Has Facebook peaked in the U.S.?
Could Facebook be on the decline in the U.S.? That’s the question being asked in media and financial circles after the publication of some surprisingly weak numbers for May.
The independent blog Insider Facebook reports that the giant social network lost nearly 6 million users during the month. Although that’s less than a 4 percent decline from its April membership of 155.2 million, it’s the first time that Facebook has lost members in the last 12 months.
Facebook continues to thrive on the global stage, adding another 11.8 million users in May to take its worldwide membership to 687 million. But even this overall growth is lower than usual, with the average sign-up over the past year being closer to 20 million per month.
As Facebook Insider points out, one month’s data hardly constitutes a trend, but any slip in Facebook’s inexorable growth path would be unwelcome news ahead of its planned public offering currently expected early next year.
Observers have long claimed that Facebook will face an inevitable slowdown in early-adopting countries, as it approaches a saturation point among the Internet-connected population. Canada, United Kingdom, Norway and Russia are among the other countries that experienced net losses in membership in May.
So far, these losses are being more than offset by big gains in developing countries, and Facebook still seems to be on course for its stated goal of 1 billion members, particularly if it can crack the social networking Holy Grail of China.
In the meantime, there are no firm answers as to why Facebook lost members in the U.S., although “Facebook fatigue” is an oft-quoted syndrome among everyone from college students to the legions of over-40s that jumped on the social networking bandwagon in the last two years. Others point to privacy issues and invasive technologies like face-recognition, although Facebook has survived numerous privacy flaps in the past.
Whatever the reason for the decline, Facebook executives and many others will be carefully watching the June numbers to see if the pattern repeats itself.
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