Facebook’s Strong 2009 International Growth Continues

The months of May and June were big ones if you take a look at Facebook’s international growth numbers. In April, Facebook announced that it had crossed the 200 million user mark. Now, three months later, its global audience is nearing 250 million. As we’ve said before, just to put that into perspective, if Facebook were a country it would be the fourth most populous in the world.

And most of this growth – 70 percent – is happening outside of the U.S. In general, for the past three quarters, Facebook grew at 300,000 to 400,000 active users per day. But in recent weeks that number has jumped to anywhere between 700,000 and 750,000 – and emerging countries are telling a lot of this story.

Facebook Battling Orkut in Brazil and India

In Brazil and India, Facebook has been presenting Google’s Orkut with some stiff competition. Facebook almost doubled its user base and passed 1 million monthly active users (MAU) in Brazil, and Facebook’s audience in India leaped from 1.6 million to 3.2 million MAU in May and June.


However, despite the growth, Facebook’s audience in Brazil and India still lags far behind Orkut. The Google-owned social network still leads with over 20 million monthly visitors in Brazil and 13 million in India. Will Facebook continue to steal more market share during the rest of the year?

Facebook Gaining Ground in China, But Still a Drop in the Bucket

Facebook is continuing to grow quickly in other new countries as well. In June, Facebook grew by 60 percent in China, despite reports of being blocked in some parts of the country.

At nearly 1 million MAU, Facebook’s audience in China is still rather minuscule – but a 60 percent monthly growth rate is nonetheless significant in a country where local players like Tencent QQ, Xiaonei, and Kaixin are winning big.


Facebook Marking Milestones in Other Countries Around the World

As Facebook is busy making its way into challenging markets such as Brazil, India, and China, strong international growth is also happening elsewhere. For example, in June alone, Facebook grew by 50 percent in the Philippines, 42 percent in Indonesia, and 25 percent in Mexico.

In addition, during June, both the Netherlands and the Czech Republic passed the 1 million active user mark, and Italy passed 10 million users. This means that in the last three months, Facebook’s audience has grown 76 percent in the Netherlands, 144 percent in the Czech Republic, and 22 percent in Italy.

By continent, Asia is the fastest growing with a three-month growth rate 67 percent. Facebook’s user base in Africa and South America both saw three-month growth rates over 25 percent.

Explaining Facebook’s Continued International Growth

So what’s the reason behind all this growth? Many may point to Facebook’s crowd-sourced language localization efforts, but examples like India show that this may not be the primary driver for all countries. Facebook is available for users in India in several Indian languages now, including Bengali, Hindi, Malayalam, Punjabi, Tamil, and Telugu. But as a recent BusinessWeek article on social networking rightly points out, in India, most Internet users are urban educated youth who are used to communicating in English and would much rather to do so given the challenges that come with typing foreign languages on an English keyboard.


And in emerging markets where mobile phone penetration is overwhelmingly high, another way Facebook is acquiring more users is by focusing on mobile distribution. Facebook is reportedly making deals with dozens of major carriers around the world, so we expect to see more integrations coming out soon.