In a statement distributed via email, Facebook refuted claims made by Inside Facebook that the service was losing traffic in North America. Facebook says it is “very pleased” with its growth, and notes that more than half of its active users check in with the site every day—which would make it one of the “stickiest” and advertiser-appealing services on the Internet.
“From time to time, we see stories about Facebook losing users in some regions,”
the company wrote in its statement. “Some of these reports use data extracted from our advertising tool, which provides broad estimates on the reach of Facebook ads and isn’t designed to be a source for tracking the overall growth of Facebook.”
However, since Facebook does not publish aggregate data regarding its user base, analysts and Facebook-watchers have taken to relying on information from Facebook’s advertising tools to indirectly judge the site’s growth.
Other media metrics firms have also disagreed with Inside Facebook’s assessment: comScore told the BBC that it has seem a 21 percent increase in the number of U.S. Facebook users during May 2011, along with an increase in the average number of minutes users spend on the site per day.
Facebook has often seen its traffic fluctuate with seasonal activities. During the end-of-year holiday buying season it has seen its traffic increase. Similarly, the end of the academic year has often coincided with a dip in Facebook traffic, as students uproot themselves for summer jobs, travel, entering the job market, or re-acquainting themselves with their parents’ basement.
Some industry watchers have speculated that, with an estimated 700 million users (FaceBook itself just says “over 500 million“), Facebook may be nearing a saturation point in developed markets like North America and Europe: Facebook will continue to pick up new users in those markets as new, young users come online and sign up (often at ages well below Facebook’s requirements), but, in general, most people in the U.S. or Europe who are interested in a Facebook account probably already have one. If the company wants to sustain its growth rate, it’s increasingly going to have to focus on markets like Brazil, Indonesia, India, and China.