The popularity of Facebook outside of the US and restrictions in other countries
The US, for a long time, has been the primary market for Facebook. Despite the high numbers in the country, however, the social networking site continues to record unprecedented growth outside of the US. Since 2008, the social networking site has more than doubled its global membership. According to Inside Facebook, a close tracker of the company’s growth metrics, Facebook had approximately 34 million members in 2008.
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A year later, the number grew to close to 100 million with the total audience quadrupling to over 400 million in 20101. Aljazeera, the Arab TV network reported in 2011 that Facebook was netting over 20 million new users every month with the total audience worldwide estimated at almost 700 million in the same year2.
Perhaps, due to its easy and wide access to many people and the availability of web-enabled cellphones, Facebook has been a target by some authorities, mainly China and a host of Arab countries. China has strict internet censorship laws mainly aimed at limiting dissident activity, while, Arab countries have limited their people’s access to Facebook for fear of opposition networking. Syria, Egypt, Iran and Libya have limited their people from accessing Facebook.
Competition to Facebook
As it is in the free market economy, Facebook is facing competition in the social network market. Competition gets even more complicated considering the company operates in cyberspace which is largely unregulated and accessible by millions of people with cyber knowledge. As such, a number of social networking outfits have come up and pose a serious challenge to Facebook’s dominance. They include Google+, Badoo, LinkedIn, Myspace, Tagged, Friendster, Hi5 and Zorpia. It is important to note that some of them are younger, while others are older than Facebook. Google + for instance, is younger and enjoys the support of search engine Google. There is consensus among experts; it is one of the most serious challengers to Facebook by virtue of the financial clout of its backers.
Aware of the competition, Facebook has responded time and again by launching new products and overhauling its overall look and other critical components such as privacy policies. For instance, Facebook recently changed its look, and privacy policies and observers agree that it was a response to the launch of Google +.
One of Facebook’s big competitors is MySpace. MySpace has fewer users than Facebook but also covers many countries. It also allows some countries to use its servers to control political activities. How will Facebook compete with MySpace?
A fair assessment will conclude that Facebook has surpassed MySpace and the two cannot compete on a level playing field. In 2011, MySpace executives conceded that the company cannot compete with Facebook. In fact, the company created a series of updates that link MySpace to Facebook and rival Twitter. In Effect, MySpace changed tact and focused it energies as an entertainment site rather than a social networking site3.
Perhaps following in MySpace’s foot steps to thwart completion, Facebook indicated early this year during a visit by Mark Zuckerberg to China that it is willing to comply with censorship regulations in the country in order to gain members.
Some analysts are of the opinion that popularity of Facebook is waning and the company may fall short of its target of reaching a billion members. However, considering Facebook’s global audience of over 700 million people, it will be hard for popularity of the company to wane. In fact, Facebook has reached the level of success of its internet and search rival Google in terms of finances and reach.
Given its current position, the increasingly interconnected world and the insatiable demand for news and networking, it is fair to conclude that Facebook is yet to reach its epitome. But, that it will be unwise for its leaders to adopt complacent attitude especially in the face of competition from Twitter and Google +. The company’s leadership should therefore consider the following recommendations.
- To consider opening a Facebook search engine to compete with Google, Bing and Yahoo as well as to show its revenue.
- To aggressively market the @facebook e-mail to compete with the Gmail and Yahoomail.
- To aggressively market its services to the population rich regions of China, India and the technologically and economically growing Africa.
- To consider taking over smaller social networking sites to boot its membership.
- To step up their media and PR campaigns by increasing their openness and engaging in more CSR programs.
3 News. “MySpace gives up competing with Facebook.” 3News. Wed, 2010. Web.
Inside Story. “Is Facebook’s popularity waning in the West?.” Aljazeera. 2011. Web.
Smith, Justin. “The Facebook Global Monitor: Tracking Facebook in Global Markets.” Inside Facebook. 2010. Web.
- Justin Smith, “The Facebook Global Monitor: Tracking Facebook in Global Markets,” Inside Facebook, 2010. Web.
- Inside Story. “Is Facebook’s popularity waning in the West?,” Aljazeera, 2011. Web.
- 3 News, “MySpace gives up competing with Facebook,” 3News, Wed, 2010. Web.