Facebook says it now has more than 350 million monthly active users, an increase of 50 million from the 300 million it announced in September. If Facebook were a country, it would now have the 3rd largest population in the world, behind only China and India. The company has also recently updated its official Statistics page with some new details about what all these users are doing on the site. Below, we compare these latest numbers with what the company published in September, and in July.
We benchmark traffic changes for each feature versus Facebook’s overall growth rate, to see if some features are becoming more or less popular versus the overall growth of the site. The point is to try to discern significant changes in Facebook user behavior.
But here are some important notes on methodology before we get started. Neither Facebook’s overall traffic updates nor its stats page are updated on a specific schedule. The July updates happened mid-month, and so did September’s, but the latest one happened on the first of December. So we may be comparing a two month span between July and September vs a two and a half month span between mid-September and yesterday. However, we also don’t know if Facebook’s announcements and subsequent updates to its own posted statistics happened substantially after the numbers were reached. So our analysis is imprecise at best, but it does shed new light on what’s actually going on inside Facebook.
Overall growth rate: Facebook grew by 20 percent between July 15 and September 15, while it grew 16.7 percent between September 15 and December 1. While the exact dates Facebook crossed these milestones isn’t certain, Facebook’s growth rate is slowing, but 50 million more people is still huge by any measure of web traffic. And, as anyone familiar with basic statistics knows, growth rates slow over time even if numerical size increases at a consistent pace.
Status updates: This feature is most notable because Facebook built its March redesign to highlight updates in a live stream of activity; in October, the company moved back to its previous interface, so it’s possible that status updates have lately become less used. In July, the company said that 30 million users updated their status every day, so that’s 14 percent of the 250 million people who were using the site, then. In September, it said 40 million status updates were posted each day — this is a different measure, as it includes users who update more than once each day. So in the last update to the Statistics page, Facebook has reconciled the difference by including both. Now, it says 35 million people update their status each day, meaning a 16.7 percent increase in the last 5 or so months.
So the number of people on Facebook updating their status each day appears to be growing much slower than Facebook itself is. It’s not clear if this is partly a result of the redesign, or the cause. Meanwhile, the number of status updates on the site each day has risen from 40 million in September to 55 million, for a 37.5 percent increase within around two and a half months. Despite the many qualifications so far, it may be that some portion of Facebook users have been updating their statuses more lately, including after the redesign.
Photos: 2.5 billion photos are now being uploaded each month, up from 2 billion in September and 1 billion in July. So this is still a hugely popular and growing site feature, but does appear to have slowed, as well.
Pieces of content: Facebook loosely defines this term as meaning “web links, news stories, blog posts, notes, photo albums, etc.” — so it’s a broad measure of site sharing. In July, the company had this number 1 billion per week, then 2 billion per week as of September and now 3.5 billion per week as of yesterday. This is a dramatic increase, and may reflect the ongoing roll-out of Facebook Connect across the web — more sites are probably sharing content into Facebook now than ever before.
Events: The company didn’t update this number in September, but in July it said 2.5 million events were created each month and yesterday it said 3.5 million events were created each month. This increase almost exactly tracks Facebook’s overall traffic growth.
Pages: The stats listed here have changed significantly. In July, 8 million users were becoming fans of a Page each day, and that number rose to 10 million as of September. Now Facebook is getting more granular, but around different measures of Pages: There are now more than 1.6 million active Pages, with 700,000 Pages for local businesses, and a raw total of 5.3 billion fans. Clearly, millions of Facebook users are fans of multiple pages.
Facebook has left some of the other numbers on its Statistics page the same as before — it still lists more than 65 million active mobile users, for example, the same as in September. To help put all these numbers in context, here’s its latest list of the average users’ activity. Some numbers, like the average number of friends, are not new, but others are:
- Average user has 130 friends on the site
- Average user sends 8 friend requests per month
- Average user spends more than 55 minutes per day on Facebook
- Average user clicks the Like button on 9 pieces of content each month
- Average user writes 25 comments on Facebook content each month
- Average user becomes a fan of 2 Pages each month
- Average user is invited to 3 events per month
- Average user is a member of 12 groups
What conclusions can we draw from all of this? Facebook is a very broad platform, and as status updates appear to show, different people use it for different things. This diversity increases the difficulty of site redesign; some portion of users certainly didn’t like the redesign away from the live feed, for example. However, the diversity of features also means that Facebook is able to be useful to a broad range of people. The company has the potential to keep tweaking certain features — like status updates, and Connect — to get some people who use the site for one purpose to use it for other purposes as well. Long-term, this will likely cement Facebook’s place as a key part of the social web.
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