Who Are The 6 Billion People Who Aren't On Facebook?

Most likely, Facebook will reach the one-billion member threshold sometime during 2012. One seventh of the world's population will be on the social network.

Facebook’s statistics page says more than 800 million people actively use the site, which amounts to almost 9 percent of the world’s population when you round up the numbers.

Most likely, Facebook will reach the 1 billion-member threshold sometime during 2012.

While the site’s membership continues to outgrow the competition, the pace of growth has slowed down by about one-third compared with the previous year.

Some 200 million people joined Facebook during 2011, while about 300 million opened accounts in 2010.

If Facebook’s growth in 2012 replicates 2011, then we can expect to see the site cross that 1 billion-member mark by the end of the year.

But if there’s a continued slowing in the rate at which people join the site, then 2013 would see that 1 billion threshold reached. Still, the numbers are huge.

A more interesting number has had my attention over the past month: The roughly 6 billion people who don’t yet have Facebook accounts — what do these folks have in common?

All we can do is extrapolate from what we know about who does have Facebook accounts.

For starters, one-third of Americans aren’t on Facebook yet — that’ s based on the fact that roughly one in four people on the social network live in the United States.

So that’s nearly 113 million Americans, and they might include the roughly 49 million households considered to be at or below the poverty line. That assumes the poor don’t avail themselves of computers at public libraries.

On the other end of the spectrum, we’ve been seeing an aversion to Facebook among certain types of professionals who worry about encountering clients or patients. Quantifying this group is challenging, however.


The bulk of the 6 billion people without Facebook accounts live outside of the United States.

Most notable among them is China, where the population of about 1.3 billion can’t access the social network because the government has blocked it for two years. That excludes Hong Kong, which can access the social network.

By contrast, Japan’s roughly 127 million people could access Facebook if they want to but largely skip it in favor of local social networks like Mixi.

Some of Russia’s 142 million are just beginning to take a gander at Facebook, doubtlessly helped by the social network’s partnership with Yandex, forged at the end of 2010.

Then there are other countries that block access to the Internet, or at least certain websites, such as Iran, North Korea, and Cuba.

Will they open up enough for the population to access Facebook any time soon?

OK, it’s wishful thinking, but if they did allow it, that would add nearly 78 million people in Iran, more than 23 million in North Korea, and just over 11 million in Cuba.

Other nations not on Facebook include Myanmar, which has roughly 54 million people. Tiny Kosovo has just under 2 million.

Still, all of the geographical areas mentioned so far here don’t quite add up to one-third of the 6 billion who don’t have Facebook accounts yet.

A global category likely to describe those who don’t have Facebook accounts — some of it overlapping with the nations counted above — is the World Health Organization‘s estimate that at least 3 billion people live in poverty.

Empoverished folks in less developed parts of the world are a lot less likely to have access to free computers at public libraries.

That begs the question of whether it currently behooves any Internet company to try to reach the poor in the developing parts of the world. Humanitarian aid organizations have the ability to change that, of course.

But circling back to developed nations, there’s one other way to categorize people not yet on Facebook, although we can’t even begin to put a number on them: folks who simply don’t want anything to do with the social network, yet don’t fit into the professional category and don’t live in poverty.

Convincing these people to change their minds about Facebook will help bring up the numbers in all parts of the world. But is that easier said than done?

Readers, what do you think Facebook ought to do to reach the 6 billion people in the world who don’t yet have accounts on the social network?

Images courtesy of Shutterstock.

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