If Facebook was a country, it’d be larger than China in three years

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It’s been suggested before that because the digital world makes communication between countries and continents easier and cheaper than ever, the concept of “nationality” will ultimately be proven meaningless and replaced by a tribalism chosen by individuals. With that in mind, then, here’s a question: If Facebook was a country, and its population made up of its members, just how big a country would it actually be?

The answer is, apparently, “the third biggest country in the world” – and, based on current trends, it could be the second largest before too long. At just more than one billion users, Facebook is slightly beneath India in terms of population, having overtaken the United States three years ago (India currently has an estimated 1.2 billion people within its borders). Facebook may also be less than four years away from becoming the most populated “country” in the world, according to new estimates.

Facebook has historically grown by an average of 77 percent yearly (That figure, admittedly, arrived by averaging out the site’s growth over the past five years, during which time the network grew from 58 million users to its current total). Compare that with the rate of change in both India and the world’s most populated country, China, over the next few years and we’re looking at Facebook overtaking China in terms of users/citizens by 2016. “As you can see, we made two different projections,” the site Pingdom notes. “The first projection is based on a model that assumes Facebook to have a yearly growth rate that declines by 10 percent per year. For the other projection, we were a bit more cautious and assumed a growth of six percent per year. That may seem high, but Facebook increased its user base by 18 percent in 2012 alone.”

For this to happen, Facebook would have to increase its penetration in much of the developing world. “For example,” Pingdom points out, “in Africa, India and Russia, Facebook is only used by about five percent of the population. As the Internet penetration rate rises in these regions, the Facebook penetration may follow.” There is, however, an even bigger market that the social network would have to conquer in order to be able to overtake China in terms of numbers – and it’s China itself.

Facebook has been banned in China since 2009, after the site was used by Zinjiang independence activists to communicate during the Urumqi riots. Despite that ban, the site has an increasing number of Chinese users, who accessed it using proxy services; last year, it was estimated that 63.5 million Chinese users had joined the service illegally through that loophole. Even if Chinese authorities don’t relax their ban on the site, it’s evident that China still could help Facebook over the top.

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