When Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wants to illustrate the impact of his social network, he tells a story about several young religious militants from Lebanon who changed their view of Western culture through Facebook friendships. The subtext to the tale is that free expression of ideas, enabled by the Web, bridges deep cultural divides. But we knew that: It’s one of the central concepts behind the Olympics, after all. What we didn’t know is that Facebook is in Lebanon.
In fact, Facebook is quickly expanding in many regions. The site is the top global social network, according to figures released by comScore (SCOR) on Aug. 12. Of Facebook’s 132 million users, nearly 63% are outside North America. The site, which had been translated into 20 languages including French, Spanish, and Mandarin, has recently added 69 more. “Now, through translations, we are seeing a lot of growth in international countries,” says Javier Olivan, international manager at Facebook in a recent interview.
Facebook isn’t the only social network focusing on international expansion. As American sites such as Facebook and MySpace, News Corp.’s (NWS) leading U.S. social network, saturate their home markets, they’re looking abroad to fuel the audience growth that has made them so attractive to advertisers, audiences, acquirers, and would-be investors. MySpace, for example, has expanded to more than 29 countries, including India and Korea, in the past few years,.
MySpace is particularly frequented by users in the U.S., Puerto Rico, Australia, Britain, and Malaysia, according to a study showing where social networks are most popular that was released on Aug. 12 by Pingdom, a Swedish site that monitors Web site availability. Pingdom based its findings on the regions where a particular social network is searched for most often via Google, the most popular search engine. For instance, the countries with the greatest interest in LinkedIn, a network aimed at professionals, are India, the Netherlands, Denmark, Belgium, and the U.S., says Pingdom.
But Facebook has been particularly successful in terms of sheer user adoption. Its number of new members was up 153% in June from the same month a year earlier, driven largely by astronomical growth in Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and Latin America. Among specific countries, Turkey, Canada, Britain, South Africa, and Colombia have the greatest interest, according to Pingdom. In comparison, Facebook’s North American audience grew just 38% in June vs. the year-earlier month and MySpace was up only 3%, according to comScore.
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