Is Facebook Becoming the Whole World's Social Network?

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Facebook's growth, which we already know is massive, is truly a global phenomenon, it turns out. And nations with the fastest membership growth rate are in South America, and Asia. Is Facebook becoming the global phone book?

The data's surfaced at InsideFacebook.com, with detailed analysis of both the numerical growth rate of members per nation for the month of March 2010, and the penetration Facebook's achieving among each nation's population. Check out the table above—some of those figures should stagger you. Particularly the monthly growth rate for Indonesia, the Philippines, Mexico, Argentina, and Malaysia—each of which showed around a 10% jump in Facebook membership in a single month. That's frankly astonishing.

There're a few more stand-out stats in there too. First is France, with the second highest numerical jump in members in March (first was Indonesia) with an extra 1.2 million folk now Facebooking. Before you discount that, considering France's relatively high population figures, check out the penetration statistic: over 27% of French people are already on Facebook. So you'd perhaps expect the growth rate to slow...but apparently not. Also, the U.S. penetration of Facebook has reached 37%, and just 600,000 Americans among the nation's hundreds of millions joined Facebook in March. So it seems that roughly 40% penetration may be Facebook's ceiling in developed nations—it'd be hard to imagine 100% membership, as there are always detractors, so the figure must lie somewhere. It could also reflect the poorly hooked-up nature of U.S. broadband as it currently stands, with many citizens access to fast Net connections being limited.

FacebookInsider concludes that Facebook's growth will undoubtedly continue, perhaps with some of Eastern Europe's nations being the next fast-growth hotspots as they swing into line with the greater European body, swiftly adopting new tech and embracing ideas like social networking.

Further, around 9.2 million people joined Facebook in a single month—for just these top 10 nations—bringing these countries membership tally to over 232 million (nearly 3.5% of the world's population by current estimates). The global membership figure swelled to 411 million, which is 6% of the people in the world. Facebook, stuffed with personal data on each member, is becoming the world's phone book. The implications for social change are potentially huge.

And given Facebook's usual shall we say, avant garde, approach to Net privacy...it's also kinda scary.

To keep up with this news in a more real-time setting, follow me, Kit Eaton, on Twitter. That QR code on the left will take you to my Twitter feed too.

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