Facebook Gains More Ground in Southeast Asia

Over a month ago, word leaked out that Asian market leader Friendster was up for sale. At the time, Facebook appeared to be seeing meaningful growth across Friendster’s core markets of Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines, even as Friendster’s traffic leveled out or dropped off.

This observation came from Google Trends during one look we took, and from both Google Trends and Alexa in others, as well as some interesting anecdotes we’ve heard about. Today, we have more from our own Global Monitor report, in which we analyzed raw data provided by Facebook about its users. In the above four countries, along with other areas including Hong Kong, Taiwan and Thailand, Facebook has seen significant gains in recent months; in most cases, increases from a few hundred thousand users to millions.

Indonesia is now the seventh largest home to Facebook users in the world, with 8.52 million users — 8.23 million of those users joined in the last 12 months. We saw the Facebook base in the country grow by 645 percent in 2008, albeit only reaching 831,000 users by the end of the year. We heard similar stories from users in Singapore and other Southeast Asian countries in June of 2008.

The Philippines comes in at number 14 worldwide for Facebook, with 4.41 million users, up 4.20 million over the past year. Malaysia is close behind, at number 18, with 2.60 million users, 2.05 million in the past year. Singapore is at number 30 worldwide with at 1.59 million, growing by 1.08 million over the last twelve months. Thailand, on the mainland of Southeast Asia, is at number 36, with 1.13 million, 1.01 million of whom have joined in the last year.

And that’s not all. Two predominately Chinese-speaking areas are also picking up on Facebook. Hong Kong, one of the earlier markets in Asia to reach one million users, is now the 21st largest Facebook market in the world, with 2.32 million users. It rose 1.31 million in the last year. Meanwhile, Taiwan is at number 24 with 1.95 million, up 1.87 million over the last year.

While we don’t have the same detailed data on Friendster to compare with Facebook, the shift is presumably continuing one site to another. Google Trends suggests so, again. And, given the growth Facebook is seeing in predominantly Chinese-speaking parts of Asia, one has to wonder how it might fare on mainland China in the future. In that market of 300-some million internet users, local social networks continue to rule.