A large-scale analysis of Facebook's user-base and user engagement growth

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Understanding the evolution of the user base as well as the user engagement of online services is critical not only for the service operators but also for customers, investors, and users. While we can find research works addressing this issue in online services, such as Twitter, MySpace, or Google+, such detailed analysis is missing for Facebook, which is currently the largest online social network. This paper presents the first detailed study on the demographic and geographic composition and evolution of the user base and user engagement in Facebook over a period of three years. To this end, we have implemented a measurement methodology that leverages the marketing API of Facebook to retrieve actual information about the number of total users and the number of daily active users across 230 countries and age groups ranging between 13 and 65+. The conducted analysis reveals that Facebook is still growing and geographically expanding. Moreover, the growth pattern is heterogeneous across age groups, genders, and geographical regions. In particular, from a demography perspective, Facebook shows the lowest growth pattern among adolescents. Gender-based analysis showed that growth among men is still higher than the growth in women. Our geographical analysis reveals that while Facebook growth is slower in western countries, it has the fastest growth in the developing countries mainly located in Africa and Central Asia; analyzing the penetration of these countries also shows that these countries are at earlier stages of Facebook penetration. Leveraging external socioeconomic datasets, we also showed that this heterogeneous growth can be characterized by indicators, such as availability and access to Internet, Facebook popularity, and factors related with population growth and gender inequality.
Social network services, Information services, Facebook, Technology social factors
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IEEE Access, (2018), v. 6, pp.: 78881-78891.