Facebook finally plateaus in 2011!

By Razib Khan | May 22, 2011 3:02 pm

I’ve been using Google Trends to track the rise of Facebook and the fall of MySpace for years. To my surprise Facebook has kept ascending up the Google search traffic for years past when I thought it would hit diminishing marginal returns of mind-share (I assumed it would level off in 2008). But it looks like it has finally reached a “mature” phase in 2011. First, let’s compare Facebook, Myspace, and Google in 2008. The following is search traffic on Google for the whole world….

Now for the past 12 months….

MySpace keeps drifting down to cultural irrelevance. Google holds steady, as it has for a while now. But finally you see the possibility that Facebook’s search traffic growth has started leveling off in 2011. The pattern is more evident when you look at all years:

Please note: I am not saying that Facebook is going to go through a MySpace like implosion. Google has been a “mature” company for at least a half a decade. Despite its leveling off of growth from its early years it is still a force to be reckoned with. Even firms like Microsoft, which seem to be collecting de facto rents from the successes of the 1990s, have years of being flush in front of them. But unless Facebook executes and implements another Big Idea I think we’re viewing it in the early stages of ripening. No doubt media coverage will explode before its I.P.O., but there won’t be massive gains in influence and “mind-share” due to endogenous parameters driven by the firm itself.

These trend lines also validate the urban-wisdom that becoming the “Person of the Year” marks the point of saturation, beyond which you’ll hit the zone of sharply diminishing returns. Facebook’s trend data levels off right when Time‘s story on Mark Zuckerberg hit the newsstands.

MORE ABOUT: Facebook

Comments (14)

  1. vcurat

    But what does a “leveling off” or even decrease in search queries mean? Doesn’t necessarily mean the product is being used less. Could just mean people now know what it is.

    Linux and various distros went through the same evolution. The search term “linux” has been declining since the inception of Google Trends in 2004, although more people are using Linux now than ever before. That just means people know what Linux is now. 🙂

    In the case of MySpace, that obviously correlates to a real decrease in use, but Facebook continues to grow despite queries leveling off. That probably means people know what it is and how to find it.

  2. for future commenters, please note that i implied everything #1 stated. don’t repeat. in case you don’t bothered to read the last section i state: I am not saying that Facebook is going to go through a MySpace like implosion.

  3. juan

    Funny, I finally signed up two weeks ago after years of nagging from all my female relatives. So far all I’ve learned is that all my young female cousins are as flighty, scatter-brained, and talkative as I remember.

  4. sam

    #1 was questioning the correlation between *search* traffic on Google for a given website (as measured by Google Trends) and use of said website. This is quite interesting and you did not address or imply an answer to that point.

  5. Estarcatus

    “in case you don’t bothered to read the last section i state:”

    Thanks, comment police, will try to meet *your* standards when posting a comment. Just a thought, maybe you should have an editor when posting comments, too.

  6. bus

    I don’t think googling ‘google’ is a good measure of how popular google is.

  7. S.Lynn

    I’ve been on facebook for maybe a year. More and more of my friends are no longer posting. I chat once in a while but most everyone just texts on their phone.

  8. Finally, if they’d kept on going at that rate they’d be the only thing you could find on the internet! I wouldn’t like to speculate on how safe they are yet though. Google has done the sensible thing and diversified over the years, so if the search engine business falls off they have other sources of income to exploit. Facebook is still just a social media site, and if another better site comes along, good bye FB!

  9. Thanks, comment police, will try to meet *your* standards when posting a comment. Just a thought, maybe you should have an editor when posting comments, too.

    don’t matter none. u b banned 😉

  10. Steve Adams

    Alexa shows some measure of traffic: http://www.alexa.com/siteinfo/facebook.com

    Still headed up but not too fast. vs myspace not quite at zero yet . They have a reach comparison graph that shows some neat treads vs bing and google too.

    Surpisingly some growth on facebook still. I know my use peaked a long time ago . . .but there are still some people to add I suppose.

  11. dustydog

    Facebook’s numbers are fake. Facebook has lots of games that require participants to enlist friends; they make fake email accounts and fake ‘friends’ to beat their (few) real friends.

    Facebook claims this is against the code of conduct, but they condone it. I’d estimate more than half of accounts on Facebook are either totally fake, or people who don’t use facebook at all but made an account so they could help their granchildren/nephews win at Vampire Wars or whatever the current game of the month is.

  12. Natalie

    The Google trends data may be a sub-indicator, but isn’t the much more relevant number the actual traffic to the site?

    Why not base your analysis on that, rather than something that is infected with numerous other countering factors, such as familiarity — as commenter 1 pointed out? Who, outside of a recent Martian visitor, would need to “Google” Facebook?

    I disagree that you “implied” what he said. He suggested a completely different analytical basis, where you simply gave a bunch of qualifiers.


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About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at http://www.razib.com


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