02 May 2016

re/code: “Why is Facebook doing so well?”

Facebook reported yet another quarter of strong user growth, in marked contrast to Twitter, which has been eking out only very modest growth recently. In fact, over the past year Facebook’s monthly active users grew by roughly two-thirds the size of Twitter’s entire base. This wasn’t a one-off — Facebook has grown by over 150 million users year on year for the past four years at least, and growth has actually accelerated recently:

Predictably, the strongest growth has been in the least mature markets — Asia and Facebook’s “Rest of World” geographic segments led the charge, with more than 75 million new users each over the past year, while North America and Europe added fewer users (but still grew decently). That reemphasizes the importance of Facebook’s efforts to grow usage in those emerging markets and, hence, projects like Free Basics (recently shut down in India) and its other connectivity projects. So far, though, it seems to be doing just fine in these countries.

Jan Dawson

While these markets deliver the highest growth, it’s interesting to note that the majority of Facebook’s revenues still comes from the core market (US & Canada) – a pattern it shares with advertising rival Google. The average revenue per user (ARPU) in that region is close to four times higher than average; Europe’s ARPU hovers just above the average, while Asia-Pacific ARPU is about half the average, and the ‘rest of the world’, at just under 1$ per user, is about four times lower than average. This could turn out to be a long-term threat if Facebook continues to invest heavily into infrastructure projects that don’t drive higher ARPU’s in those regions – an even bigger threat would be the emergence of local players that piggy-back Facebook’s network to deliver services to local customers, effectively stealing its business with little investment of their own. But if Facebook manages to monetize this huge third-world population, either through the main app or its acquired platforms, Instagram and WhatsApp, it could secure its advertising revenue for years to come.

Facebook earnings revenue by user geography
Facebook Revenue by User Geography (Millions). Source: Facebook

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