For Facebook, the countdown to one billion users has already begun, as the social network moves closer each day to the landmark figure. Current estimates put Facebook at approximately 950 million users, meaning that with quarterly growth of only 6% or more, the site will reach the one billion mark by the end of the year.
What much of the buzz around the site seems to neglect is that the driving force behind Facebook’s quest for a billion users is its rapid growth in the developing world. While the United States is Facebook’s largest market with over 160 million users, the next three largest markets are Brazil, India, Indonesia, and Mexico with over 58 million, 56 million, 43 million and 38 million users respectively. In addition, the annual growth rates in Brazil (at 99.6%) and India (51.6%) dwarf the 9.6% growth in the US. It is clear, that as Facebook reaches one billion members, that the majority of these users, (and its NEXT billion users!), will come from the developing world.
While certainly an exciting development, the growth of Facebook is indicative of larger, even more noteworthy global trends. The social network’s push towards one billion users is, itself, a microcosm of global consumer development. Developed western nations represent the bulk of Facebook’s members, yet growth in these markets is quickly approaching zero. Developing markets, on the other hand, while already representing a significant portion of users, are still growing, and are growing faster and faster every day. This is an exciting moment for Facebook, but even more importantly, this is an exciting moment for the world. The push for a billion users is really just a mirror of two captivating international developments:
- The growth of the emerging middle class
- The rise of the mobile web in the developing world