Facebook's Start-and-Stop Growth in China, Taiwan and Hong Kong - A Closer Look

Odd Facebook traffic patterns have been showing up in the main Chinese-speaking parts of the world over the past few months, based on data from Inside Facebook Gold, our data and research service covering Facebook’s growth, demographics, and monetization in global markets.

Taiwan (Republic of China) gained millions of users, and mainland China (People’s Republic of China) — where Facebook is blocked — gained hundreds of thousands of users over the course of January. Both countries then lost users in the past month, even as neighboring countries posted normal-looking traffic gains.

These anomalies are occurring as Facebook finds itself in geopolitical cross-currents. The company has gotten new attention for the role its product has played in helping people organize protests in the Middle East, and as Chinese communist leaders are further restricting internet access in order to preserve “stability” — and as new rumors surface about deals Facebook may be doing to get into mainland China.

We’ll examine possible explanations for the traffic changes further down. First, the numbers.