FACEBOOK last month shed users across a number of its mature markets, sparking fears its meteoric growth is beginning to peak.
Last month it lost 6m users in the US to fall below 150m and lost a further 100,000 in the UK. Canada, Russia and Norway also registered a similar fall, according to data gathered by a Facebook marketing tool.
The slip will worry the world’s largest social network, which is planning to float next year. A recent funding round valued it at an eye-watering $65bn (£40bn).
However, figures leaked earlier this year suggest it is on track to top £2bn in earnings for 2011, smashing expectations and pushing its potential value as high as $100bn.
The site continued to grow its global presence but its ascendancy is slowing, with only 12m users added in May compared to 20m the year before.
The site, founded by Mark Zuckerberg (pictured), looks set to break through the 700m users barrier this summer, with a target of surpassing 1bn. Its growth remains strong in less developed markets including Brazil, India and Mexico.
Eric Eldon of Inside Facebook, a developer site that monitors statistics from the social network, says Facebook’s growth tends to curtail in a given market after reaching around 50 per cent penetration.
Analysts suggest Zuckerberg’s plan to continue Facebook’s growth is to push into the vast Chinese market, where it has the potential to reach 500m internet users.
However, it will face an uphill struggle that has bettered even internet giant Google, which has been dogged by censorship issues and has found displacing the number one search engine Baidu all but impossible.
Chinese search engine Renren raised $743.4m in an IPO in May before seeing its shares surge nearly 50 per cent in their first day trading.