Project Description

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.

Online social media are information resources that can have a transformative power in society. While the Web was envisioned as an equalizing force that allows everyone to access information, the digital divide prevents large amounts of people from being present online. Online social media in particular are prone to gender inequality, an important issue given the link between social media use and employment. Understanding gender inequality in social media is a challenging task due to the necessity of data sources that can provide unbiased measurements across multiple countries. Here we show how the Facebook Gender Divide (FGD), a metric based on a dataset including more than 1.4 Billion users in 217 countries, explains various aspects of worldwide gender inequality. Our analysis shows that the FGD encodes gender equality indices in education, health, and economic opportunity. We find network effects that suggest that using social media has an added value for women. Furthermore, we find that low values of the FGD precede the approach of countries towards economic gender equality. Our results suggest that online social networks, while suffering evident gender imbalance, may lower the barriers that women have to access informational resources and help to narrow the economic gender gap.