billion users were to date responsible for 1.13 trillion "likes", 219 billion photos and 17 billion location check-ins.

The site, which was launched in 2004, is now looking towards emerging markets to build its user base further.

"If you're reading this: thank you for giving me and my little team the honor of serving you," Mr Zuckerberg wrote in a status update.

"Helping a billion people connect is amazing, humbling and by far the thing I am most proud of in my life"

Statistics released to coincide with the announcement revealed there were now 600 million users accessing the site via a mobile device - up 48 million from 552 million in June this year.

Mark Zuckerberg on NBC TV: "If we build the best products, we can continue leading in this space for a long time"

Since its early beginnings at Harvard University, Facebook users have befriended each other 140.3 billion times.

Sustained growth is seen as crucial if Facebook is to maintain its value - the company has seen its share price drop to about $22 (£17) from a starting price of $38.

Investors will expect the company to look at ways to make more from the users it already has as well as seeking to attract new users in areas of the world where it does not yet dominate.

"For Facebook the main challenge is not just to grow in terms of numbers, but more importantly to deepen and enrich engagements," said Eden Zoller, principal analyst at tech research firm Ovum.

TV chat show

Although the service is by far the world's biggest social network, there are key areas, such as China and Russia, where local competitors still remain the online networking tool of choice.

Last month, Mr Zuckerberg visited Moscow, where he made his first TV chat show appearance, as well as a highly publicised meeting with the Prime Minister, Dmitry Medvedev.

It was a public-relations exercise designed to unsettle VKontakte - a network that boasts in excess of 100 million members, compared with Facebook's seven million, in the country.

In the same trip, Mr Zuckerberg made a "surprise" visit to one of the company's arranged hack-a-thons to meet local developers.

Other trips include to China, where the company said it was busy "watching and learning" from other internet firms.

Google, which launched in China in 2005, faced fierce criticism when it agreed to allow censorship of search results. It later changed its stance, and now directs all of its traffic through its Hong Kong-based site.

Evolution of a network

Facebook at one billion:

  • Median user age: 22
  • Top countries (alphabetical order): Brazil, India, Indonesia, Mexico, United States
  • Mobile users: 600 million

At 500 million (July 2010):

  • Median user age: 23
  • Top countries: Brazil, India, Indonesia, Mexico, United States
  • Users who joined the site at this point now have an average of 305 friends

At 100 million (August 2008):

  • Median user age: 23
  • Top countries: Chile, France, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States
  • Users who joined the site at this point now have an average of 334 friends

At 50 million (October 2007):

  • Median user age: 26
  • Top countries: Australia, Canada, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States
  • Users who joined the site at this point now have an average of 321 friends

At 25 million (January 2006):

  • Median user age: 19
  • Top countries: Australia, Canada, Germany, United Kingdom, United States
  • Users who joined the site at this point now have an average of 598 friends

Success for Facebook in China would mean unseating RenRen (more than 30 million users) and possibly the Twitter-like service Sina Weibo (more than 300 million users).

'Every phone'

In Africa, Facebook has targeted the use of basic phones - known widely as "feature phones" - which are unable to display the full-featured site, but instead can use specially created variations of the network.

Specifically, a project called Facebook for Every Phone, which was launched following the company's acquisition of feature-phone specialists Snaptu, is central to its growth strategy in the region.

"Facebook is doing very well in Africa," said Erik Hersman, a Kenyan-based blogger.

"You even see people using it in the rural areas - often people will ask for a phone with Facebook on it, not caring/knowing about the internet at all."

There are considerable monetisation opportunities too. The continent has, at a pace far outstripping the west, adopted mobile payment systems in huge numbers - more than 15 million in Kenya alone.

In developed markets, one path to better engagement with users could be through new features that make use of Facebook's vast quantities of personal data about each of its members.

In recent weeks, Facebook has been looking to monitor the real-world effects of advertising on the platform.

These efforts are key if the company is to convince businesses that investing in the platform is not a waste of money - recent admissions over "fake" users and have dented the site's credibility.

It has enlisted the help of US market research firm Datalogix to try to produce evidence that seeing an advert on Facebook - without necessarily clicking on it - is enough of an engagement to get people buying products in shops.

Data 'goldmine'

However, this vast data bank is tricky to utilise, according to Ovum's Ms Zoller.

"There's no doubt that Facebook is sitting on a potential goldmine of customer data," she said.

"But that goldmine can also be a minefield. We know that Facebook, despite its claims to the contrary, constantly pushes the boundaries of what's seen as acceptable in regards to data privacy."

Facebook 'like' symbol Much of Facebook's advertising model features around "likes" - however their worth is disputed

This goldmine could swell further. In the UK, ministers are said to be considering using Facebook, among other services, to act as official identification for accessing public services online.

Such advancements are being noted by data regulators. In Europe in particular, Facebook has been faced with increased demands to tighten data privacy practices.

The company, which has based its European headquarters in Ireland, was last month told by the Irish Data Protection Commissioner, Billy Hawkes, that it must amend its Phototag feature - a tool powered by facial recognition software.

Following an extensive audit, the commission also sought extra assurances from Facebook over issues surrounding account deletion and targeted advertising.

As it continues to innovate and evolve, the company would need to get used to finding itself audited and investigated, said Ms Zoller.

"They're so high-profile," she said.

"They're a bit of a poster boy, but they could be a whipping boy if they're not careful."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 377.

    264. Doc - Through the power of the internet and WITHOUT using FB, you do now... I do not use Facebook. The benefit of 'keeping in touch with friends and family' is often quoted. However, viewing the FB content, it becomes clear that it is a platform for preening and self-aggrandisement. LOOK AT ME AND WHAT I DO! Nothing wrong with that, it is what people do naturally. Just not for me. No need.

  • rate this

    Comment number 376.

    Does this mean its offical uncool to have a facebook account? Its so mainstream, you know like myspace and bebo..its time the hipsters found another platform.....something new please. Facebook? how bout #book

  • Comment number 375.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 374.

    I lost my mobile phone in dark somewhere in Cardiff while I was lost and trying to find my way back to a friends house at 4am.

    That was over 6 months ago, I haven't missed my phone, and rarely have the house phone plugged in..but it's probably handy that I have a facebook. Most of the people I know have one, they can still contact me. Far less annoying than people ringing me up all the time.

  • rate this

    Comment number 373.

    Two main types of facebook user: those who let everyone know every inane thing they do in the day and those who use it just to help keep in touch with friends/relatives and share some pics. I'm solidly in the latter category. The larger it gets potentially the more useful it is for keeping in touch with people (so bregrudingly - I'm generally not a fan of monoplies) keep up the good work!

  • rate this

    Comment number 372.

    The concept of social networking is ok in itself, but Facebook is not just that. Its there to make Zuckerberg and his mates a fortune so it is structured within a commercial context which overrides true social exchange. Go on it those who want, but its one of the the biggest government spy networks since the internet began, and has intrusive arms.

  • rate this

    Comment number 371.

    366.Nigel P
    If FB can't make enough money to satisfy its shareholders when it has 1 billion active accounts in a month, then I doubt it ever will.
    Thats because FB mainly depends on advertising. More FB knows about you, more the advertising will be targeted.
    How many of the 1 billion people would use it if it was a subscription service?

  • rate this

    Comment number 370.


    I just come back from 6 months around Canada.

    Can proudly say I didn't post once in the whole time.

    Oh the irony - But you have to tell us that you've been in Canada for 6 months and your name has the word Quebec in it.

    I have a good friend who recently emigrated to Canada. I use FB to keep in touch with him.

    I posted for Kilimanjaro to let my family know I was alive.

  • rate this

    Comment number 369.

    That's odd... Last year I read Facebook had 3 billion users.

  • rate this

    Comment number 368.


    Zynga etc

  • rate this

    Comment number 367.

    349. DonRuggio
    Facebook has it's good and bad points. The most interesting is that it has allowed the festering of zombie friendships - those relationships which had died out naturally and in a previous time would have been forgotten about.

    LOL zombie friendships. It was why I left FB. All these long gone people appearing out of the ether. I did not actually want to know them again.

  • rate this

    Comment number 366.

    Having read 100+ comments here, it is interesting that nobody has mentioned money.

    If FB can't make enough money to satisfy its shareholders when it has 1 billion active accounts in a month, then I doubt it ever will.

  • rate this

    Comment number 365.

    Funny that those who criticise FB and say those those who use it don’t have a life don’t come across as very cheerful, gregarious people. I wouldn’t say they seem envious, but still.

  • rate this

    Comment number 364.

    I disagree. It's not new, it's been around since 2004....People just don't seem to learn from others mistakes and some have ended up being fatal.
    Cars have been around for more than a century. Fire forever. Inexperienced drivers still crash and people still burn their fingers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 363.

    Those saying FB only knows what you tell it are being naive. EVERYTHING you do on and off FB is recorded, everything you view, like, ignore, site you visit when logged in or not (depending on your cookie settings) is recorded. Every FB button you see on sites is recording you. They build profiles based on all this and then interpolate between it so they know more than you have even given them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 362.

    This is quite funny considering I just closed my account. I have been a daily user since early 2007 but I have simply just lost interest and the news published yesterday about FB selling user's data was the last straw for me. FB has changed a lot over the years but not for the better. I will actually phone and speak to my friends now rather than just seeing what they posted in FB :-)

  • rate this

    Comment number 361.

    I hate myself for being one in a Billion...

  • rate this

    Comment number 360.

    You have to remember that the number of Facebook users can only go up, it can never go down. When I cancelled my Facebook account and de-registered, I was amazed to discover that 6 months later my ID was all still intact and I could switch it on again. Zuckerberg has made it impossible for you to cancel your membership however hard you try!

  • rate this

    Comment number 359.

    80% of Europena poulation do not use Facebook, for once I am pleased to be in the majority.

  • rate this

    Comment number 358.

    I do not have a Face Book account I simply do not have time for it. Maybe I am wrong but I think of facebook experience the same as being in a pub and having to talk to everybody when I only want to talk to my friends.I prefer smaller networks where I can communicate with similar minded people.


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