For a while we thought nothing could stop the Facebook juggernaut. Now it seems that the social network is no more resistant to public fickleness than any other super-large enterprise.
The number of people using the site in May fell in Britain, the US, Canada, Norway and Russia, said the report. In the US, the site lost about six million users, from 155.2m at the start of May to 149.9m by its end, according to data from Inside Facebook. In the UK the site lost over 100,000 users over the course of the month.
The question over the slippage is not an idle one, with renewed speculation the same day that the social network was lining up an initial public offering offering early next year which would value the site at $100 billion. Later a source said to be "close to the company" insisted the site was "still growing in the U.S."
So what could be the reasons for a slowdown ? Some believe the site may have hit the outer limits in areas where it was first successful; some believe concerns over privacy, particularly over the use of photographs are to blame ; other believe early adopters are getting fed-up with Facebook and are shying away from it.
Yet Facebook is still piling on the millions overall . It added another 11.8 million users in May, although that was down from April, when it added 13.9 million. The site is approaching 700 million users worldwide.
Eric Eldon of Inside Facebook says: “So far Facebook has been able to make up stalls and losses with more people from developing countries such as India and Brazil." And he points out that if the site can break into China – a tall order but a Zuckerberg ambition – its growth could take off again towards one billion users.
Eldon says that by the time Facebook reaches around 50% of the total population in a given country (at 29.9 million that's where it is in Britain), growth generally slows to a halt .
The US is the largest country in users overall, with Indonesia second with 36.4m, followed by the UK and Turkey.
The fastest-growing countries include Brazil and Russia, each up almost fourfold to 17.1 million and 4.6 million users respectively. India is up 160% to 24.9 million, Thailand up 143% to 9.1 million, Egypt up 108% to 7.1 million, Poland up 130% to 6.1 million and Peru up 126% to 5.5 million.
Here are some comments submitted by users to Inside Facebook:
Ted Fey: Do you think it might be because school has closed for the summer and college students have something to do besides be on Facebook in class?
Scotty Holm, Oregon State: I'll be interested in seeing how this plays out. Personally I'm getting a little tired of Facebook.
Amanda Smith, Oxted school , Surrey: I think people are getting bored of using Facebook and their privacy issues.
Steven Sherman, of Virginia Beach, Virginia: Why are they spending so much time on new features when they can't protect us from spam and fake content?
Luke Allen McManamon, of Middleton, Idaho: People are finally realising FB has jumped the shark. Twitter only needs to give us a tab to add more profile info and it will see the shift. I hate FB's constant site and privacy changes. If my family and old classmates were on Twitter also, I would delete my FB account.
Balaji Viswanathan , of Chennai India: I signed up for Facebook when it was only open to.edu addresses. But, after few years of actively posting on Facebook, I have finally moved to Twitter and find it more useful. I think for a lot of common users like me, fatigue is setting in.
Angel Leon, Microcontroller Designer at European Space Agency: I bet the traffic dip is because the weather is great and people are outside. This happens to many sites around this time of the year.
Connie Brown: Recently, Facebook claimed that it received no complaints from members about their Facial Recognition Software, and Privacy Concerns. Sorry to say, but if losing 6 million members last month in the USA is not enough proof of how disgusted people are with Facebook, then I don't know what is.
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