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Facebook: More Than 160 Million Served

The Inside Facebook blog posted some astounding growth statistics this week for the social networking site. For one thing, Facebook is growing faster than the population in China. Through it all, the company has managed to keep its systems up and running and not suffer any growing pains outages that have often plagued fast growth start-ups.

The independent blog, not published by Facebook, shows the company's growth in recent weeks has soared to more than 600,000 new users signing up every day, up from about 300,000 to 400,000 a day just a few months earlier.

"If Facebook continues at this rate, it could add up to 20 million new users in December and reach 200 million active users by March," Justin Smith, editor of Inside Facebook writes.

The traffic measurement site Compete shows that Facebook is rapidly closing on MySpace for unique traffic as Facebook grew 69.5 percent this year and MySpace shrunk 14.5 percent this year.

Not lost in translation

What's truly remarkable is that more than 70 percent of Facebook's users are from outside the United States. Brandee Barker, a spokesperson for the company, credits this rise in foreign users to a program begun at the beginning of the year to add translations to Facebook.

The program was a wiki-like effort in which non-English speakers could contribute their translations to Facebook content and menus. No one person could make changes. Every contribution had to be an agreed upon by multiple contributors.

"That really allowed them to leverage their user base, and now they are seeing a large growth in international users," said Ray Valdes, analyst with Gartner. He thinks this method of letting users handle the translation can be used elsewhere. "Certainly other sites should do it. Wikipedia was the poster child for that and Facebook has adapted it to their scenario. Other companies can adapt it to their requirements as well."

Facebook's users are contributing more than just translations, they are contributing content. Lots and lots of content. Smith gave the following statistics:

  • 13 million users update their statuses at least once each day
  • 2.5 million users become fans of Pages each day
  • 700 million photos are uploaded to the site each month, with more than 10 billion cumulative
  • 4 million videos are uploaded each month
  • 15 million pieces of content (web links, news stories, blog posts, notes, photos, etc.) are shared each month
  • 2 million events created each month
  • 19 million active groups exist on the site

Facebook has released an online demographics tool designed to help further explore the site’s growth and latest statistics.

This kind of growth could lead to tremendous strain on the site's servers, so the company is beefing up its infrastructure. Facebook just recently opened its second datacenter, this one based on the east coast. Its first datacenter was in San Francisco. It's rather remarkable that Facebook has managed its fast-growing membership so well given that it can take one to two years to open a datacenter during which time it may have added a few hundred million more members.

"They are managing quite well compared to others," said Valdes. "I've gone to other social networks that had reliability or availability issues, brownouts, blackouts, what have you. With Facebook there are the occasional glitches, but the site seems to function well, even though the error rate has gone up a bit."