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 497.

    How many of the "1 billion accounts" are duplicates, dummies or spamsters? We only have Facebook's word for it and we know they have a very serious vested interest in talking up their business (look at the share price).

    The fact is that the world is increasingly viewing the web on mobiles / cell phones and the value of mobile ads is much, much less. Trouble ahead.

  • rate this

    Comment number 496.

    One billion regular users? Over half of British people? I don't believe it. I have 3 "active" accounts, I use them to flog stuff to people, quite frankly it doesn't seem to be working. Adverts are a big disappointment. I have 0% loyalty to Facebook.

  • rate this

    Comment number 495.

    I've never bothered my backside about facebook and it's shenannigans but one billion users is not to be sniffed at

    Definitely impressed

  • rate this

    Comment number 494.

    I did FB since shortly after it started, I stopped using it around a year ago, life is fine without it. I started using G+ in beta and left that about the same time as I left FB. I won't be going back in to either. It took about three weeks to get used to the change then another few to begin to feel liberated - I would recommend at least giving life without this stuff a try.

  • rate this

    Comment number 493.

    Facebook is the opium of the.masses, enjoy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 492.


    And yet, not so different to some of the FB users you so despise, are you? Having a virtual conversation here and telling people how superior your lifestyle is compared to theirs...

  • rate this

    Comment number 491.

    "487. Tony Fisher
    So there are 1 billion losers who need to get a real life."

    Your judgements on something you've personally never used aside...

    Facebook can actually be a pretty good business tool if you allow it. Its advertising service is particularly useful for making your company visible on an international platform. I use it for my business.

  • rate this

    Comment number 490.

    487. Tony Fisher
    Never used facebook (or twitter) and never will - and I've got plenty of friends. And do you know - when we meet up, we've got news to exchange and things to talk about.

    I can't understand why so many people on this thread seem to consider that having a Facebook page and socialising in the real world are mutually exclusive.

  • rate this

    Comment number 489.

    How many of the accounts are faked by internet marketing companies?

    Or maybe just abandoned because the user got bored and remembered that their was a real world out there, like me?

  • rate this

    Comment number 488.

    I don't know why but F. makes me think of 2 things: sheep mentality and Brave New World of A. Huxley...

    =>Right on. But instead of rebels being recruited to write the books these days they write the programs!

  • rate this

    Comment number 487.

    So there are 1 billion losers who need to get a real life.

    Never used facebook (or twitter) and never will - and I've got plenty of friends. And do you know - when we meet up, we've got news to exchange and things to talk about. And I don't have a mobile either and don't need or want one.

  • rate this

    Comment number 486.

    "484. Marylyn
    Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-hahhhhh... Yes? Uh, no. Facebook exists for those unfortunates who haven't the social skills to make friends in real life, unable to hold an impromptu conversation etc!"

    So, that would be over a billion people then? How about instead of lumping a whole group of people into a stereotype, we just accept there are both pros and cons to this kind of social media?

  • rate this

    Comment number 485.

    @479. Jethro Tull
    Yeah and they all smell as well what a bunch of losers!

  • rate this

    Comment number 484.

    479.Jethro Tull "The only reason why people who don't have a Facebook account criticise it is because most of them haven't got any friends to build a FB account up in the first place"

    Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-hahhhhh... Yes? Uh, no. Facebook exists for those unfortunates who haven't the social skills to make friends in real life, unable to hold an impromptu conversation etc!

  • rate this

    Comment number 483.

    and how many are genuine? great for selling advertising if customers think they have a billion viewers.

    I have several facebook accounts and i'm sure millions of others do too. I dont use any of them much if at all and certainly dont post anything on them. I just use to search for old friends, forget my details and register a new account.

  • rate this

    Comment number 482.

    1 Hour ago
    A sad indictment of the whole western-world attitude to self-gratification!
    You can also add instant gratification
    In the future you won't be able to re-count trips, holidays, special events with people.
    Because everybody will already know what youv'e done, where youv'e been.
    "Arcade Fire" - We Used To Wait

  • rate this

    Comment number 481.

    479.Jethro Tull

    "...most of them haven't got any friends to build a FB account..."


    Maybe. But then again, making friends is only a necessity to those who can't afford the luxury of making enemies...


  • rate this

    Comment number 480.

    453.goldengirl12 "there is something very communist about a program that the user cannot change or alter in anyway and the huge amount of data fb collects about its users"

    It doesn't have to does it? A colleague of mine created an account with just an email, name and a birth date- entirely false- of course, but it was to test ordering from a business that now takes orders via f/b.

  • rate this

    Comment number 479.

    The only reason why people who don't have a Facebook account criticise it is because most of them haven't got any friends to build a FB account up in the first place.

  • rate this

    Comment number 478.

    I won't say I couldn't live without FB, but I've found it to be a very useful social tool. FB is what you make of it. For those dismissing it as 'boring rubbish for losers', well, it is YOUR friends' updates that appear in your news feed - so if that's been your experience, that'll be because of the 'boring losers' you've befriended.


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