Facebook has seen an incredible rise in numbers over the past 18 months, growing from a small niche site on the fringes of web 2.0 nirvana, to a social network eclipsing MySpace. But with the first reported drop in UK users, could the bubble be about to burst? And if it does, will the ultra annoying application spam be the major reason?
Facebook had seen 17 consecutive months of growth until January, when according to The Guardian, the social network of choice in the UK, suffered its first fall, shedding 400,000 unique users, and seeing a 5% drop month on month from December to January.
The figures come from Nielsen Online, an Internet reserach company who pay special attention to the trends amongst social network users.
The same company also found rival MySpace experienced a 5% drop in UK traffic between December and January. And even third placed Bebo fell 2% month on month. Which begs the question: Is the UK sick of social networks fullstop?
Alex Burmaster, European internet analyst at Nielsen Online claims not saying:
“One month of falling audiences doesn’t spell the decline of Facebook or social networking,”
“However, most of the leading social networks are less popular in the UK than they were a year ago. It was inevitable that early growth rates couldn’t be sustained and the larger networks have been plateauing over the last few months.”
It’s important to remember that despite this drop, Facebook is still 712% more popular now than it was at the same time a year ago, but a drop is still a drop.
One explanation, at least as far as Facebook is concerned, is the problem of application spam, which plagues users on a daily basis. But this could be about to change as Facebook have finally put new measures in place to combat it.
According to the official Facebook blog, improvements are being made in this field, including an ability to block the application directly from the request, and a host of opt out clauses which should prevent developers enticing you in to any invite your friends loops.
These measures are well overdue, as they have been ruining the Facebook experience for me and I’m sure millions of others over the past few months. As Mathew Ingram so eloquently put it: “No, I don’t want to add more Zombies”.