Facebook aims to double global user base

25 June 2010

CANNES: Facebook, the world's biggest social network, is hoping to double its membership base in the near future, a goal it will seek to achieve by targeting a range of markets across the globe.

Speaking at the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival, Mark Zuckerberg, the portal's chief executive, revealed that its expansion was slowing slightly.

"We saw our exponential growth rate continue for a very long period of time, and it still does at a super-linear rate, though not quite 3% a week any more," he said.

"There have been periods where growth has been not that great and periods when it's been exponential."

Despite this trend, Facebook's overall dominance of its category was demonstrated by the fact it is the premier player in its sector in all but a handful of markets.

"We are down to four countries that we are not the leading social network in," Zuckerberg reported, a group which consists of China, Japan, Russia and South Korea.

In a bid to boost the size of its current audience from 500 million to one billion netizens, Facebook is now adapting its approach in individual areas.

"For the first time we are focused on doing some specific things in specific countries," said Zuckerberg.

"I think if we succeed we have a good chance of being the company that brings this to 1 billion people … it will be interesting to see how it plays out."

According to its chief executive, much of Facebook's success in connecting with consumers where it has not yet established a major presence has been a result of advocacy among its existing members.

Zuckerberg added that the social network was not far short of reaching a critical mass in several of the markets where it has struggled to make an impact to date.

"We are very close to that in a lot of these places," he said.

In evidence of this, usage numbers in Russia have doubled every month and thus rapidly climbed to 1 million people, a total that has also been surpassed in Japan and South Korea.

While Zuckerberg suggested there was "no chance" Facebook would hit its one billion target in 2010, he felt it was "almost a guarantee that it will happen" at some stage.

Elsewhere, he addressed recent concerns over privacy, explaining that Facebook's meteoric rise had meant the company had been caught out while it was in "transition."

"Six years ago most people didn't want any information about themselves on web," Zuckerberg said.

"I think the world looks a lot different now. There is a real natural tension between people seeing the value of sharing more stuff but wanting control over what they share."

"People have very legitimate questions (over privacy) and it is an important dialogue."

More broadly, Zuckerberg predicted that the mobile web will have a key role in the future of social media, particularly in India and other localities where PC penetration levels are comparatively low.

"We are getting our first crop of countries now that have more mobile usage than web usage," he said.

"I think most people think it's only a matter of time before that starts happening more universally."

Data sourced from The Guardian; additional content by Warc staff