Facebook may be the largest “country” on earth by 2016

Facebook logoFacebook overtook the United States as the third largest “country” three years ago, and in September 2012 Facebook announced that it passed the one billion user mark.

China and India are currently the two most populous countries in the world. But can Facebook  become the largest “country” on earth and when will it happened? We think we have the answer.

Facebook has grown 77% yearly

Facebook has had an enormous growth over the past five years, ballooning from 58 million users in late 2007 to 1 billion users today. That is the equivalent to a yearly increase of a mind-blowing 77%!

In comparison with the world population, which currently stands at about 7 billion, the number of Facebook users may seem small. But we think you may change your mind when you look at this chart.

Facebook and world population

Here are some of the more interesting numbers:

  • Currently there are around 2.4 billion Internet users in the world.
  • At the end of 2012, 41.6% of  Internet users where also Facebook users. In 2007, that number was only 4.4%
  • Facebook penetration worldwide was 14% at the end of 2012, up from 5.3% in 2009.
  • At the end of 2012 Facebook had 1 billion users; that’s the equivalent of 135% of the population of Europe.

Facebook passing China and India

Can Facebook keep on growing at this speed for years to come? And when will there be more Facebook users than population in either China or India, whichever is the largest country by population at the time?

The short answer: Facebook could be the biggest “country” on earth in just a few years.

Facebook and population china india

As you can see, we made two different projections. The first projection is based on a model that assumes Facebook to have a yearly growth rate that declines by 10% per year. For the other projection, we were a bit more cautious and assumed a growth of 6% per year. That may seem high, but Facebook increased its user base by 18% in 2012 alone.

Can this happen?

There are certainly signs, which indicate that Facebook can grow at this pace.

The main one is that Facebook has a low penetration rate in large parts of the world. For example, in Africa, India and Russia, Facebook is only used by about 5% of the population. As the Internet penetration rate rises in these regions, the Facebook penetration may follow.

Also, Facebook is still blocked in China. If this changes in the future, the world’s largest online market opens up to Facebook.

So by 2016, the largest “country” in the world may be publicly listed, but not a member of the United Nations.

Sources: Facebook, ITU, Population Reference Bureau, World Bank.

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