As of December 31, 2012, the Middle East had 23,811,620 Facebook subscribers, which is a penetration rate of 10.6%. But while one out of 10 people possess an account in the region, the story varies between countries. Iraq's user base is just over 2.5 million, an 8.2% penetration rate, while social media hungry UAE clocks in with 3.4 million users, giving it a 41.7% penetration rate.
ComScore's statistics for the UK and USA do not necessarily shed any light on the future of social networking in the Arab world, but they were the first countries to embrace the site. It seems logical that many users within these countries are near the end of the 'social network cycle' apparent with past relics, such as MySpace and Bebo.
The social network cycle
- Friend: "Hey, I'm on *social network*, you should join. It's a new hangout for people just like us. It's really cool."
- Family Member: "I saw on the news that *social network* is getting really popular. Are you on *social network*? Maybe I should join *social network*."
- Boss: "We should be doing the *social network* thing. Can we create a site on *social network* for our company? I Googled all of you and saw your profiles so you have to indicate your approval of our page. We will also have a seminar about how to be professional on *social network* so be careful. You've been warned.
- Social Network: "We have decided to be indecisive about our layout and our... cough-privacypolicies-cough. Now everything you save on your computer belongs to us and we may sell your information for any purpose. I mean really, what do you have to hide?"
- You: "I think I might delete my account."
Instagram fudges copyright issue, users flee
The proposed changes would have allowed Instagram to use member's picture uploads for profit, without crediting or compensating the photographer. While we use the term 'photographer' loosely, the age old copyright rule is that, if you snapped it, it belongs to you.
Since the furore, daily active users fell from almost 16.3 million worldwide to about 7.6 million, according to traffic monitor AppStats. Just hours ago, Instagram released their new Terms of Service, admittedly taking user feedback into consideration.
Since Facebook took off, its greatest strength has been simply that everyone is there (even people you don't like). But now that significant numbers are ebbing away, that soon won't be the case.
Having said that, if Facebook is destined for an eventual decline in the Middle East, it has a long way to fall. Still the second most popular website in Mena, clocking over 101 million monthly visits, the social network is second only to Google, which boasts almost 122 million. Other top sites include Microsoft websites (75.5 million), Yahoo! (68.5 million) and Wikipedia (40.9 million).