LONDON: The rapid growth enjoyed by Facebook, the social network, in the UK during the last five years may be starting to slow, according to new statistics.

Experian Hitwise, the research firm, reported that the social media platform accounted for 7.1% of website visits in July 2010, taking a 54.4% share of its category as a result.

This left it behind only Google, which was responsible for 9.6% of total activity, although the search giant should remain dominant on this measure for the "foreseeable future."

However, Facebook, which retains an estimated 26m UK members, generated 16.7% of page views in July, double Google's score of 8.2%, and three times that of eBay on 5.4%.

Facebook's numbers on this metric have climbed from around 5% in December 2008 to approximately 10% in April 2009 and 15% in October 2009.

"Facebook's market share of UK page views has trebled over the last five years," said Robin Goad, an analyst at Experian Hitwise. "But growth has slowed significantly over the last six months."

"Last month there was a slight decline in share, but this may well be down to seasonality."

While the typical user spent 27 minutes per session on Facebook in July, this time period has effectively "stabilised" after peaking at almost 30 minutes in January 2010.

Goad suggested Facebook could thus be entering a phase of transition in the United Kingdom, with previous statistics from Experian having outlined a broadly equivalent trend in the US.

"The rapid period of the site's growth is now probably over in the UK, but does that mean Facebook has reached saturation point?" said Goad.

Speaking at the 2010 Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival, Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's ceo, argued the social network was aiming to expand its penetration in a range of target nations.

These included Russia, Japan and South Korea, where success has proved to be comparatively elusive to date.

Data sourced from Experian Hitwise; additional content by Warc staff