Facebook may be close to reaching 700 million users, but its overall growth slowed in May for the second month. The popular social network is still adding users in developing countries, but is now shedding users in places that have had Facebook for a while, according to Inside Facebook.
Since Facebook is the number one social network in the world and one of the world’s most-visited sites, it’s important to keep a close eye on it to get a broader view of the social Web. Its explosive user growth has been on the rise for years, but now we could be seeing that type of growth stop and be replaced with small gains each month instead.
Facebook’s losses in May were notable. The number of users on the site declined in the U.S., U.K., Canada, Norway, and Russia. In the U.S. alone, the site lost 6 million users, dropping from 155.2 million to 149.2 million, during May. Canada dropped 1.52 million users, while the UK, Norway, and Russia all dropped more than 100,000 users.
Inside Facebook’s Eric Eldon said each country’s user base generally stops growing when it reaches 50 percent penetration. “By the time Facebook reaches around 50 percent of the total population in a given country (plus or minus, depending on internet access rates in that country), growth generally slows to a halt,” Eldon wrote.
The company is still adding users, but most are coming from developing countries where Facebook had a late start such as Mexico, Brazil, India, and the Philippines. Most prominently, Mexico and Brazil added about 1.9 million users each.
Facebook’s slowing growth could be attributed to growing privacy concerns, such as its facial recognition software, which has drawn the eye of European privacy regulators. It also could simply be a matter of users being prompted by friends and family to check out the service but later deleting their accounts because they weren’t getting much out of it.
From personal experience, I have a few friends in the U.S. who have deactivated or deleted their Facebook profiles because they felt they were losing too much time while browsing the site, preventing them from getting work and personal projects done.