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Facebook's growth in Asia is outpacing the rest of the world

More than a third of its 1.59 billion users are in Asia, including 130 million in India

Financial trends and news by Steven Loeb
March 15, 2016
Short URL: http://vator.tv/n/43fd

Asia has been extremely important to Facebook's growth. That became apparent when, last year, India became the company's second largest market, outside of the United States, of course.

New stats now show just how fast its growing, and the numbers are startling.

While Facebook is growing its user base at around 14 percent globally, it's adding users in Asia at an even faster rate, 20 percent, Dan Neary, Facebook’s vice president for Asia Pacific, told The Wall StreetJournal.

By the end of last year, there were 540 million Facebook users in Asia, more than a third of its 1.59 billion total users. That was up from 449 million at the end of 2014. 

Of those users, 130 million are in India. Another 37 million are in Thailand, Indonesia has 82 million, the Philippines has 24 million and there are 21 million Facebook users in Vietnam. 

Still, there are numerous challenges for Facebook in the region, and it has seen some controversy in recent months, especially in regards to its Free Basics service in India.

Free Basics was an Internet.org initiative, which was supposed to provide free data access. However it would only allow such access to a limited number of sites, something that regulators in India said was a violation of net neutrality laws. It was banned in early February.

Mark Zuckerberg, however, vowed to continue to try to give broader Internet access to the population of India. 

"While we're disappointed with today's decision, I want to personally communicate that we are committed to keep working to break down barriers to connectivity in India and around the world. Internet.org has many initiatives, and we will keep working until everyone has access to the internet," he wrote in aFacebook post at the time. 

The other big issue in Asia right now is that, while it has many users, the company isn't makine much money from them, at least not yet. 

In the United States and Canada, Facebook makes $13.54 per user. In Asia, its only $1.59 a user, though that number is rising. 

China

The thing that could help Facebook the most in Asia would be, of course, if it could find a way into China, though that will not be an easy process.

While Facebook has been banned in China since 2008, the company already makes money in the country, and last year Zuckerberg even said it was one of Facebook's biggest ad markets.

"It already is one of the biggest advertising markets that we have. Because there are a lot of really big and important Chinese companies who sell a lot of product to people outside of China. And they use Facebook as one of their primary tools and, in lot of cases, to spread information world about what they're doing and grow their customer base," he said.

Last year there were also reports that Facebook was looking to lease space in Beijing’s Fortune Financial Center, which is located in the city’s central business district, to gain a foothold in the country. 

Even if Facebook were to somehow get China to open itself up, that does not mean that such a move would be consequence free. Just look at what happened to LinkedIn when it struck a deal to enter the country, and immediately came under fire for bowing to Chinese censorship laws. 

After LinkedIn made its China announcement, the company also came under fire after it admitted that it was only able to operate there because it complied with law that allowed the government to censor the site. LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner defended the decision in a blog post written shortly after.

"As a condition for operating in the country, the government of China imposes censorship requirements on Internet platforms. LinkedIn strongly supports freedom of expression and fundamentally disagrees with government censorship," Weiner said. 

"At the same time, we also believe that LinkedIn’s absence in China would deny Chinese professionals a means to connect with others on our global platform, thereby limiting the ability of individual Chinese citizens to pursue and realize the economic opportunities, dreams and rights most important to them."

Facebook has been seeing explosive growth in Asia even without China. If it did get a chance to expand to China there's no telling how big that market could become. 

(Image source: lamplight.me)


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