Today in Tech: Facebook's next billion; Wolfram Alpha and personal analytics; client additions

NS Ramnath
Updated: Oct 8, 2012 01:03:57 PM UTC

Facebook's next billion It took 77 months for Facebook to add its first 500 million users, and just 26 to add the next 500 million. "Helping a billion people connect is amazing, humbling and by far the thing I am most proud of in my life," Mark Zuckerberg said in his facebook page yesterday.

I can't think of a single company that reached one billion users so fast (and only a handful that reached a billion people at all).  Facebook crossed 25 million milestone in January 2006, 50 million in October 2007, 100 million in August 2008, 500 million in July 2010. And now it's one billion.

How easy will it be to grow to the next billion? The growth will not be driven by US. US is its biggest market today, but it probably reached a saturation point a while ago in terms of users.

It has to come from emerging markets. There's a lot of scope for that. India has about 55 million Facebook users today, and that is likely to more than double in the next two years during which the number of internet users is estimated to double. (For Facebook, the growth is likely to be faster because of network effect). If China opens up, that will be a big market. But, the scene there is a bit hazy. Facebook is banned there, and its IPO document gave no data on Chinese users. But, according to a recent report by GlobalWebIndex 65 million Chinese said they accessed Facebook in 2012. I don't know how the numbers add up.

It's easier to think in terms of devices than geographies. The biggest boost will have to come from mobile users. By many estimates, there will be 5 billion smart phones in the next five years. The challenge for Facebook will be how to tap that market.

In an interview to Bloomberg Zuckerberg said facebook will think about it while celebrating its new milestone. "We’re having a hackathon to celebrate this when we announce it publicly, and the theme is going to be the next billion. So people will be thinking of ideas and working on prototypes and things that we’ll need to do to help connect the next billion people, which I think is pretty cool," he said.


Wolfram Alpha and personal analytics

I thought I should celebrate it by looking at Facebook data.

If you have a page on Facebook, the site provides some interesting data about those who liked your page. It's somewhat useful. For example, if you are one of the 31,000+ people who liked Forbes India's Facebook page, I can say you are very likely to be male, living in India, (and within India, Bombay or Delhi) and are in the age group 18-34 (and if I have to push it, under 24).

For individuals though, Facebook doesn't provide ready-made data, except for basic stuff like the number of friends. Luckily, we have Wolfram Alpha. About a month back, it launched a service that lets you look at your facebook history in the form of graphs. It's fascinating, and very simple. Go to Wolfram Alpha, type in facebook report, link your facebook account (and sign into the search engine, if you haven't) - and that's about it. I got one long page of colorful graphs - from age distribution of friends (the oldest facebook friend I have 78 years old), their relationship status (86% married), length of the posts I made, the time of the day I made those posts and so on. Not very useful (nothing that I could think of), but it was definitely interesting.

Stephen Wolfram calls it personal analytics. I think it's going to be the next big microtrend. And, this is a good time to latch on it.


Client additions & revenue
Sudin Apte, CEO of Offshore Insights on how client additions did not mean more revenues to IT Services companies

During the eight quarters we studied, Infosys added maximum number of clients – both in terms of absolute number (total clients grew by 119 as net client count moved from 592 to 711) as well as in percentage terms (20% increase in client number). However, their revenue growth was not impressive during this period. In fact, it lagged substantially compared to TCS (added 96 clients, total client count up by 10%) and Cognizant (added approx 110 clients, total client count up by 14%), both these companies added lesser clients but grew faster

More in his report Evaluating Top Vendors’ Client Data To Assess Future here.

The thoughts and opinions shared here are of the author.

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