Facebook’s User Base; an Overview

Facebook has seen significant user growth since its founding in 2004. A year after its founding, Facebook saw its user base increase from an estimated 1 million to over 5 million users. By the end of 2007, Facebook’s user base had swelled to 58 million active users; by 2009, that number had increased to over 360 million active users. According to its S-1 filing, Facebook currently has over 900 million active users.1

Facebook user growth since founding

Also in its S-1 filing, Facebook provides two metrics for measuring its user base: monthly active users and daily active users. (Facebook defines a monthly active user as one that has interacted with the platform in the past thirty days.) In March 2009, Facebook had 197 million monthly active users and 92 million daily active users; by March 2011 it had 680 million monthly active users and 372 million daily active users, increases of 245% and 304%, respectively.

Facebook active user growth

Facebook filing also provides some indication of mobile adoption among its monthly active users. Overall, the company’s mobile monthly usage has been increasing steadily since 2009. In March 2009, Facebook had 35 million users accessing the site from mobile devices. By March 2010 that number had jumped to 129 million users, and by March 2011 Facebook had 288 million mobile monthly active users.

As of March 2012, Facebook reported 488 million monthly active users accessing the site via mobile products. In its filing, Facebook indicated that it anticipates that mobile usage will ultimately exceed personal computer usage; it also noted that monetizing these users could be problematic. As of April 20, 2012, Facebook indicated that it had surpassed 500 million monthly active users on its mobile products.

Facebook monthly mobile active users

Facebook’s S-1 also provides some insights into regional growth trends among its user base. Facebook breaks down its user base into four regions: Canada and the United States (hereafter referred to as North America), Europe, Asia, and the rest of the world. While its regional breakdown is broad, its filing indicates that North American active user growth is being outpaced by every other region, both in terms of sequential growth and total active users.

Facebook monthly active users by region

During its IPO roadshow, Facebook also revealed average yearly advertising revenue per user per region. US and Canada generated on average $9.51 in revenue; Europe generated $4.86; Asia generated $1.79; and users in the rest of the world accounted for just $1.42.2 While monthly active user growth in North America is slowing relative to every other region, its users still account for about half of Facebook’s total advertising revenue.

While the company continues to grow its user base, especially in Asia and the rest of the world, its revenue in those regions is disappointingly low compared to North America. Facebook will also face challenges monetizing users in Asia and the rest of the world, in particular, because those users are more likely to access the website via mobile platforms. Facebook will have to do a better job of monetizing users in these high growth regions.

Facebook’s S-1 also seems to indicate that monthly active user growth in North America is slowing. Facebook will need to maintain or increase either monthly active user growth or average revenue per user (ideally it should do both). If Facebook’s monthly user engagement in North America continues to slow down, or begins to decline outright, the company may see its revenue forecast lowered substantially.

Sources

  1. S-1/A – Registration Statement, Facebook Inc., 2012.
  2. IPO roadshow presentation, Facebook Inc., 2012. (offline)