Jun 15

At age 7, Facebook has matured

David Leavitt

Flickr Creative Commons photo by birgerking.

By now you’ve seen the mind-boggling numbers: Facebook has over 500 million users in 190 countries, half of whom log into Facebook every day.
It seems like every time I look up the numbers, they’ve grown exponentially.

Until now.

Facebook lost 6 million U.S. members last month, according to the Wall Street Journal. Facebook has always lost members, either when people quit or when the company deletes duplicate and fake accounts. But until now the high growth rate had masked it.

What happened? Have people in the United States finally stopped flocking to social networking sites?

No, that’s not it. In fact, Facebook’s Internet domination is just as intact as ever. More than 2.5 million websites use “Facebook Platforms,” meaning that people commonly engage with Facebook even when they’re not on Facebook’s website. And an average of 10,000 new websites integrate with Facebook Platforms every day.

What’s happening is that Facebook has reached a membership saturation point in the United States. As Slate’s Farhad Manjoo points out, this is common for Facebook once it hits 50 percent market penetration within a country. Manjo adds: “Facebook is now experiencing something unprecedented in the short history of social networking—it has captured every plausible user.”

Remember, a third of Americans don’t have broadband — there’s a large swath of our country for whom joining Facebook is more complicated than it sounds.
This situation isn’t likely to change radically, either. After all, more than half of Americans disagree with federal government efforts to expand broadband connections around the nation, saying those projects are not important, according to a Pew Center survey.

For now, Facebook must focus on entertaining the U.S. members they have rather than continuing to expand and grow their American user base.


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